If I could give one gift to my children, I think it would be “acceptance”. It isn’t too hard to understand intellectually that we should simply accept life on life’s terms and not try to control what we can’t really control. Yet, it’s a hard lesson to learn. I think not accepting may be the source of most, if not all, suffering. When we live with the view that reality ‘should be’ other than it is, we are living in a dream (at best) and a state of self-deception and denial (at worst). Not accepting throws us into a relationship with the world in which we must either control our environment or cope with circumstances we consider beyond our control.
At some moment in our lives, usually in middle age, we finally accept something we’ve always known—the fact that we are going to die some day. For some, this may be an explicit awakening: for others, a kind of resignation and giving up on dreams.
For me, it came sometime in my early 50s when I realized that I had put off for years the things which I said I always wanted to do and that, whether I died tomorrow or in 30 years, I was going to have an unfulfilled ‘to do’ list. I stopped comparing myself to some ideal standard in my mind and just accepted that whatever I was doing was what I was doing and that was that. That meant accepting my lifelong habit of procrastination as just exactly the way my life was being lived and that it was perfect that way. It also shifted my relationship with choice. I could do something or not do something, and it was okay either way.