A man who took great pride in his lawn found himself with a large crop of dandelions. He tried every method he knew to get rid of them. Still they plagued him.
Finally he wrote the Department of Agriculture. He enumerated all the things he had tried and closed his letter with the question, "What shall I do now?"
In due course the reply came, "We suggest you learn to love them."
—Anthony de Mello, SJ in The Song of the Bird
Marsha Linehan has said that the only way out of (emotional) hell is acceptance.
But Radical Acceptance (just one of the skills in Dialectical Behavior Therapy) isn't a one-time event but can be a fairly dramatic shift in the way we choose to approach life's challenges.
When I started DBT, my skills group therapist would invariably say at least once a session, "You can only keep your side of the street clean." My response was to strongly insist that it shouldn't be that way but after listening to her week after week and then month after month I began to believe that there was (perhaps) things I could change and things that I could only accept--not in a way where I'm surrendering in utter defeat but in choosing to gently let go of the fight that I was never meant to win.
That's the dialectic of change and acceptance.
Like most people with very strong emotions, I still find this particular skill to be both burdensome ("Good grief! That's it! No more accepting today!") and but mostly freeing ("It's okay. Really."). The next step came when I was able to plan to accept a difficult situation and practice the Catholic belief of redemptive suffering and put my pain to good use.
And like the dandelions, I have a choice in lovingly accepting my intense emotions, the many past choices that I regret, acute grief, the cat throwing up on the freshly-washed duvet cover, and what feels like a million other little things that come up every single day or I can continue to struggle with wanting someone else to clean up their side of the street.
What about you? What are you radically accepting today?
I'd really love to know.