There’s no doubt we all have cause to worry about events in the world around us lately; some of us have every right to be terrified. I’ve faced challenges in my life, but the worst of these — loneliness, abuse, poverty, harsh judgment, loss, and especially my own bad choices — are in my rear-view mirror although they sometimes seem closer than they appear. As a cisgendered straight white woman born on this continent to Christian parents, I’ve never been persecuted for who I am or for whom I love, for the color of my skin, for seeking refuge from war, corruption, or terror, or for my traditions, background, or beliefs. I acknowledge the privilege that has helped me navigate every difficult turn.
Still, along with everyone, I’m facing this coming year and those that will follow it. These days, the face looking back at me in the mirror tells the story of more years lived than left to live. That’s good and that’s bad, but mostly that just is.
And so, acceptance.
On the first Sunday in January, I listened to my heart for one word from that still, small, voice — the word that would define the year 2020. After a moment, I heard whispered, “Acceptance.”
At first I thought — because that’s how I do — that must mean something terrible was going to happen this year, probably a loss that would break me in half, a loss I’d need to face and accept. Acceptance was the answer to the question: “I’ll take Still, Small Voice for $800, Alex.” Should I shout, “What is the last stage of grief?”
Well, yes, it is, but I don’t think it’s just that. Acceptance isn’t just a reaction to something that happens to me; it’s a mantle I need to pick up and wear. It’s a practice.
Acceptance means that yesterday is out of reach and tomorrow hasn’t been revealed, so time spent on either is precious time lost in a life whose days are already numbered. Acceptance is leaving the past where it is instead of bringing it back like cud for a second, third or 100th chew that tastes a little worse each time until it’s completely unpalatable. Acceptance is putting down that chainsaw you’re using to tear into events that haven’t happened yet, hoping that deconstructing them now will help you assemble them into something you want.
Instead, acceptance is respect for the world around us now — the people we love, the planet we live on, the work we do that makes a difference. Practicing acceptance — and it does take practice — means that when doubts or second thoughts about yesterday intrude, they are rejected and when worries about tomorrow crop up, they’re turned away before focusing on what is right in front of us, today, now.
Acceptance is hard, and we need help with it. We need to draw on our support systems and our inner reserves. We need to, first, love, respect, and yes — accept ourselves and our present day reality before we can accept anything or anyone else.
Then, with practice, acceptance will come more easily when we do face turmoil or loss.