Acceptance, in my opinion, is one of the hardest things that we humans do in this life.

How do you accept that you lost someone you loved more than you loved your own life?

How do you accept that your child is sick and hurting and you are helpless to take the pain away?

How do you accept the inevitable disappointments that come when those you love let you down or hurt you?

These are the big issues of life and the only way I have ever found to get through life’s toughest days is to do it one step at a time or one day at a time.

Sometimes it even comes down to one breath at a time.

But then there are the other things, small in comparison (or they should be anyway) like always striving to have more; more money, more things, more education, more stuff.

Henry David Thoreau famously said the most men lead lives of quiet desperation. That’s a sobering thought and I believe is truer than we know.

The comfort and security we seek are often just curses in disguise. No amount of money, of worldly possessions will ever make any of us safe enough and deep down we know that. Things will still sometimes go horribly wrong, sometimes in the blink of an eye.

Every one of us has day-to-day frustrations. We all have regrets too, whether we admit them, even to ourselves. When I was younger one bad thing, no matter how trivial in the scheme of things, could ruin my whole day. I’d think about it and relive it and just want the rest of the day to be over.

What a waste of precious time that was and how utterly useless it was to have that mindset. How much better it is to shrug, laugh, even if it’s at your own expense (especially if it’s at your own expense) and just get over it. Stuff happens, every day, all day. People say mean things and do stupid stuff. We all make dumb mistakes. It’s better to just accept it for what it is and then find a way to go on.

Now if only I could apply that same wisdom to the truly tough things in my life. I am trying but it’s a hard lesson to learn, and once learned, even harder to hold on to.

I often think that if we only knew the burdens others carry around with them every day, maybe that would make us all a little more charitable towards each other. Maybe, but then again, maybe not, but I’d like to think so. It’s so easy to make a quick thoughtless judgment of another, so easy to see someone in superficial, one-dimensional terms. We know we have a complicated inner life, but it’s easy to forget that others do too.

And we are always wanting what we don’t have, or wanting more of what we do have.

We just want.

When I meet somebody who is truly content with their lot in life, now that is someone I truly envy. I have met a few of these people in my 62 years (I could probably count them on two hands). And here’s the thing – I don’t remember a single one of them having a seemingly “perfect” life. On the contrary, most of them had had more than their share of tough times and tough losses. Most of them lived, or still live, quite simply.

What I do remember is that that they were calm and still and that I absorbed that feeling while in their presence. There was a peace about them, even in the middle of strife. An old hymn comes to mind that has the verse “it is well, it is well, with my soul.”

In other words, they had accepted what they couldn’t change and made a kind of peace with it. Those same people, some of whom I have interviewed for this newspaper over the years, told me about some terrible things that had happened to them in their lives, things that made me wonder how they had survived. Many of them cited a relationship with God, but it was clear that all of them had learned to accept life on its own terms and to be at peace with that. They understood that there are good days, wonderful days and that there are also bad days, even horrible unimaginably terrible days. To everything there is a season.

That acceptance is a gift.

It’s also a goal of mine that frankly I don’t know if I’ll ever attain. I’m just being honest about myself and my own nature. I guess you could call that a kind of acceptance too, in a way.

People can tell you that they are content or have so much faith that they just trust in God or fate or whatever to see them through, but that so often feels fake to me. People with the true gift of acceptance don’t need to say a word. The gift they possess is clear to everyone who takes the time to get to know them at all.

Margie Richards is a reporter for The Madison County Journal. She can be reached at margie@mainstreetnews.com.

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