Embracing reality: The power of acceptance in tough times

Acceptance is not resignation. That’s a phrase that’s curiously popped up for me from a few different sources this past week–on a Facebook meme, in a guided meditation, in an email newsletter. I’d say it’s synchronicity in action.

And I reflect on what that might mean in my uncomfortable situation of not yet knowing what exactly is the nature of the tumor in my eye and how it could be treated.

First, I looked at the most relevant dictionary meaning of each word for clues.

Acceptance -the fact of accepting a difficult or unpleasant situation

Cambridge Dictionary

In this context, to accept means to acknowledge and embrace the reality of a situation. That involves recognizing that there are conditions in life we have no power to change, but can look for positive ways to move forward with an open mind and heart. Acceptance implies inner peace, as I wrote in my post about surrendering.

Resignation – a sad feeling of accepting something that you do not like because you cannot easily change it

Cambridge Dictionary

These definitions aren’t helpful in making the nuanced distinction needed between the two words to make sense of the phrase. In fact, several thesauruses list them as synonyms. Nope.

Only the words a sad feeling point to the difference, giving resignation a more negative connotation. It implies giving up or yielding without finding resolution or peace. A sense of defeat or hopelessness may accompany resignation.

Acceptance is not resignation suggests that while acceptance is a conscious choice to acknowledge and make peace with a situation, resignation entails a more passive or defeated stance. It emphasizes that accepting a situation does not mean giving up or resigning oneself to a sense of powerlessness.

The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.

– Mark Manson

As I wait to get diagnostic testing done and the results, the phrase encourages me to continue meeting the challenges ahead by embracing reality and to think of proactive ways I can stay positive. By accepting this uncertainty with calm, I make it a positive experience.

To embody the concept of acceptance rather than resignation, here are ten perspectives and approaches I’ve adopted during this trying time:

  1. I focus on what I can control. I make healthy lifestyle choices, maintain a positive outlook, and actively participate in my healthcare decisions.
  2. I stay informed. I read medical papers and educate myself as much as I can about my medical condition, without trying to outsmart my doctors.
  3. I nurture my support team. Beyond providing me practical help, my honey, family, and friends are a tremendous emotional support.
  4. I stay in the present moment. I take each day as it comes, cherishing the beauty around me and finding joy in little things, like watching a huge murder of crows fly daily by my window.
  5. I express my feelings freely. My emotions are mostly well-regulated, yet I have safe spaces to voice frustration or sadness, as well as joy and enthusiasm.
  6. I enjoy having a naturally sunny disposition. Having a good sense of humor is important to me; I find things to laugh about daily. I smile and make sincere (however brief) contact with strangers.
  7. I maintain a positive mindset. I see acceptance as a positive choice rather than a defeat. I choose to face the challenges ahead with resilience and self-compassion.
  8. I seek physical affection. I’m a touchy-feely kind of person, and luckily, so is my honey. We hug, hold hands, and touch a lot, elevating our level of oxytocin and reducing cortisol.
  9. I engage in meaningful activities. Writing this blog, working with my clients, capturing the brilliant fall colors with my camera, and sharing beauty in social media all make me happy.
  10. I set realistic expectations. I understand profoundly that life is not a straight line, and it’s okay to have moments when things just suck.

I know that everyone’s journey is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s crucial to find what works best for you. You may find comfort in mindful techniques or meditation practices. And if you find yourself struggling, whatever your situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to mental health professionals or support groups that specialize in coping with medical challenges.

If you are going through anything similar, what might you add to my list? How do you achieve acceptance in a crappy situation?

The appearance of this phrase from different sources in a short period may be a meaningful coincidence, synchronicity. I take it as a reminder to keep a balance between accepting the (sometimes cruel) realities of life and actively engaging with them. I will never resign myself to a passive acceptance of circumstances.

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.

– Carl Jung

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  • Oh, this is a tough one! Personally, I look to my sister’s search to discover what was ailing her body. When she finally found out (was told by a doctor DURING the MRI), she was told she had stage 4 non-Hodgkins’s lymphoma with perhaps 48 hours to live. Her reaction? “Well, what can we do about it?”

    She went on to live another 18 years but did spend 6 months in the cancer ICU unit after the diagnosis.

    What can I do about it? Fight? Accept? Practice a different way? We have many choices. I can see my sister’s choice in your words. Carry on and know you are held in my heart.

    • Oh dear Susan, what a rough ride for your sister! And no doubt for all who cherish her! And yessSS, we do carry on. Life can be both cruel and beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. 🌸🙏🌸

  • True Acceptance can give a feeling of neutrality. This neither passive nor active mode always gives me greater synchronicities and flow. BTW not always easy !!!😂

    • Thanks for that thought, Alison. 🌸🙏🌸 You may be right and I’ll think on it some more, but my first reaction is that neutrality is not what I crave. I’m no Buddhist monk. 😅 What I want is to face reality as clear-eyed as humanly possible and yet be passionate about how I choose to live and be accountable for my choices.

      PS. Minutes after writing the above, I got this amazing (synchronicity?) quote from James Baldwin (the brilliant civil rights activist) in my FB feed that expresses my thoughts more eloquently. We can replace the word “complacency” with “resignation”: “It began to seem that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. The first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are: in the light of this idea, it goes without saying that injustice is a commonplace. But this did not mean that one could be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, in one’s own life, accept these injustices as commonplace but must fight them with all one’s strength. This fight begins, however, in the heart and it now had been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair.” This is not neutrality.

  • We don’t always know what’s best for us.
    Align with the Force of Ra and attune to a change in plans
    A smile and a sense of humour do help.

    Cheers, Cisca

    • You’re right, Carmen, we don’t know. So many things we don’t know. So sure, a sun god 🌞 is good to align with. And yes, always a smile. 🙂😊

  • And there she goes again, taking us all on a journey of consciousness about the words we use so casually (and as cliche) so often. I’m glad you are sharing your thoughts and how you manage through this, it resonates with me and helps me stay on a calm and steady course, with curiosity rather than dread about what will come.

    You know you have my love!

  • Inspiring, Cisca, I am full of admiration! I’m sad that we didn’t have that lunch, but decline to accept and/or be resigned to not having it at some point in the future!
    Stay strong!
    Tony & Quito

By Francisca

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