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Those of us who have been around a while have lived through monumental changes. Men have walked the surface of the moon. Electrical cars and cell phones. The Internet we’re all playing on now. Along with those, we have ugly moments in our civil discourse, and a general big shift in the way people connect. Change can be hard. But why suffer? Here’s how to accept what is and stop suffering.
A Zen moment.
One of the great teachings of Buddha is that we all have pain in life, but we choose how we let it affect us. In other words, pain is mandatory, but suffering is optional. Radical idea.
So how do you choose not to suffer? Step one: radical acceptance. It sounds all wrong, I know. Why would I choose to accept that my kids don’t seem to love me like they should? Why would I choose to accept that my eyesight isn’t what it used to be? Or that my hips ache with every step? These are what’s wrong in my life! Why would I accept this stuff?
Acceptance is NOT the same as approval. I don’t have to like that my kids don’t call, my eyes are wonky and it hurts to walk, stand, and sit too long. I just need to admit to myself that that’s the way it is. It doesn’t even matter why it is, it just is.
So where’s the advantage? Acceptance shuts down the “shoulds” so you can deal with the way things really are. I am no longer 20, so I can’t see the same way I did then. Fact. I may feel I should be able to but that’s impossible. So I accept that and ditch the shoulds and work with the facts.
Our children can be a real pain. They won’t come visit or call enough because they’re too busy to spend time with their mother. They won’t exchange gifts. They won’t come over to eat.
Those kids aren’t necessarily rejecting you. They really are busy, sucked into the 24/7 availability trap of the cell phone. They don’t relate the way we did when we were the kids. Maybe you’ve seen them in the restaurant, sitting across from one another, silently doodling on their cell phones. It must be important to them to do that, given that they have someone to talk to available and pass up the opportunity.
Please don’t blame yourself for their behavior or feel rotten because they are not treating you the way you tried to raise them to. People are a product of their times as well as their upbringing. Ever notice that traits go in cycles? That maybe your daughter came out more like your mother than you, for example.
Maybe it’s time to accept the kids for who they are, not who you think they ought to be. You’d do it for a stranger. Do it out of love.
How to accept.
If acceptance were easy everyone would do it. It means rethinking every time you start to suffer with a should-statement.
The minute you catch yourself thinking you should not have to have this or that problem, stop and say to yourself that it is what it is, and I accept it. Then change the subject in your head.
The more you linger over a hurt, the more it hurts. Have you ever discovered after the fact that you have cut yourself? You didn’t know till you saw your bleeding finger, and then it hurt. Same with thoughts. The more you ruminate on how you should have such-and-so, the unhappier you get.
So don’t get caught in a loop, chewing over the way something hurts. That is choosing to suffer. And as long as you’re busy suffering, no way out appears, no solution is found, no hope sparks up.
After accepting, then what?
When you’ve gotten your head calmed down with accepting the thing that hurts, and you are ready to find a way out of that pain, you can think straight. Now is the time to find your solution.
You can choose to offer your independent adult children contacts, by sending birthday and holiday cards. You can call them or whatever. Just make up your mind to accept what they are prepared to do that includes you and make the most of it. If they persist in ignoring you, so be it. (They probably won’t.)
You can choose to stop expecting 65-year-old body parts to perform as though they were 20 years old. Get your eyes checked. If you have cataracts, get them out. If you need glasses, get those and wear them. They may not return you to being able to thread a needle easily. So get a needle threader.
Those creaky joints? Get thee to a doctor and see what options there are. Try whatever. Exercise, once thought to aggravate the creaks, is now the go-to way to keep them moving. Find something you like that gets you moving and takes your mind off the pain. Remember, paying attention to pain makes it worse.
Accept what is and enjoy life.
So you see, taking control of your thoughts is just a matter of noticing when you are suffering, accepting what is and moving on. You can move on to a change in subject if you’re on the go. You can take time and move on to new ways to deal with the problem that keep you from suffering, too.
Make up your mind to do this when you’re getting eaten alive by your own “shoulds.” What do you do when you find a cut finger? First, you hurt. But then you bandage it. Then the hurt fades because you dealt with it. You don’t go around dripping blood and feeling sorry for yourself.
There’s no use in wasting your time with how things “should” be, because they keep changing. Don’t spend your life suffering over things. Accept what is, and stop the suffering. Have a nice life!
How do you deal with things that keep bothering you?