In the 12 Step World we talk a lot about an attitude of gratitude, the promises of the program and acceptance. These are all positive and worthy goals. To some, however, they may seem a little cloying or annoying, perhaps even simplistic and unrealistic. I can understand these reactions. When I’m in the midst of a difficult transition and dealing with life on life’s terms, I am often unlikely to look on the bright side. In fact, at times when I’m stuck in the quagmire of despair I can find it particularly frustrating when someone suggests I write a gratitude list, remember the promises or practice acceptance. Yet sometimes I can be resistant to the messages I most need to hear.
I’d like to focus today on Acceptance. In terms of transitions, acceptance is another powerful tool. I met with a friend today who has been dealing with incredible physical challenges for over 7 years. Through the years she has shown tremendous forbearance, courage and resilience. To me, she is the model of acceptance. She has had to make major changes in her lifestyle, and is no longer able to work. She endures excruciating physical pain yet always greets me with a sincere and loving smile. What’s her secret? I suspect it’s acceptance. This doesn’t mean that she doesn’t experience black moods or feel her fears in the middle of the night. Rather, she feels her fears and keeps on going in spite of them. She does what she can to find clever work-arounds to her situation and engages in the things she can do to live her life as fully as she can.
So what is acceptance? In my eyes, it’s not about giving up or forgiving whatever happens to us. Or even being happy and serene with a particular occurrence or outcome. Sometimes, frankly, things just don’t turn out the way we want them to. Instead, it is about letting things be what they are and as they are; recognizing the difference between what we have the power to change, and what’s beyond our control. When my mother died a decade ago, I had a hard time with this concept. Even though she’d lived a long and wonderful life, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. But there was nothing in my power I could do to bring her back to this plane of existence. And though I grieved her viscerally, the passage of time and my realization that love never dies helped me to accept her passing. We read in The Big Book that “acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” Putting this into practice, even in the hardest of transitions, makes my life livable and each transition a successful doorway to possibility and empowerment.