One thing I have learned on this journey is acceptance. I’m not perfect and sometimes I continue to fight things in my head, sometimes I struggle with resentment. But for the most part, I’ve come a long way.
I think “acceptance” is a loaded word and means many things to many people — and feel free to comment and add what it means to you so this will be more well-rounded. In the beginning, I struggled with the notion that it may equate passivity. I thought people in AA with their acceptance had “given up.” I thought their turning the other cheek meant letting people walk all over them. They were suckers.
I know now that it means accepting conditions as they ARE today. It means taking action and sticking up for ourselves and “turning over” the outcomes. It may mean believing in God’s justice instead of pursuing street justice.
One of the biggest things I struggled with (in terms of acceptance) was my health and it takes ongoing vigilance to stay on top of it. In 2008 I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease (after many months) and if the topic interests you for any reason, I keep a blog called Bloody Lymey (www.bloodylymey.wordpress.com) It was a long journey to getting diagnosed and other sicknesses were tossed out at me. Lupus. Fibromyalgia. MS. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Chronic Fatigue. Certain types of anemia and other vitamin deficiencies. It seemed endless. By the time I saw a specialist for Lyme, she thought I had had it for 2-3 years.
In 2008, I was five years sober. I had worked the steps and continued working the steps and had a sponsor who I had been working with for 3 years. I had a pretty solid foundation. Thank GOD. But even with a “program” and even with some knowledge of how to cope and resources to use, I still fought it in my head. Before being diagnosed, I had a doctor who said I was depressed — and was willing to leave it at that. If I was PASSIVE I would have shrugged and said “OK.” But I accepted the very fact that he SAID that. I accepted the fact that he gave me all he had. I accepted the fact that perhaps he wasn’t such a go-getting type doctor and that this is how he IS. But I don’t want a doctor like that.
I didn’t fight it in my head or sit around seething and plotting revenge (which is the opposite of acceptance). Wait. Sometimes I did. Sometimes I did. Ha ha. But I realized it was using up my energy that could be directed toward something more productive. I ACCEPTED it but I took appropriate action: I got a new doctor.
In the two months it took to find the right doctor (and after some idiot wanted to give me ATIVAN for the pain!!! But that’s another story), I had to accept where I was today. That was tough. I was fairly athletic, always hiking, always on the move, always playing with my young son. I had to accept my limitations for the day. If I was passive, I would not have pursued adequate medical care. I would have laid down and applied for SSI, committed to sleeping and being in pain the rest of my natural born days.
It’s a good thing I didn’t do that. Whatever was wrong with me would suffocate me at night and I would wake up not breathing. It was terrifying and I would swallow air, trying to survive. It made my heart do peculiar things — murmur, palpitate, race, punch my rib cage, flutter ……. I talked to my son’s grandparents. I talked to them about “what if.” I made a video for my son to watch when he grew up “in case.” And that was hard to do, but I felt it was necessary.
I had to accept the fact that when my then four year old asked to go somewhere I had to say “Not today.” Remembering the invigoration following a hike in the woods or climbing a mountain, I had to accept that I couldn’t do that today. Being on the move and out doing things was a part of my identity, a part of my soul. It seemed impossible to believe I couldn’t do those things. Sometimes I made myself keep moving. One time I brought my son to the bike trail in another town to go for a ride. I struggled, bit my lip and “toughed it out.” The muscle fatigue got so severe that steering my car back to our town was tapping the last of my resources. I tried not to cry, unsure if I could get us all the way home. Little by little, instances such as this taught me not to rock the boat.
Finally I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and there was hope. I was being treated. The specialist I was referred to thought that, based on the progression of the disease, that I had had it for 2-3 years. Finishing the course of Doxycycline, I still had all the symptoms except the respiratory and heart ones — which had been the most alarming.
It’s four years and one month since my diagnosis and I’m exhausted today. My knees and hands are stiff. I slept for 3 hours this afternoon. I have labs next month and see a rheumatologist in August. My treatments have changed over the years and some things have worked for a while. I had a 10-month remission at one point. This hasn’t been constant and that’s the most insidious part of it, it’s the part that really makes me struggle with the acceptance. I get to a point and think “Whew! It’s OVER.” And then WHAM! It’s like having an abusive husband that I can never leave. He’ll woo me, he’ll make up with me. It’s all good. Then the vicious cycle comes full circle and it starts again and I’m tortured from within. Does feeling sorry for myself help this? No. Not at all. My sponsor has beaten my ass off the pity pot.
When I planned my day today, I didn’t plan to trudge around feeling exhausted and unmotivated. I didn’t plan to sleep the afternoon away. But I shifted gears. “I can’t control the wind, but I can adjust my sails.” I accept my limitations just for today – not that I can do this every minute of every day, but it’s far easier than it used to be and acceptance is the rule and not the exception anymore. I did what I could to nurture myself and to meet my needs for the day. My soul wanted to go for a hike. My soul wanted to clean part of the house to make it a better place for my family. My soul wanted to scan more old pictures for a dear relative who doesn’t have many pictures of his mom. But my body needed other things. And I know if I just make myself do what I planned then I may feel like this for the rest of the week. Doing the next right thing today will always increase the chances that tomorrow will be better— no matter what.
If I was passive, if I was taking this “laying down,” I would not see a rheumatologist in August and would not bother with the labs. I would just lay here and say “this is okay. Someone will take care of me.” I’m not mousy. But laying here and feeling angry that I couldn’t do what I want isn’t going to make today any better. Laying around here and thinking about how many years I’ve dealt with this and how many more may be yet to come is NOT keeping it “in the day.” It will make it more unbearable – particularly if I dwell on it.
Today I have a relationship with God and know that whatever is wrong with me today serves a purpose. In hindsight I have learned so many things because of Lyme Disease. I’ve learned a new caliber of empathy. Today I help people with disabilities gain employment — I know more about limitations and have become an adept negotiator for reasonable accommodations, since I know how it feels. When I have a good day, I appreciate it in the truest and greatest sense of the word — and I used to just take it for granted and sometimes even felt entitled to it. When I’m okay, I really feel more alive than ever. I don’t procrastinate as much. I don’t put off mowing the lawn today because I don’t know if I’ll be up to it tomorrow. I no longer tell my son “some day we’ll go to ________” [insert name of cool place]. I might have to tell him we’ll do it when I’m feeling better, but we always do it. Some Sundays I wake up feeling better than ever and we hit an amusement park.
My faith in God fuels my feeling of acceptance. This fatigue and creakiness? God gave it to me for a reason. Maybe I need to slow down. Maybe it’s a test. Maybe it kept me home and prevented me from being in a fatal accident. Maybe it meant for me to reflect on this some more today. Maybe I’m not even ever meant to know.
Humility, too, fuels acceptance and a lot of my humility is based on my faith in God and knowing I’m not his right-hand man. I’m not entitled to health. God doesn’t have to do me any favors. He knows what’s best for me – better than I do – And what about “why me?” Well? Why NOT me? Why should someone else have to go through this? And the end of the full Serenity Prayer is : “living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, and accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.”
Humility helps me when my pride is eating away at me when I’m gimpy or struggling up the stairs with people accumulating behind me. I’m not perfect. I’m not untouchable. I don’t need to be the tough guy. But I’m not perfect and I’m not always on the proverbial beam. Sometimes it does hurt my pride and sometimes I do feel self-conscious. Like at the end of an AA meeting, I try to be considerate of other people and let the crowd gravitate to the stairs so I can lag behind and not inconvenience anyone.
All of this takes practice. Acceptance is earned, not granted.
Feel free to comment with your thoughts on acceptance — how it works for you, how you attain it, anything at all.