Monday, September 9, 2013

Tiny Beautiful Things - on Acceptance

Last month, I read Tiny Beautiful Things, which is a collection of advice columns that Cheryl Strayed wrote, under the pen name "Sugar."  It is a unique book since it's a collection of all of these different people's problem, many of which are problems you and I maybe have not encountered.  And yet - her response tends to contain some nugget of wisdom that you can apply to some other problem or issue you have.

Like this excerpt of advice, which is the first of 2 excerpts from this book that I will be sharing this month.  I read it, nodding my head along, feeling like "Sugar" was talking to me.

"Acceptance asks only that you embrace what's true.

Strange as it sounds, I don't think you've done that yet.  I can hear it in the pitch of your letter.  You're so outraged and surprised that this shitty thing happened to you that there's a piece of you that isn't yet convinced it did.  You're looking for the explanation, the loophole, the bright twist in the dark tale that reverse its course.  Anyone would be.  It's the reason I've had to narrate my own stories of injustice about seven thousand times, as if by raging about it once more the story will change and by the end of it I won't still be the woman hanging on the end of the line.

But it won't change, for me or for you or for anyone who has ever been wronged, which is everyone.  We are all at some point - and usually at many points over the course of a life - the woman hanging on the end of the line.  Allow your acceptance of that to be a transformative experience.  You do that by simply looking it square in the face and then moving on.  You don't have to move fast or far.  You can go just an inch.  You can mark your progress breath by breath."

Anyone who has had any in depth conversations with me about 2013 and my unwanted move (and slew of other things that have happened) is probably nodding their head along as they read this, too.  I have been living in Charlotte for 5 months now, and I can't say I've made much progress at all in accepting that this is the path my life has taken.  When a conversation with a friend or family member turns to my move to Charlotte, I am the person narrating my story of injustice over and over again - as if telling people how much I wish this move wouldn't have happened will change the fact that it did.  

But it turns out raging about it doesn't make a dang bit of difference.  The fact of the matter is that I am here, at least for the time being.  But honestly, I have felt that by not accepting it, it didn't need to be permanent.  I felt like accepting it might make it appear as though I wanted it to happen, or that I like it here.

But I know deep down that my inability to "accept" all that has occurred this year is not helping.  Raging against this relocation doesn't change the fact that it happened.  It happened.  I'm here, like it or not.

I don't really know how acceptance is going to come about for me, but I do know that it starts with me acknowledging that I need to find a way to achieve acceptance.  It probably starts with acknowledging that there are things I like about Charlotte.  Things like the small group of friends I've made, the city's selection of GF crepe places, the church where I attend mass, the proximity of the mountains, and the trees that flower far longer than any trees I've seen in the Midwest.

I guess, as Sugar says, it's going to start inch by inch, and breath by breath.

Have you ever been through something you had a difficult time accepting?


Becky said...

I am SO close to being done with this book, but I made myself put it down last night because it was late! This is one of the quotes I flagged too - taking it breath by breath, and what she said about accepting it doesn't make it okay really stuck with me!

Amanda said...

Oh my. That hits me smack between the eyes. I'm going to be thinking about this all day, because I've been "raging" for awhile. I've been indignant but far from accepting.

Marlys said...

Lisa, I am so touched by this blog and I know that accepting it will make it better, although we all agree that it is not a permanent situation! I am so glad you found this book, and even if it is "inch by inch" that is progress! I know we can all use this advice so will apply it myself!

missris said...

Wow this is so...true. So true. I'm going to be thinking about this at least for the rest of the day. Thanks for sharing!

Abby said...

I love this. It is thought that excerpt was written for you. Wow. Beautiful post you have written.

I'm glad that you've found a small group of friends and a few things that give you joy about Charlotte.

Thanks for sharing this!

I have had a few things that have been difficult to accept. #1 - realizing that I don't think know if we'll ever live close to family.

I'm also having a difficult time "accepting" the career path I've chosen. I'm having moments where I wish I could go back and have a redo. But this is it!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

It sounds like that was a really important excerpt for you to read and relate to your own life.

I'm not sure I've ever been in a position of facing difficulty accepting something ... but, I have faced difficulty during transitional times in my life. And usually, those difficulties arose, because I was trying to juggle a number of *big* things all at once ... it all became very overwhelming.

Stephany said...

Accepting the path our life has taken can be really hard, because it's like we're saying we're okay with it. Accepting the fact my father will probably never be a part of my life ever again is like saying I'm okay with that. And I'm not. But the truth is that he probably won't and the sooner I accept that and cry about it and move on from it, the sooner I can start healing. And it's not something that will ever happen overnight, like you suddenly LOVING Charlotte. Acceptance doesn't mean you will ever love Charlotte, but it means you'll do what you can to come to terms with where you are and how to make the best of that. I can see you're trying and if not for all the (excuse my language here) SHIT you've had to deal with, it probably would have been easier to find your place in Charlotte. But acceptance is the first step in finding happiness in where you are. New friends, yummy crepe places, a fabulous church... those are all Really Good Things and I'm happy you're discovering there are good things in this place.

(And I really, really need to read this book but I think it's one I'll want to buy! I'll probably have lots of highlighting to do!)

Jeanie said...

Too many things. This is the second astounding post I've read in 2 minutes (the first being Kathy McCoy's. I posted the link on my FB page.) This is thoughtful, provocative and so on target. Thanks for sharing it. I may well need to get that book!

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

I usually don't have too much trouble accepting things, and I think I adapt quite well to whatever my situation is ... that being said, I've definitely been through hardships that I didn't want to HAVE to accept.

JaneA said...

Thanks so much for sharing this! I feel the same way sometimes. I've found myself living in Africa for the past two years. The move came as quite a surprise, and I'm still not sure I've accepted it entirely. Thanks so much for sharing! X Jane

Jen Feeny said...

Thank you for sharing this, wow. Just, wow.

Sending big hugs your way.

Nora said...

Firstly, I love the book. Between the rave reviews from both you + Becky I knew I had to read it. I have it all sorts of sticky-noted-up even though I have to give it back to the library. I may even leave a few in there... at any rate, there have been a few things along the way I've had a hard time accepting. It definitely is an inch by inch kind of situation.

can't wait to see what else you pull out of the book! xo

Cherry Blossoms said...

I might have to read this book as I think this is something I need to read as I'm still working thru the motherhood plan that has fallen on me.
PS: Eat a crepe for me please! They were delicious!

Amber said...

Omg yes. I loved that book SO MUCH! Some of the stuff Cheryl Strayed has gone through is CRAZY and intense and I don't relate at all, or don't think I do, but then she whips out these amazing nuggets about life and I'm just like whoa. I flagged so many quotes in that book. I'd actually really like to go back and re-read it.

And I definitely nodded my head along to that passage in reference to your life right now. But inch by inch and breath by breath and day by day you'll get through. XO

Elizabeth said...

Yes ma'am ;) I think you're on to something good here....

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

This is a good mantra for you! I think that "acceptance" is hard to achieve sometimes, but once you do, you can get so much more out of a thing. There are a lot of good quotes regarding acceptance which I think are worth remembering:

"My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations." Michael J. Fox

"Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune." William James

"Acceptance is not love. You love a person because he or she has lovable traits, but you accept everybody just because they're alive and human." Albert Ellis

I put this book in my library queue, as this is the second time you have mentioned it!