To celebrate turning 40, I’ve challenged myself to blog for each of the 40 days leading into my birthday. This is post number 33. You can read all the posts here.
When you’re a control freak, the word ‘acceptance’ is completely foreign to you.
Why accept things as they are when you can control them into being the way you want them to be?
That was always my approach.
And, as foolish as you might think it sounds, there’s a huge positive feedback loop going on there. 99% of the bad things I predicted could happen, and controlled for, never happened.
That level of ‘success’ was hard to ignore.
But, what about when bad things happened that I didn’t predict?
I’d blame myself for a lack of foresight, of course.
‘How did I not see this coming?’
‘I can’t believe I let this happen.’
‘I need to try harder to ensure I’m never blindsided by this kind of thing again.’
By the time I reached my thirties, and especially once kids came alone, I had no idea how to live in the present. I was permanently casting ahead, trying to anticipate disasters and protect those I loved from them.
I’m not sure what it was about this particular disaster that caused the dam to break, but it did.
It was the thing that finally made me realise that no matter how controlling I was and how much time I spent in the future, sometimes Shit Just Happens. And it happens to nice people as much as the not-so-nice.
It was around that time that I read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and the main thing that book reinforced was ‘Our capacity for dealing with the ‘now’ is 100%’.
So much of my living in the future was geared towards ensuring if something terrible happened, then at least I saw it coming and, in theory, would be able to deal with it better. The Power of Now made me realise that trying to take the edge off the discomfort and pain of future events by experiencing that discomfort and pain ahead of time was … kind of dumb.
So, step one in acceptance was realising I couldn’t control all future disasters out of my life, no matter how hard I tried.
Step two was understanding that living in the future was robbing me of joy in the ‘now’.
Step three came from a year-long exercise in learning to sit with discomfort and uncertainty.
This was difficult because every marketing message any of us have been exposed to over the years has the same idea at its core: discomfort is bad and anything you can do to avoid it, you should.
The truth is, for the most part, discomfort isn’t bad or good.
It just is.
It’s also a healthy and natural part of the human condition.
When you understand and accept this, you get exposed to this great irony:
Accepting things as they are, (i.e. sitting with discomfort in the moment), saves you from discomfort – the frustration and angst that goes with trying to control life into being the way it ‘should’ be.