And so it begins… my first blog and conversation with you!
The first word in the LIVING52 initiative is acceptance. You may have received the definition and a quote in your email or seen these on your social media. Hopefully, you have thought about these and have started determining ways to implement acceptance into your life.
But, first, I want to get into the root meaning of the word. I have heard it my entire life. The truth is I have heard acceptance used in many different contexts and it’s one of those words which makes me cringe when I hear it. Because of my human nature, I don’t want to “accept” many things. I think that’s why I’ve never cared for this word. If someone told me in the past that I needed to “accept” something, I would try my hardest to change what I was supposed to be accepting. Now, as I have gotten older, I’ve come to realize I was most likely mistaking the word acceptance for settling.
So to be literal, the first definition I found of acceptance was “the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.” This one does not resonate well with me. Now, the second definition I found was “the action or process of being received.” I can stomach this one! Can’t you?
The beauty of the English language and our different perspectives is that words can mean something different to people depending on the lenses they wear or their time in life. I asked around and indeed this is the case for acceptance. When I asked a 22-year old just finishing her bachelor’s degree, “What does acceptance mean to you?” She replied, “Getting into grad school.” When I asked a 46-year old the reply was, “Finally being okay with who I am and all of my flaws.” A 69- year old grandmother answered, “Accepting my family for their decisions and that it’s okay not to have control.” I guess for myself, acceptance provides peace – which for me comes from my faith. It isn’t even close to settling. Accepting that there is a plan to guide me where I am supposed to go – not necessarily where I may want to go.
Situations in life happen that we cannot currently or never will be able to explain. We don’t want to accept the situation and we know we won’t be able to understand it. In 2013, after recovering from a near fatal asthma attack, I was told my brain damage was permanent and that I’d never be able to drive again. I definitely didn’t want to accept that! However it is something I can never change. Being a good friend of Tonya, I often think about the loss of Taylor, her oldest son. It is a horrific reality to deal with and seems extremely unfair to have to accept, yet it cannot be changed. I also can’t change that my dear friends Anne and Samantha are gone from this world while I am still here, but I can do something with this second chance.
Maya Angelou once said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” I have struggled daily with the changes in my life that my medical trauma brought on, yet I look at Tonya and her family’s grace and faith and realize that I need to change my attitude. After what she’s been through, it’s the least I can do. What I deal with is nothing compared to what many others do. This is why we as humans have to reach out to each other. We need to communicate and connect. Plus, accept that we are all different and travel on different life paths, yet we live together and need each other.
When I take time to reflect on this, I’m overcome with peace and joy knowing that I am accepted and never alone. God has given me people to love the way they were made and the personal freedom to follow a life path – although, sometimes frustrating and unbearable to me – and we do this together. We have family and people, so that we don’t walk alone.
As I write this, I am reminded of an experience from my high school years. There was a girl that was involved in the school’s drama program, just as I was. We were very different and had a completely different set of friends. I was always acting on the stage and she was always a stage manager. She was very smart and enjoyed debate, while I was very social and couldn’t care less about school (cringe).
Well to say the least, at the beginning she didn’t like me at all. She seemed to judge me and I did the same with her. Our judgments were in the way of accepting our differences. In the fall of our sophomore year during the one-act production of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” we began to tolerate each other. After a few shared meals on stage and several laughs backstage, we became friends. When the show was over, the actors and stage crew tore the set apart with a vengeance. This set had been a nightmare to build and we couldn’t wait to tear it down. Everyone signed each other’s pieces of the set and she wrote this on mine, “Different hallways – Different friends – Same friendship.” We stayed friends for the next three years and continued to create shows together. In our final week of our senior year, we were all signing each other’s yearbook and in mine she wrote, “Different paths – Different goals – Same beginning.” I haven’t stayed in contact with her, but I take with me the everyday lessons that I learned from this friendship. I am reminded that we are all different, but all have desires to be respected, loved and accepted even though we may be on different paths. We are all still trying to walk forward. Acceptance allows us to do this walk together, better.
This week's blog writer is Julie Brittain, co-founder of LIVING52. Read more of Julie's story at www.living52words.com/stories.