Accept what is. This is one of twelve principles of the work I do. Accept what is. Three little words, such a big ask.
What is so difficult about acceptance? Well, us humans like certainty, we like routine. We like to think that we are in charge. We particularly dislike being out of control. Life, however, has other ideas. Life is change personified. Life is inconsistent, uncertain and upsetting. Life takes that cloak of being in control and throws it in our faces.
In this part of the world, South Africa, we are tested daily. Those of us who live here know too well the constant uncertainty that is called “load shedding”. Rolling power outages of 2.5 hours at a time between one and three times a day. We don’t have it every day, only when there is a shortage of generating power – don’t ask, maintenance issues, too much rain, wet coal, too cold, too hot – name the reason it makes no difference.
We have the schedules, we’ve downloaded the app, so we think we are in control. We think we can plan. That is the idea, of course but who can plan if you are given 15 minutes to sort things out? Who can plan if you don’t have a backup generator, inverter or solar power? You can’t. It is out of your control.
Even more frustrating is when you make the contingencies, have the backup and the lights stay on. Who would think that would be a bad thing? It’s the wasted time, the unnecessary plan B, the scuppered supper menu that could have been. Stick to the damn schedule Eishkom! At least it would make us feel as if we have some agency.
But what can we do? Nothing. No Thing. We can rail. We can winge, and whine and moan. We can get super frustrated and frothily angry. Makes no difference.
Actually, it does. It makes me feel bad. The negative emotions rush through my body and put it on edge. So on top of no electrical power I have a powerless, whizzing, stress response.
“Accept what is”, whispers the zen master in my head. That’s all very well but learning to be more accepting is not easy. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says in his book Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness:
“Acceptance doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, mean passive resignation. Quite the opposite. It takes a huge amount of fortitude and motivation to accept what is — especially when you don’t like it” (p.407)
It does take determination and a good reason to accept what is. For me, in the long run, being more accepting is easier on my body, my mind and is better for my relationships.
That is not to say I can just do it. Resistance runs through my body like a jagged pole. I want to hang onto it. I want to swing from it. I want to kick and yell as I jump from it like an anti-gravity wall walking Trinity from the Matrix.
As I walk away, long black coat flapping in the wind and pulling metal splinters from my hands, I think, “Well that didn’t help and now I have metal splinters in my hands.”
What does help is a great deep breath in and whoosh of a breath out. Aaah. Better. Roundhouse kick to the pole, and on I saunter. Okay, I can acknowledge that I feel frustrated, angry, upset at whatever circumstances are playing out at that time. I just don’t need to hold on to those feelings and make them me. Do you hear that, metal pole?
Accepting what is is an ongoing process. Today it might be easier than it was yesterday or tomorrow but it is better for me and because of that I come back to it over and over again. WIth or without the metal splinters in my hands.