Acceptance & Life on Life’s Terms (Even When It Sucks)

Folks tell me all the time, “It is what it is.” This is most often a declaration of displeasure of what one knows and too rarely a statement of what one accepts. Knowing is easy. Acceptance means getting to the other side. It means sorting through the feelings that interfere with integrating what it is, feeling okay about what it is, and turning our focus back to what we can do instead of what we can’t. This is what it means to live, “Life on life’s terms.”

I am mindful because I have learned that whatever I choose not to accept is likely to continue kicking my ass until I get right with it.

When we find something to be unacceptable, how are we to accept it? Start by acknowledging that you are powerless to change it. Not hopeless or helpless but simply unable to control it. Then consider that while it is not how you want it to be, that perhaps it is how it is supposed to be…

From the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous page 417:

“And acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today. When I am disturbed it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. ..

…Unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”

Stretch your imagination – add “Grrrrr” to “attitude” and it comes out gratitude. Recovery from anything involves overcoming a “disease of the attitudes.” We get in our own way when we choose to blame others, wallow in self pity, or focus our energy on what we cannot do. This has the net effect of making us stressed out, depressed, and anxious. All of that energy wasted just to avoid the daunting possibility of change.

I was reading some of Robert Fulghum’s stuff recently. He’s the guy who wrote All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. He argues that if you don’t have food to eat or a place to live then you have a problem. Everything else, says Fulghum, is an inconvenience. That’s a pretty amazing perspective and I begrudgingly…accept it.

It’s like the convenience store that’s directly across the street from my house. They close very early in the evening. I’m not nearly as impressed with their proximity as I am annoyed by their hours of operation. That’s me being self limiting in my perspective and having a lousy attitude. Fortunately I have the good sense to laugh at myself about it.

Old adages ring true, “Most folks really are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Perhaps you’ve faced some horrible injustice. You have every right to be angry and to express your needs and feelings. You also have the right to heal, to adjust (change), to overcome, and to transform. Simple choice: stay stuck or grow?

Experience teaches us, guides us, and offers us wisdom. Just as acceptance is always optional, so too is making sense of life’s lessons. Choosing to live in the present without regret and as little resentment as possible affords us greater opportunity to gain wisdom.

The lessons get a little more painful each time they come around. Pay attention. Then lighten up and laugh more. It’s ok that you didn’t get it before. Get it now.

“I did then what I knew to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” – Maya Angelou

 

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.