Practical Acceptance

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In Fearless Writing I recommend an exercise where for one day you try not to complain about anything, not one single complaint about the weather, politics, publishing, your weight, your husband or wife or children – nothing. I had tried it myself some time before at the advice of a teacher my wife and I were listening to and I found it pretty enlightening. I didn’t fully understand how often I complained until I tried not to. If complaints were cigarettes I’d have been a chain-smoker.

I don’t complain much anymore, at least not out loud. Instead I complain privately and formlessly. Throughout the day I feel an intermittent hum of dissatisfaction running through me, whose only shape is the thought, “I wish this wasn’t so.” It’s a depressing thought, frankly, as it assumes I will suffer until circumstances somehow change. Those circumstances are always what other people are doing or, occasionally, what I feel I have to do. If I let it get bad I soon feel imprisoned in a world of cruelty, ignorance, and obligation. How I want to complain then, so that someone might hear my cries and free me from my cell.

That’s usually the moment I realize I’ve been complaining to myself and remember that my only way out of the prison is acceptance. It’s counter-intuitive, but I built that cell with my own resistance, trying to wish away what was. Depending on how bad I let it get it can take a little while to find my way out, but I always do. Everyone does, actually, though it can take some of us a lifetime.

The only time I don’t complain at all is when I’m writing. I simply can’t write and complain. Writing is about what I want on the page, not what I don’t want on the page. So it’s just a very practical choice on my part. I’m a practical guy, you know. I don’t sit around all day meditating on acceptance. I like to do stuff. It’s just so much easier to accept what I’m doing when it starts with the question, “What interests you most right now?” What a nice, friendly, open question. How I like spending time with the one who asked it, and how quickly and easily I accept the answer when it comes.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.