This is the time of year where many of us look back and realize what does and does not matter in this crazy yet incredible paradox called existence. It is baffling and beautiful when you really take an introspective moment to sit down and recollect the path your life has taken so far. In hindsight you can realize which seemingly insignificant experiences had significant impacts and, knowing their outcome thus far, accept them for exactly what they were.
In your life you strive to be something, you strive to get something. When reminiscing about even the most mundane events we are able to notice that the necessary things we needed to make the most of those experiences, bad or good, could always be found somewhere in the memory. (When I say “make the most”, I mean “benefit to the psychological and spiritual growth of our being”). Even your most loathsome situations had some component that helped you get through and, as a result, become the wiser and mentally richer person you are today. The proof is in the fact that- guess what?- you survived.
A major turning point for me this past year was during the past summer when I sought out a different obsessive compulsive disorder treatment.
The treatment shook my idea of individualism. I am proud to say that I did not go into panic mode, like I have in the past, and irrationally attempted to compensate for my lack of certainty with anorexic “solutions” (eating disorders never pose real solutions, they only tangle you in further problems. This is a topic for another time, though). When I think back about how I handled the identity crisis I realize that what I did was, first, recognized my confusion; and second, accepted my confusion. I did not know who I was, what I was about, and how I was going to tackle the grand scheme of my life- and I was content with that. I wrote about it in a poem called “Novelty” (“Novelty” by Valerie Parente) not with the intent to find some external solution out of the thin air, but to find and uproot the solace already dwelling within my current state. And what I found in accepting my state of mind was the miracle of acceptance itself.
The greatest revelation I have come to this past year is the power of acceptance. Acceptance is something we hear about all time. Psychologists, gurus, even religions have long emphasized the importance of accepting our circumstances. I don’t think people understand how this feels until they really experience the ineffable, unwavering, natural phenomena of acceptance firsthand. Acceptance brings a veridical peace that I honestly cannot describe through linguistics, nor can I force on anybody else.
That being said, I can bring light to what acceptance is NOT.
Acceptance is not a peace of mind that can be feigned. Often people mistake peace of mind with being unaffected by life, but this is false. Pretending not to care, pretending that the things bothering you don’t really matter to you, and pretending that life has no effect on you has a tragic outcome… it undermines the greater moments of life. If you are so busy being unaffected all the time you will never feel the depth of positive notions like gratitude, awe, joy, excitement, humor, or love.
Acceptance is also not “doing nothing”. If you are not content with your situation you should still make an effort to overcome obstacles, injustices, and hardships- but you should do so with a mind that reasonably acknowledges the reality that you will have to work through, not around, your dilemmas. To acknowledge a problem for what it is while acknowledging the extra exertion that will be necessary to tackle the problem is to have a mentality that is balanced. Be determined enough to face challenges while compassionate enough to recognize your limits and give yourself a break when you need to replenish your energy. This kind of mental equilibrium is the type of acceptance I saw in myself when thinking back about my identity crisis induced by alternate OCD treatment this summer.
There is great freedom in accepting yourself, others, and anything or everything that unfolds. Let yourself feel what you feel. Understand that everything is fleeting, including your mental state. And be as you are. When you look back you will always realize that you survived, and that nothing can devalue you… you can only be made richer.
– Valerie Parnete (12-18-2016)