Acceptance

This week I had the opportunity to chat with Maureen Hayes (a blogger at beingchronicallyillisapill.blogspot.com — check her out). When we discussed dealing with chronic illness, she raised an issue that I haven't given much attention to lately:  acceptance.

What would it feel like to accept your pain today? Just say, "Yes, it's here. I accept this is part of today's reality."

Her point was that when you accept where your life is — and accept your illness — energy is released and you have much more freedom to build and create the life you want.

I began to reflect on this over the weekend.  I finally got all my documents together and added up for my accountant to do my taxes. There has been no reason for the delay, except my fantasy that I don't really have to do it. I don't want to accept that I have to do all that math, have to look at the numbers (I hate numbers) and pay attention to so many details (I also am not a big fan of details).

This is the opposite place of acceptance — I have been resisting. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how much I don't want to do any of it. Using up energy resisting what is.

But this weekend, I just did it. I got out my calculator and added up all the stuff I needed to add — and guess what? I felt amazingly better. My mind cleared, my spirits lifted and I realized Maureen is right — acceptance pays off.

Now what does this have to do with having arthritis? Many people I know resist their disease. They wish it weren't so. They imagine how great their life would be without it. They think, "If only … If only I weren't sick, if only I hadn't done that thing that triggered this flare, if only there were better medicine, if only I didn't have to deal with pain, if only …"

These thoughts are sneaky and persistent. You may not notice that there is a quiet refrain playing just below consciousness that suggests, "This shouldn't be happening to me."

But it is.

That's the fact. This is what you have going on — an illness that needs your acceptance and your attention. Of course, that's where the analogy with my taxes breaks down — once I do them, I don't have to think about them for a year. Except I realized that if I could accept that they are reality in my life, I might do the little things along the way that make the filing so much simpler. (Many of you have thought of this already I'm sure!) Acceptance and attention smoothes any hard process.

What would it feel like to accept your pain today? Just say, "Yes, it's here. I accept this is part of today's reality."

Or the limitations you feel today because of how your arm/hand/hip/knee feel. "OK. I accept that I don't have much strength today. I'll change my schedule and think about doing the heavy things next week and just do this much today."

The route of acceptance is a long one. It is littered with side trails where you may wander off track and find you need to gently remind yourself that, just for today, you are going to breathe in acceptance and breathe out resistance. Just for today you are going to soften your view of yourself and what is happening with your pain and allow it to be without pushing back.

Those friendly reminders are enough to get you back on the road. And you will find that your energy does rise, and your mental fog will clear.

Acceptance paves the way.

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