Acceptance of one’s life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle. On the contrary, it means accepting it as it comes, with all the handicaps of heredity, of suffering, of psychological complexes and injustices.–Paul Tournier
Last week I experienced a quiet moment of epiphany. I’m one of those striving types who is always trying to improve myself. Like most people who are like this, I create my own suffering. When it comes to my fiction writing life, I’ve been looking toward the future, striving, itching, yearning for years. It’s rather tiring, to say the least.
We novelists don’t have control over whether we’ll ever earn enough money from our novels to quit our day jobs. All we can do is write the next novel. My second novel is coming out in August, with the third in 2017. This is great! You’d think I’d be flying high.
No, it doesn’t work that way, because it’s hard work and there are no guarantees. Not long ago, I found myself thinking, Whatever, I can’t do anything about this. People will either like my books–or not, whatever–and my publisher will either want to extend my contract for more books–or not, whatever. The “whatevers” weren’t dismissive–more like, “Whatever it is, it is–who knows?”
It was a giant mental shrug. Sad me. But then something dawned on me: Was I feeling resigned or, for once in my life, accepting? I had to parse that one out because true acceptance is such a strange and, dare I say, novel feeling for me. Had I confused it with resignation–a kind of giving up–because the feeling was so unfamiliar?
I came to the conclusion that I might actually accept the ambiguity of the writing life for what it is. The big shrugging “whatever” feeling wasn’t so much resignation as the glimmers of acceptance. It’s a relief not to worry so much over what I can’t control.
My thought experiment around this felt very profound and unique and exceedingly wise. Then, when I went to the Internet to look up the definitions of “resignation” and “acceptance,” I discovered a boatload of articles around this topic. Hah! Seems it’s a pretty universal human conundrum (which actually relieved me).
Accepting reality in all its ambiguous, uncontrollable glory doesn’t mean giving up. I’ll do my work, meet my deadlines, do what I can do to the best of my ability, given my life circumstances. The creative process is a fraught thing–at least for me–and I accept that too. The moments of depression and self-doubt: I accept that too. What else can I do? There are no guaranteed outcomes, and I might as well throw expectations out the window (expectations = suffering, oh boy–that’s another discussion). But that’s not the same as resignation.
I associate resignation with a feeling of helplessness and acceptance with an objective assessment of reality–the facts of the matter. You can be resigned to a coming storm and get drenched, or you can accept a coming storm and pull out your umbrella.
There are a lot of woo-woo write-ups out there, but the ones I found that are based on psychology made the most sense to me. Check out this one.
Do you have any life circumstances that are hard to accept? What do you do when you start feeling helpless?