Acceptance vs Agreement

“I accept that. “
Chuckie Marstein, Sons of Anarchy

I often learn lessons the hard way. This is not because I’m a particularly bad person. Or that I don’t get things. Or that I don’t have a lot of lessons to learn.

It’s mostly that I’m not that bright.  Plus, as Sue points out, I’m a man.*

I bang my head against a wall for a long time. Then I find a way around, over, under or through it. Then, when I meet another wall, I immediately start to bang my head against it. Again.

As I said, not that bright.

The last couple of years have been tough for me. My health has been less than perfect. I’ve been off work more than I’ve been on. My mind has been struggling – too small to be wandering off by itself. And my spirit has taken a bit of a beating.

All in all, some tough times.

I’ve recently discovered that part of my issue, aside from the aforementioned brightness problem, is that I may have a problem accepting reality.

I’ve dealt with Crohn’s disease for about thirty years. Through a combination of medication, force of will (or what Sue calls “stubbornness”), and a blatant disregard for reality, I have managed to have a very good, sort of normal life.

I’ve learned all sorts of coping mechanisms – breathing into the pain is one of my favorites – and I can put on a pretty good show of being normal (ha!), looking healthy (double ha!), and being competent (is there such a thing as a triple ha?)

I have always believed that I can create my own reality. If only I put my mind/will/spirit into things, I come out normal. If not normal, then at least the appearance of normal.

Why have I worked so hard at appearing normal? A part of me is afraid that if I accept the fact that I’m sick (which I am), that fact will somehow define me.

And if there is one definition that I don’t want, it’s to be “the sick guy”.

And because I have trouble accepting this reality, I do dumb things. Like I don’t ask for help if I need it. Or request time off when necessary. Or admit that I need long naps to get through the day.

And … sometimes … I don’t go to the doctor when I should. Although I’m getting much better at this last one.

The problem isn’t that I have done these things. Everyone – I think – has done something dumb in the past. No, it’s not the dumb things I’ve done that annoy me.

It’s the fact that I keep doing them. Over and over. Like a bad habit.

I’ve been thinking about this. A lot. Hey … I’ve got the time. I’ve come to the conclusion that I have been mistaking acceptance with agreement.

You see, I thought that if I accepted a particular reality – in this case, that I have a physical problem – that meant that I agreed with that state. You know, that I thought being sick was OK.

I’ve been rethinking this, and I’ve come to the following conclusion: Acceptance isn’t the same thing as agreement. Acceptance, I think, is saying “Hey, this is where I am currently at”. It’s not a judgement call. Just a statement of reality.

It’s a bit like my bank account. If I look at it and see a negative balance, I can either choose to accept that this is a reality, or I can pretend that it isn’t. Saying that I have a negative balance doesn’t mean that I like it. It’s just the reality.

What I do about it is what makes the difference. If I simply say “Well, that’s what the old overdraft is for”, and keep on spending, I’m going to see the same result next month. You know, banging my head against a wall.

If the reality makes me say “Oh. I guess I’m spending more than I make”, and change my spending habits, I’m going to have a different result next month.

If I accept that I have made some poor choices, health-wise, in the past, this lets me make some changes. For example, if I realize that I wait too long to go to see my doctor, I can now try to make better decisions.

Besides, I’m sure my doctor would like to take a trip someplace warm, too. Gotta keep him in business.

Acceptance also comes before forgiveness. It’s pretty easy for me to beat myself up about poor choices I’ve made in the past. I am pretty good at forgiving others. I’m really awful at forgiving myself.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that I agree with all the choices I’ve made in the past. It just means that I acknowledge that I have some unhelpful habits and beliefs that have kept me from asking for the help I’ve needed. And that I can change these things.

Soooo … I’m working at accepting things. Physical realities. Economic realities. Vocational realities. And, having accepted things about myself, and maybe throwing in some forgiveness along the way, maybe I can work at changing the habits and beliefs that have brought me here.

One can always hope.

*I’m not sure I can do much about either of these things. Maybe I just need to accept that.

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