How deeply poignant, our struggle to “accept”. How painfully overwhelming to wrestle with surges of agonizing grief, the black ocean of shame, the fear of what may come, or the steadfast desire to make things right.
We know beyond any doubt, and from our own experience, that some kind of acceptance would resolve, at least to a degree, the ferocity of the conflict within us. And yet, the imperative to hang on to our idea of how things should be is so strong that it feels as though our very identity will die if we even imagine moving into harmony with our pain.
And, there is a measure of truth in that.
There is courage in the struggle for what is right. There is an uplifting quality to our fervor when we plant the flag of outrage and refuse to move from it. It makes us feel as though the ground beneath our feet has substance, if only temporarily. And, we find it preferable to settle for this illusion of being right, because it gives us a little strength in the face of the thing that we can’t accept. But, the pain is still there.
It is natural, it is our nature, to rise up against that which is wrong, or hurtful, dangerous or frightening. We are compelled to act, and to act courageously. The result is that we can, and do, improve our lives, our world, or even just a tiny portion of it. Though the way is fraught with loss and heartache, we are willing, both alone and collectively, to do what is necessary.
And yet, although it is our nature to take a stand against what is wrong, there are times when we recognize that the battle or the event has come and gone. The damage is done. The world has moved on, but we have not. We continue to fight – to fight the pain, the scars, the woundedness. There are times when we realize that acceptance is called for, but even the idea of acceptance is abhorrent. It seems an affront to our very nature to back down. On what ground would we stand if we were to “accept” the source of our suffering? What would that mean? Who would we be?
The battle or event has come and gone. The damage is done. I can’t go backwards in time and change the myriad conditions that made my mother the person she was. It is not possible to un-do the trauma.
We beg to know why. If there were a reason, it might make sense. In our desperation, we generate reasons – I was bad. I was ugly. I am broken. We know in the depths of our hearts that this is not so. It is our nature, it is the human way, to be able to put something to rest if there is a reason. Human mind loves order, even at the expense of a lie that cripples us.
So, here we are, chasing our tails. We can’t get in, we can’t get out. Around and around we go, in denial, in anger, in pain. We see no way out and no way through. We cry out silently for someone to hear us, to help us. We await the rescue that never comes, and out of the corner of our eye, we see acceptance as the only doorway.
What might that acceptance look like? What if it weren’t as much like “giving up” or capitulating as we imagine it to be? What if acceptance opened our hearts, gave us peace, made us stronger, and gave us back our dignity in such a way that we not only felt whole, but lighter, more spacious and loving? And perhaps most important, what if we could do this in such a way that we get to keep the truth about what happened to us?
Peace does not appear when we push our pain away. It appears when we stand hand in hand with it, in compassion. Peace, real peace, arises when we stop struggling.
And there’s only one trick to it. You must hold your own situation with as much tenderness as you would that of someone you love.
Hold it gently, in hands so kind that you begin to see the courage that you have had all along. Recognize that your fight, your struggle, has been the human experience of rising up to right a wrong. Have respect and compassion for that. Recognize that your inability to make it right, or to find a reason for what happened is also the human experience. It is not your failing. This very brokenness, this uncertainty, is the ground upon which we all stand.
Envision this struggle, this pain that you carry, as the most precious thing in the world – not as something to cling to and identify with, but as the radiant core of our very human-ness. Carry it with a child-like wonder that continuously expands and includes everything with heart-breaking tenderness.
It takes a little bit of practice. Our habit of struggle is very strong. But it erodes remarkably easily. Don’t be deceived by the comfortable familiarity of your pain. It would tell you that you are doomed to be plagued by your anguish for all eternity. We like what is comfortable and familiar, even when it’s killing us.
Peace, real peace, arises when we stop struggling. Peace begins with the love that you already have, and the courage to shine that light on your own heart. Please be gentle.
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