How often do we find ourselves in a situation where we are urged simply to ‘accept’ it?
It could be that we are told to ‘accept’ the outcome of an interview or exam, or ‘accept’ the diagnosis we have been dealt, physical or mental. It could be accepting the loss of someone or the end of one life chapter and the start of another.
In his poem ‘Reluctance‘ Robert Frost talks of a time of deadness, following a time of travel and busyness. He describes the dying of leaves and flowers as ‘winter’ takes hold, speaking of them as being ‘huddled’ and ‘withered’. The final stanza arrives at an acceptance of the new, deadened season.
Ah, when to the heart of man Was it ever less than treason To go with the drift of things, To yield with a grace to reason, And bow and accept the end Of a love or a season?
This moment of acceptance comes at the very end, only after the vivid descriptions of the death of nature. ‘To go with the drift of things’ is a philosophy we often see referenced in religion, especially Buddhism. This ultimate place of peace where we can ‘bow and accept the end of a love or a season’ is often spoken of, but monumentally hard to grasp.
Pain and suffering are our resistance to change. We don’t like how the present moment differs from what we know. We may feel traumatised and utterly lost in what we are going through.
The trouble with demanding acceptance straight away is that it diminishes our current experience. We can’t accept because it is painful, different and scary. In order to accept we need time and experience in what we are going through. We need to do it wrong and feel it fully a number of times before we let go into the acceptance of the moment. It can feel frustrating and utterly isolating when you know your future depends on accepting the situation, but it feels totally impossible.
When we find ourselves in a new place of pain or suffering, maybe the first thing we need to do is acknowledge that we can’t accept it for a while. Accepting this painful lack of acceptance if you will! It is from here that we can remove the judgment and frustration of our reaction and allow the acceptance to happen with time, and not through forcing it.
Just as with Robert Frosts poem, the reluctance to accept the season has him reviewing and exploring the ways in which the situation is painful and dark. It is this acknowledgment that leads to an acceptance by the end of the poem.
Acceptance isn’t simply a place we arrive at- we might feel it only momentarily or occasionally. It might feel like a totally impossible task because our present is so painful and uncomfortable. It isn’t something we can force onto ourselves, because that comes out of desperation for the situation to be different.
If we remain open to our experiences, time will pass and change will come. I find it so hard to believe this, especially at the moment, but it is one of the only things we know to be true. All things are constantly moving and changing, and however stuck we feel is only similar to the deadness of an oak tree in winter.