Lisa Shearin

Acceptance Is Key

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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.

I See You

I feel like Christopher Columbus.  Or Galileo.  OK, maybe not so much, but I feel like shrieking “Eureka!” Although I don’t plan to run screaming from my bathtub in the altogether. To what do I owe my happiness?  I’ve discovered a new author.  And I love her already.  She’s funny and clever and the premise is original—just when I started to think that there was nothing new under the sun, no new worlds that someone else has built that I can explore.  But there is, and there are.  And Lisa Shearin is a real find.  The first book in a series I can’t wait to read (the second book, The Dragon Conspiracy comes out in two weeks, the first book is The Grendel Affair, and I saw on her website that she’s promising a third entry by the end of 2015!) The heroine of Ms. Shearin’s world is Makenna Fraser.  Yes, another Mac to know and love.  She isn’t really anything like MacKayla Lane, except that she is spunky and real, and that is OK.  Oh, she shares one other trait with MacKayla Lane—she’s a seer.  MacKayla Lane is a sidhe-seer, and Mackenna Fraser is more of a pan-being seer, but they both see.  And this got me to thinking.  Always a dicey proposition, I know.

So, what I was thinking is, what does it mean to be a seer?  What does it mean to see someone or something? Seeing is a powerful phenomenon.  We have so many adages related to sight and seeing.  “Seeing is believing.”  “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” “What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”  I could go on, but I won’t, as you can probably see what I’m saying (pun intended).  So this idea of Makenna Fraser (and the other Mac, too), being able to “see” behind the glamours (mask/veils) that supernatural beings adopt to hide themselves from others, is very interesting.

What would it be like for someone to see through what we don't want people to see-- through make up, clothes, the attitudes we mask ourselves with, and through the personas we adopt, depending on who we are with, or who we want to be in a given situation?  I don’t think I’d like that at all. For example, when I’m rocking my tough businesswoman persona, I would hate to think that the person I am meeting with could see through my hard-nosed confidence to the part of me that wonders whether I can really pull this off. And God forbid the world at large should see me without my makeup—I feel naked when I run out of the house without it.  And we’ve all heard the saying that “clothes make the man.” Clothes make a woman, too, not to mention accessories. We wear our jewelry and our designer handbags as symbols of status and wealth.  We put together our outfits with the express purpose of creating an impression in those who see us.  We want people to see our outsides—not the stuff they are covering up.

And what about the opposite phenomenon?  Don’t we want people to see in us the things we see in ourselves that make us proud.? But so often, no one seems to see the quiet heroism that it takes to just get out of bed in the morning and face another day. They don’t see the casual generosity and the quotidian kindnesses that we leave behind us in our wake.  Or worse, maybe they do see, but it doesn’t register, and all of our qualities are just so much white noise. That may be the hardest thing.

Has anyone ever said to you, “I wish you could see yourself the way I see you?”  Usually, although certainly not always, that is a compliment.  Because oftentimes, the way we see ourselves is so very skewed.  There is even a clinical name for this—dysmorphia—when the image we see reflected back at us is so distorted as to be unrecognizable. It can be so hard for some of us to see our own beauty, and value and intrinsic worth.  We don’t see the success, just the failure.  We don’t see the good, just the bad. We don’t see the sufficiency, just the deficiency.  This is why we need people who love and care for us—to act as mirrors that reflect back their loving image to us, and help us to see ourselves in their eyes.

Is there a such a thing as a seer in reality?  I think so, yes. There are people out there who have the gift of sight.  We’ve all met them—the person who seems to see into our souls when we first meet; the person who looks into our eyes and we know, instantaneously, that they’ve been able to pierce our glamours, like Mac does in Lisa Shearnin’s books, and see beyond the masks we present to the world.

And the existence of seers in reality begs the question of whether we all have the potential to be seers at some level or another. Can we all make the effort to really look and really see? Yes, I believe so.  So, why don’t we?  Are we afraid of what we will see?  Are we afraid of the intimacy involved when we truly see one another? Have you ever tried to spend quality time looking into someone else’s eyes?  It’s actually quite hard, and the urge to look away is almost overwhelming.  But it’s a worthwhile endeavor—to look, to see, to have vision. It’s better to go through life with eyes wide open, rather than eyes wide shut. It’s better to aspire to being like Mac—both of them—and to see, rather than to remain shrouded in darkness.  Go ahead.  I see you.