There are events in which we lose something we never thought we’d lose: our perspective, our health, a loved one. These life-altering events can leave us reeling. In these moments it can seem that the world is an unfair place and we are at its mercy. Or perhaps we fail to judge the fairness of our situation and simply grieve that it’s happening.
In these moments we often grasp at what’s familiar. We try to negotiate a way to have and to hold what we previously held so dear. We fight, we deny, and we pretend that things have not changed. Yet, we can not un-know what we know – things are no longer the same.
These are the least peaceful times in our lives. This is when what we want to be and what is are at odds.
In his very powerful essay, David Whyte describes anger as our response to seeing something we held dear destroyed. This can be an idea, a relationship, or a state of being. Our anger states: “I have loved this and I’m not ready to let it go. I’m not ready to accept its fate. I’m not willing to accept my fate.”
When we approach the gravesite of what we once held dear, we are fraught with anguish. We want justice. We want to hold someone accountable. While others might be involved, they will never hold enough responsibility for the situation to appease our need for retribution.
We can keep fighting or we can be humbled by our humanity, by our intrinsic vulnerability.
We can find within ourselves a bravery that allows us to accept the ebb and flow of life. This kind of bravery sources its sense of peace from the practice of acceptance and not protection.
Protection is a strong and peculiar habit. We believe that we protect ourselves by cloaking our vulnerability and disappointment with anger, sadness, or avoidance. We convince ourselves that donning an outer armor is the only way that we can survive the inevitable heartache that comes with loss. But a shield expects an onslaught. Our protective gestures create the environment for a continual fight.
Conversely, acceptance is the fabric of a durable, permeable peace. It permits us to open to life, to allow for its expansion and contraction. It enfranchises us to give a rightful place to our anger and need to hold only as long as serves us. Most important, acceptance allows us to be remade again and again in the fire of what we believe we cannot bear. And this is where we find our peace.
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