I'm just finishing Lisa Shearin's second installment of the SPI Files series, The Dragon Conspiracy. These books are a fun romp through my hometown of New York City, now inhabited by vampires, goblins, elves and dragons (always my favorites), among other mythical creatures. The aspect of this book that captured my thoughts today is the concept of acceptance. Now, I'm a big believer in the serenity prayer. For those of you living under a rock, this prayer asks the Divine to "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." It's a good prayer, and an excellent blueprint for living a contented and productive life. In The Dragon Conspiracy, several of the major characters are called to accept their lot in life, including major illness and its concomitant limitations, as well as the idiosyncrasies and concomitant limitations of those with whom we engage.
For me, acceptance actually does require supernatural abilities. Acceptance is difficult. Acceptance can look a lot like acknowledging defeat. Acceptance can look like agreement or acquiescence. Acceptance can feel like conformity. And worst of all, acceptance can feel like collusion with evil, or at least that which is not good. But, because those with a lot of serenity in their auras tout the advantages of this state of being, perhaps it behooves us to explore the concept a bit and determine whether these feelings about acceptance have any actual basis in reality.
Acceptance is a choice we make. It is one that, for me at least, meets with significant resistance even when my conscious mind believes it might be a good idea. Like ceasing to beat one's head against a wall is a good idea. It hurts less that way. But when acceptance looks like throwing in the towel, I find it challenging. I don't like to give up. And I don't like to be bested. By anything. One example of this is with illness or injury. When I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder, I was anything but accepting. Hell no, I had zero intention of feeling like an 80-year old woman when I was only half that age. Hell no, I would not accept that my only options were serious medications with hideous side effects. And absolutely hell, no, I would not accept that there was little I could do about it.
Accepting that diagnosis felt like defeat and I was having none of it. And not accepting my fate as final led down paths that have greatly enriched my life, and I am profoundly grateful for that. But not accepting the limitations that my disorder imposed was not my best idea ever. Acceptance of current limitations within the context of hope for better things to come was an important aspect of my recovery. Not accepting it meant that I was just making everything worse by writing checks that my body couldn't cash (and believe me, I was no top gun!).
Acceptance can also look like agreement. I know I've found myself judging myself and others harshly for not fighting fate and at least going down swinging. I know this is also a value to many--not going down without a fight, and I certainly understand that--Dylan Thomas knew what he was talking about when he exhorted us to fight, fight, fight against the dying of the light. But when to fight and when to retreat, that is the question, never mind existential issues. I don't want to be the one seen to be agreeing with that with which I disagree or reject. And acceptance can certainly look like that on occasion.
And acceptance can also look and feel like one step beyond agreement. Acceptance can be perceived as being in cahoots with the bad thing. I know a lot of people through my work as a naturopath who not only accept their diagnoses, but embrace them like the one who got away. It always disturbs me when I see that and I always make a mental vow to myself that I will never be that way. But it's hard to know another's heart and it may be that what looks like conspiracy to me is the only way someone else can accept their lot and move ahead as best they can with their lives. I struggle not to judge, though, despite understanding that each of us walks our own paths toward truth.
Lack of acceptance also causes all sorts of problems. Just because we don't accept something, like physical or financial realities, doesn't make them any less real. Not accepting that my body just won't do what it did when I was twenty can lead to a myriad of embarrassing and potentially dangerous situations. In my opinion, no middle-aged woman should sport micro-mini skirts, I don't care how great your legs are, and no one my age has the reflexes or recuperative powers we did thirty years ago. So accepting those limitations is probably a good idea. This is not to say that I don't strive to look and feel my best. But it is my best at almost fifty, not my best as compared to my twenty-year-old self.
So we're back to the serenity prayer, and the need for the wisdom to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. It's a tricky proposition for sure. And in the end, it's often no less of a gamble than a good game of five-card draw. As in poker, there is certainly an element of skill and experience involved. But don't forget Lady Luck. First off, she hates being discounted (I share that particular affliction, but that is the subject of another post). And secondly she'll bite you in the ass every time.
So, I don't know about you, but I'll take all the help I can get in this endeavor. I'm all about Divine intervention in my life and I invite it in whenever I remember to do so. Sometimes I forget to ask for help, and sometimes I'm determined (quite stupidly, in fact), to go it alone. But I crave the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, along with courage and wisdom, so I'll keep my knee pads handy and avail myself early and often.