Mindfulness and Self-discovery

On Loving the Illness, Acceptance


By Lynn Jericho

When I was seven years old, I was deeply impressed by a biopic, A Man Called Peter, about Peter Marshall an inspiring preacher. In the film Peter’s wife contracts tuberculosis and is confined to bed with no real hope for a cure. She determines her wellness will only be restored if she redeems all the harm she has caused in her life. She writes letters to everyone she can think of asking for forgiveness, but she remains ill. Finally, she surrenders to her state and accepts her illness. Acceptance is the true medicine and she returns to good health after three years. This is a true story, filmed in the technicolor Hollywood of the 1950’s. At seven, I loved this notion of acceptance as the miracle cure.

Now sixty years later, we have HIV, fibromyalgia, lyme and other chronic sufferings of the body to live with and accept. I no longer think of acceptance as a miracle cure. I think of it as the gift of chronic suffering.

Acceptance is not resignation or helpless surrender. It is an inner wisdom that finds a right relationship to a very difficult reality. Acceptance offers a higher reality, not in the disembodied sense, but in an overarching sense. A rainbow glimmering over dark stormy clouds.

Sadly, we cannot call forth or demand acceptance. There is no acceptance switch in a suffering body longing for the strength to live a good life or a meaningful life. What can straighten up a life thrown out of whack?

Acceptance randomly shows up one surprising moment for a visit or a stay. How do we invite acceptance? Can we prepare for acceptance? Big questions, but the questions are the invitation and the preparation.

And let us not forget about rehearsal! We can fake till we make it.. Acting as if…not as if you are healthy but as if your reality has purpose, creativity and strength.

Here are some suggestions and perspectives that may help you prepare or fake it.

Acceptance cannot co-exist with fighting, hating, or resisting your illness, but you can accept the reality that you are pissed off. That’s a great place to begin.

Acceptance includes grieving and it warms up the chill of grief. You have lost normal and ordinary and are now engaging different and painful. Acceptance is the first step to creating a new normal.

Acceptance includes wishing things were different. Acceptance is inclusive of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Acceptance embraces illness as destiny, as a way to expand and deepen our love for ourselves and our celebration of life in all it’s difficulties and confusions.

Acceptance is ironic. We think we should reach for it, demand it, even, but it fact we need to release, let go, and wait for acceptance.

Acceptance requires good humor and smiles in the midst of tears and rage.

Acceptance requires us to tell our truth about our suffering and our acceptance. Not the drama, not the victimhood, but the surprising, unexplainable ability to embrace what is so.

Acceptance forgives those who don’t “get it” and gives us permission not to pay attention to them, listen to them, or try to educate their ignorance. Weren’t you ignorant before you illness showed up?

Acceptance is all about you and your relationship to your illness. It is not about anyone else accepting anything.

There is nothing that surpasses the transformative power of evolving right relationship to all aspects of your life. We all expect life to unfold with grace. But we don’t expect grace to show up as pain or frailty. Grace wears many costumes in her role of teaching acceptance.

I want to encourage you to explore a right relationship with chronic suffering, chronic confusion, chronic struggle, chronic pain.

Illness may take away your freedom of movement, but it will never take away the freedom in your soul.

I invite you to respond with courageous sharing of the presence of acceptance in your relationship to the smelly, ugly, painful reality of your illness. This is a community that can accept your story, your sadness, your unwillingness to accept, your moments of glory…please share wherever you are in your experience of acceptance.

Lynn Jericho shares her wisdom, compassion and encouragement for the complex and challenging work of finding knowing and becoming yourself through her writing, teaching and mentoring. You can learn more about her and her work at www.imagineself.com.

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