'Acceptance' will be my guiding word for 2020
Last updated 1/8/2020 at 4:37pm | View PDF
Every January for the past few years, Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich has chosen an annual "guiding word" and encouraged readers to do the same.
I heard about this for the first time over the weekend and was intrigued.
Her word for 2020 is "slower" - an interesting choice, she admits, for a woman who works on deadline. As she goes on to discuss, though, slowing down rarely makes us late.
"All we have to do is breathe more slowly, and we know that slowing down is a way to see and hear and think more clearly," she writes in her Jan. 4 column. "Slowing down, we make space to notice what's going on, and noticing helps us make better choices."
Her rationale almost makes me want to choose slower as my 2020 word, too. But when I first read her column, I knew immediately what my word should be.
The word - for me - immediately prompts a recitation of the Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference."
I typically can muster the courage to make the changes I can, and usually am able to differentiate between what is in my control (my own thoughts and behavior) and what is not (absolutely everything else).
Accepting things I cannot change is the tough one for me. Perhaps it is so difficult because the number of things I can change is so minuscule compared to the number of things over which I have no control.
I can't change the behavior of other drivers, even those who believe a "turn" at a stop sign involves two cars instead of one.
I can't swap the caloric content of foods I enjoyed before Christmas (cookies, candy and cheesecake) with those I am "enjoying" now (chicken breast, broccoli and more chicken breast).
I can't eliminate all mistakes in my work or make school board meetings shorter or extend a deadline by 24 hours if I'm not feeling particularly motivated to write.
I could go on, but the list would be long. As I wrote earlier, almost everything I encounter falls under the category of "things I cannot change."
Of course that's where the beauty of acceptance comes in. If I can slow down (right, Mary?) and truly accept that which I find annoying or distasteful or even unacceptable, I will change my perception. And in so doing, I will change my reality.
I realize the notion of accepting the unacceptable might not seem pleasant. Some assume such an approach involves removing all boundaries and tolerating unacceptable behavior. That's not what I believe.
I believe acceptance means you meet a situation as it is. You stop fighting it or denying it or wishing it were different.
You accept it - and then you decide what to do about it. You might decide the situation is so unhealthy you need to remove yourself from it. You might decide your best course of action is to do nothing. Or you might choose one of the infinite number of options in between.
Eckhart Tolle writes about acceptance (and so much more) in "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose."
"Only if you resist what happens are you at the mercy of what happens, and the world will determine your happiness and unhappiness," he writes.
The first thing I have to accept is that practicing acceptance is going to take time and effort. Good thing I have a whole year to work on it.
- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected]