Acceptance. Resignation. Two ideas I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. They do not necessarily co-exist in our lives. Some of us shun one while gladly embracing the other. One can be healthy. The other, self-destructive. To me, acceptance is looking at the truth and facts of a situation and finding a way to work with it. Resignation is giving up. You no longer care enough to try. You just lay down for whatever shit life has thrown at you and don’t bother to get back up.
Resignation is certainly the easier of the two. It doesn’t take much effort to give up on life, people, relationships just because you’re too tired or self-centered to care about the impact on those around you. Resignation is for the martyrs of the world. Those who feel they have been put upon and that their own suffering is somehow going to teach us a lesson.
I admit that at some points in my life, I resigned myself to the dark hole I was in. I didn’t care enough to try and get out myself. I wanted someone else to notice my pain and suffering. I wanted attention. I wanted someone else to fix me or tell me I was important. I was selfish and self-centered. Sometimes it takes seeing the same behavior in others to get your head out of your ass.
Now, it is difficult for me to deal with those who have resigned themselves to a life of feeling sorry for themselves. A life centered on their own loss and suffering and illness. They don’t see what it does to those around them. Or if they do, they don’t care enough to change. My ex was resigned to her mental illness. She seemed to take some sort of perverted pride in being miserable and making those around her miserable. She wore it as a badge of honor. She made the decision to stay miserable, to refuse help, to push away those who loved her.
My mother resigned herself to giving up completely on life once the doctor told her she had lymphoma. Nevermind that it wasn’t aggressive. Nevermind that it was treatable. Nevermind that she has been in remission for almost two years now. No. That diagnosis gave her the excuse she was looking for to give up on life because nothing was going the way she thought it would. She wasn’t going to be getting any grandchildren. She blamed herself for having two gay children. That old Catholic guilt is difficult for some to get past. She doesn’t want to get better, despite all the talk early on that she did. She would much rather have everyone around her feeling sorry for the state of her life and health. She would rather sit in a chair all day feeling sorry for herself and watching life pass by.
My dad had colon cancer. The tumor was removed two years ago. He accepted that it was something he had to deal with and adjust to. They caught it early and got all of it in surgery. He started to make the changes necessary so that it wouldn’t come back. He didn’t give up or resign himself to it. He fought and won.
Acceptance is how we survive and evolve. I’ve spent a lot of time accepting decisions and events in my life that at times I preferred to ignore. The only way for me to move forward is to accept life as it comes and deal with it.
I’ve accepted that my mother really died about five years ago. The woman who raised me and ran my ass around tennis courts no longer exists. She isn’t coming back. The person who inhabits that body now is not my mother. I’ve accepted that I will have to grieve her loss a second time. I’ve accepted that her disappointment or disapproval with my life and decisions are her problem and not mine.
I’ve accepted that my 20-something me never would’ve survived the events I went through in my 30s. She wasn’t strong or mature enough. Hell, she barely survived her 20s. I’ve accepted that my 30-something me barely made it out of the first decade of this millennium. She was tougher than I ever gave her credit for. I’ve accepted that I was in an abusive relationship. It might not have been physically abusive, but the verbal and emotional abuse leave scars that are just as real. I’ve accepted that these scars will always be with me and that I have to learn how to best deal with them.
I’ve accepted that the chance of me going back to get my PhD are about as good as a white, male Republican getting laid at the Dinah. I’ve accepted that my dream career may not come true, but that I was given a skill set that will keep me employed. I’ve accepted that I will always put my most relationships first, even if it is not reciprocated. This is how I’ve always been. I feel no need to change that. No matter how busy I am with work or life, I make time for them. It only takes a few minutes to let someone know you are thinking of them. It just may be what they need to get through a tough day.
I’ve accepted that I might spend a very long time alone. That acceptance is much more difficult. I long for the day when I have someone to wake up next to. Someone to curl up with on the couch. Someone to watch sunsets with. I know what I want and I’m not going to settle, even if that means many more years of waiting. Some days, I feel like saying “screw it” and finding someone attractive to take away the loneliness, but that just isn’t my personality.
All this acceptance is exhausting but necessary. I refuse to give up just because life hasn’t gone the way I thought it would 10 or 20 years ago. I’ve made the choice to adapt to an ever-changing landscape. I won’t spend my life sitting in a chair feeling sorry for myself. I won’t let fear keep me from moving forward.
Accepting the tragedies and disappointments and failures doesn’t mean we are making light of them. It doesn’t mean they weren’t important. It doesn’t mean they didn’t suck or forever change us. It just means we have to learn from them and move on. We can gain strength from what we have been through. If we don’t, we resign ourselves to unfulfilled lives full of regret, anger, and disappointment.