As the year draws to a close, I find myself not thinking about the usual things: resolutions, themes, goals, expectations, things I’ll do or change, things I’ll give up, lose or find. I am thinking instead about acceptance.
While I’ve focused a lot on letting go in previous years – letting go of a marriage, a job, behaviors, things and people that no longer work for me – I’ve found that this year, I’ve had to learn to accept a lot, too.
This hit home for me recently as I sat on the couch across from Yoda (code name for my trusty therapist). I was lamenting why I couldn’t be tougher in a particular situation, as tough as the others in it seemed to be. Yoda resorts to his lamb/wolf analysis – that some people are lambs, more gentle and sensitive in nature, hating to let others down or see them upset, while others are wolves, more driven, aggressive, direct, challenging, not caring as much about others as the lambs, etc.
The conversation went something like this:
YODA: Remember our analogy – you’re a lamb. In this situation, you’re with a pack of wolves. You have to recognize that this is not going to be easy for you.
ME: But I want it to be easier!! I want to be a wolf. (frowning, lip quivering)
YODA: But you’re not. And thank God you’re not (smiling). You’re a lamb and –
ME: Fuck that!! I don’t WANNA be the lamb!! The lamb gets shit on!! The lamb lays awake at night worrying about everything and everyone while the wolves sleep like babies!! I’m SICK of being the fucking LAMB. I want to be the wolf!!! (sounding like a petulant five-year-old whining to have ice cream for breakfast)
YODA: But you’re not a wolf. You’re a lamb. Stop fighting it – this is who you are. Accept it and show yourself compassion because this situation is not going to be easy for you, but you can manage it. Being a lamb is not meant as a criticism, you know. (gentle smile punctuated with a soft chuckle)
ME: Whatever. (smiling a little but still MF’ing my lamb status)
Oh but how much easier my life would be if only I weren’t so damn sensitive!! If I didn’t think so much or feel so much or care so much!! All my life, I’ve been mocked for it, told to turn it down a notch, stop wearing my heart on my sleeve, toughen up. So I tried to hide my sensitivity, be “tough.” It was exhausting and always felt like I was wearing two left shoes. But I didn’t know any other way. I didn’t even know there was any other way. All I knew was that the way I was wired was wrong and I had to hide/fight it at all costs.
I left that session feeling drained but lighter. I didn’t need to read more self-help books, turn myself inside out, toughen up, make resolutions. There was nothing to resolve. I simply needed to accept that I’m a sensitive person. It’s part of what makes me me and that is a beautiful thing. It’s a gift that helps make me a good mom, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, writer. I also need to accept (and remember) that some situations will be more challenging for me than others, but I can have compassion for myself and respond from an authentic place.
Revolutionary concept, huh? Accept yourself. Easier said than done, but a lesson that I keep learning on a deeper level each time around.
I travel for work and have been reading voraciously this year, the way I used to do when I was a kid. By far my favorite at the moment is Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. I return again and again to read the words that resonated long after I put the book down.
This passage comes to mind now:
“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
My wishes for me and for you in this new year:
May you accept one tiny, beautiful thing. May you have compassion for the tender spots. May you find yourself in that small, quiet room until the ache fades and you can smile again. Then let’s decorate the crap out of that place and have ourselves the best dance party ever. 🙂