I have spent the last several years learning to accept all kinds of new normal. Both of my parents died of cancer, and both of my grandmothers died. I also experienced a serious crisis of health that has changed a lot about my life. Of course, my initial reaction to all of these experiences was denial.
No one wants to accept that their mother is dead or their father or their grandmother, or that they have a medical condition that will never get better. However, I have learned through trial and error that accepting my situation is the best way to manage it, get through it, and truly change what I want to change. It is challenging, and something I work on every single day. I know that I am happier because I am able to accept my current situation, and not continually fight against something that I cannot change.
Recently, I have noticed a lot of difficulty in accepting situations in my clients, friends, family and the world in general. Refusing to accept our current situation keeps us in a place of pain. It also keeps us in a place of expecting something to change magically, and hinders our ability to adjust to our situation and then move on.
The following is the philosophy that I follow, it has helped me to accept some incredibly difficult and painful experiences in my life, adjust to them and move forward. I hope they help you as much as they have helped me.
- Impermanence is permanent. Nothing stays the same, no matter how much we want that to be the case, it just isn't true. Learning to accept this idea, that change always happens and that nothing stays the same, helps prepare us for any kind of change the comes into our lives.
- Pain is temporary. Even in the most difficult, most painful situations, pain is temporary. I wondered if I would ever get over the pain of losing my mom, and it still hurts sometimes. But it doesn't hurt all the time anymore. I remember the day I realized I hadn't thought about my mom's death in a couple of days. It was several months after her death, and I initially felt guilty about it. But then I realized that really, this was good. I was beginning to move forward in my life. I wasn't forgetting her, I wasn't leaving her behind, I was simply moving forward with my life.
-Every experience has some good. The hardest things I have ever been through, the illnesses and deaths of my parents, have brought positives into my life. I don't think I could have said that at the time, but as I look back on it I realize that I learned so much about myself through this process. I also got closer to them, let go of little things that don't matter anymore, and learned how to live with impermanence.
-Happiness is possible in any situation. Being happy does not mean that everything is perfect all the time. It means that you learn to roll with the punches, learn to accept your situation as it is, and recognize that every experience you have makes you who you are. Acceptance truly does bring happiness.
- You can't change the past. Our lives move in one direction, and that direction is forward. Spending time lamenting the past does nothing but waste your time and make you miserable. There was nothing I could do to save the lives of my parents. This was their path, it was what they were meant to do. My job was to learn to adjust to it.
-Your thoughts create your reality. I don't mean this in the “write yourself a million-dollar check” and everything will be perfect kind of way. Your thoughts set up your energy body, your mood and your emotional responses to whatever you experience. If you fall into negative thinking, denial, self pity or any other kind of thought that keeps you stuck in the past and wishing for a different present, makes you unhappy and frustrated.
-You can't control what you feel, but you can control what you do with that. Emotions are kind of like breathing, they just happen to us. We don't really control them, and we also don't use them. But what we do choose is our response to them. We have much more control over our emotional responses than we generally accept.
-Be kind to yourself. In times of change and difficulty we have a tendency to be really hard on ourselves. We're only human, and we do go through periods of denial. We do go through wishing we could change the past. This is real and it is part of being a human being. Your goal is not to be perfect. That doesn't exist. Your goal is to take good care of yourself and work toward a place of acceptance.