My life seems to be one of constant learning. Recently themes of connection, service and compassion have been prevalent. And Acceptance. Lots of acceptance. I am not very accepting of my lesson in acceptance. In fact, I am resisting and very much not accepting my lesson in acceptance. Unfortunately, it is this same resistance that is causing me more pain.
Acceptance comes in different forms. One can struggle in accepting themselves and their human body. Perhaps it is accepting bad situations like an impending natural disaster or disease. Sometimes it is acceptance of others who are, think, and believe differently than me; I have worked hard at not imposing my expectations on others which makes it easier to accept them. The acceptance I am struggling with now is not when my expectations are off, but when people can not act with common courtesy.
I am, of course, talking about my chain-smoking neighbor who I have been writing about ad nauseum. He is my current teacher, and I can’t wait to get this lesson, really get it, so I can be free of him. The acceptance he is teaching me is accepting others, even when their behavior is harming me. Phew. That is a hard one. In the past, my expectations of others were based on my selfish wants and needs, and I could see how I needed to release those expectations to find peace and acceptance. In my current situation, it is hard for me to release the expectation that my neighbor not carelessly poison me with his smoke.
Can you relate? Many of us are losing our shit because we feel the actions of others are infringing on our health, wellbeing, or freedom. I saw a video the other day of a man on an airplane insanely freaking out because he did not want to wear a mask. Others are upset that those around them will not mask and get the vaccine. It seems we all have a definition of freedom and safety that contradicts the wants and needs of others. In many ways it is more than just our expectations; it feels like others are purposefully attacking and harming us and not allowing us the freedom to live the life we want.
The question remains, what do we do with people who appear to be causing us harm?
We accept them.
Damn, I didn’t want that answer, did you? I want to fight them, publicly shame them, be as harmful back to them as they are being to me. But where does that get me? It just makes me more angry and resentful – and then I would have to deal with the repercussions of my “Karen” behavior as well. Instead of going ballistic and acting in a hateful, self-righteous, and self-focused way I would regret, here are a few things I am trying.
Stop Fighting Reality
A hurricane just passed through our town recently. The hurricane did not form with the intention of hurting me. It did not have the choice to just be a light breeze but instead decided to have 100 MPH winds just to be a jerk. The same thing with my chain-smoking neighbor. He is living his life the way he chooses. He is not doing it intentionally to me. I can’t want and expect him to be any way that he is. A dog is going to be a dog. Expecting him to be a cat only causes me pain. We can not blame or attack another for their behavior. We can not change another’s actions or behavior. We can’t. Instead of being upset that people are not acting in a way we deem as appropriate, we need to surrender to the truth that they are acting in the only way they know how to right now. Until I stop fighting, I can’t be open to finding solutions to get me closer to what I want to experience.
Focus on What I Want
I have spent way too much time obsessing over the pain and inconvenience my neighbor is causing me. I find myself upset about his smoke in my house, even when there is not smoke in my house. Instead of feeding my anger and victimhood, I am beginning to focus on what I want. Serenity. Peace. Fresh air. When I have those things, I am grateful. When I don’t, I see what I can do in the moment to make changes that will get me closer to what I want.
Stop Trying to Win
If I went to court, I could have a good case as to how my neighbor was infringing on my right to clean air, good health, and full use of my home. But winning that battle does not give me clean air and good health. It would only create animosity and more conflict. There are no winners and losers. There is no good or bad. If our world is ever going to heal, we need to release the concept of duality. We are not separate. It is not us versus them. We are not separate from each other but connected parts of a whole. Until we stop fighting the non-existent separation from each other, we will not come together and find peace.
It doesn’t matter what or who I am praying to, but I need to remind myself that this problem is bigger than me. I am powerless to change the views and actions of my neighbor. By praying I turn the problem over to whatever is larger than me in universe which can possibly affect what is happening. This is an act of detachment with love for myself and for my sanity. The other piece of prayer is compassion. “Bless them, heal me” is a great prayer of compassion for others, and ourselves.
It is not hard to look around these days and find others who are in acting in ways that feel like they are infringing on the life, liberty, and freedom of others. Fighting them directly only feeds the fire. We need to try new ways to heal differences in opinion and lifestyles. I hope that finding acceptance can be the foundation to help make a positive change for us all.