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In Which I Work on Acceptance

January 13, 2015

It was a rough Christmas. And not just because of my pneumonia, and my mother-in-law, who had already been through so much in 2014, ending up in the hospital yet again.

We had yet another holiday full of family drama, of assumptions and backbiting, and my realizing that I have family members who think very, very poorly of my husband and I. Who have assumed we have done things that we haven’t, that we are who we aren’t, and that we are unfeeling where we are intensely vulnerable.

And I don’t know what to do about this, actually, because I can’t fix it. I can’t change their minds. I can’t change the past. I certainly know how to analyze it, but this isn’t the War of 1812. This is my life. This is my heart.

I have let this stop me from living my life. I’ve spent a lot of time lately stewing over how hurt I am, how I should defend myself, or how I should hit back. But I’ve learned too much in the past few years about myself. I know that dwelling on “my pain” is the best way to freeze myself in space, and to not contribute to the building of a better world. And for all I go on and on about how our extended family seems to be doing its best to destroy itself most of the time, I know that part of this is because I’ve held onto my anger and pain. I’ve helped fight the war.

Given how many times I’ve seen “Frozen” now, you’d think I’d be able to apply the basic lessons. Let it go, and love melts a frozen heart.

I didn’t sleep much last night, and I kept my husband up for hours talking about my pain. He lovingly pointed out that every sentence I uttered started with the word “I.” Every sentence contained excuses for why I’ve stopped living, and all of the excuses were rooted in the external world. They did this, and this happened and we don’t have this and we have no money that.

Have I learned nothing from all of the self-help books I’ve combed through in the last four years? Change starts from the internal. Change comes from the inside—change comes from the heart.

Forgiveness is the most essential thing in the entire universe. Forgiveness of others, forgiveness of myself, forgiveness from others for the things I’ve done.

I’m trying to start over on this semi-sunny Tuesday morning, because I want to live this life I’ve been given. I don’t want to be angry with my family anymore. I’m tired of assuming I know what happened, or what they think, or that I’m the victim. I’m tired of hiding in my house all day and doing nothing because I feel afraid of how I might be hurt again, and that only terrible things are in my future.

I aspire to acceptance. In The Book of Forgiving, Desmond and Mpho Tutu talk about Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief, and say this: “Acceptance is the recognition that things have changed and will never be what they were before. This is how we can find the strength to journey on. We accept the truth of what happened. We accept our hurt, our anguish, our sadness, our anger, our shame, and in doing so we accept our own vulnerability.” (104)

And I can’t heal alone. I’ve been trying to do that for years, by cutting myself off from other people, but all that’s gotten me are new wounds, mostly self-inflicted.

So here I am, world. Here I am.

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