Getting to acceptance is a long and difficult journey through the looking glass. It requires a great deal of self-reflection, introspection, and honesty to truly accept yourself, your life situation and all the decisions you have made to bring yourself to the present moment.
As I wrote in an earlier blog, denial is the dark mirror of acceptance and I think it holds true. Denial fixates us into holding patterns of behaviour, locks us echo chambers where we are lost to our own thoughts, navigating internal metaverses that deny unpalatable realities. Acceptance equates with facing reality as is and creates a clear space where agency is possible.
The loss of a close family member, personal misfortune or a near death experience might be the trigger to wake you from your denial slumber. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but it is. The pandemic was a good case in point where mortality, even for people in the full flow of their lives was possible. The strange counterpoint of life coming temporarily to a halt with all its familiarity, the long lockdowns and the silent stasis created for me, at least a broader inflection point.
Adversity forces us to examine issues that we can quite happily ignore when times are good. Adversity is a kind of crucible that burns but also purifies. Camus also understood this when he wrote in his work, The Plague:
“What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of the plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves.”
I started writing about acceptance because in my own life, I have had to come to terms with ‘letting go’ of my special needs daughter Cara into care.
It doesn’t sound like much in relation to the horrendous world events we in Europe are witnessing but as a personal life moment it illustrates loss as well and the need to accommodate matters that impact the heart and bring sadness and doubt.
If you are a parent, you will know the powerful and indivisible bonds that connect you to your children. Ordinarily, your children grow into adults and follow their own paths. You do everything to support them on their way and hope that the bonds of love will bring them back to you as you age.
With special needs children, especially those with challenges of speech, intellect and agency, there is no path except the one you create for them. In some countries without proper social care, the way ahead falls upon the family and so many children end up living in a secluded hinterland of quiet rooms tended by relatives. The alternative without family is at best a neglected institution with little love or care.
My daughter is a fortunate one — fortunate to be loved and fortunate to grow up in a country which cares for its lesser abled people. We are fortunate to be able to help start a new chapter in her life divided between a supported small community of other special needs people and weekends spent at home.
She’s soon 21 but it still feels alarmingly too quick to do this — this is no age of consent for her. But I remind myself that if this were a question of a ‘normal’ child, leaving home to live with her peers would be a step towards independence that we would celebrate.
Acceptance is the toughest part. Accepting that our child would never live a normal life all those years ago has informed my life and everyone else in my family. Accepting that the ‘normal contract’ between parents and children does not apply in this case also stretches out into the future. Without the care, support, and commitment of others, this might be a burden too heavy to carry. This same rule applies to all lives since at some point, we all stand in the need of others.
It all starts today and while I am glad, it’s also a stone in my heart. But then again, I am reminded to count my blessings, which are many when compared to the greatest volume of humanity on this planet. There are things we must accept but not everything must be tolerated. Love and care should always conquer cruelty and indifference.
When I think of this in the context of an unjustifiable war being fought not more than 1500 km from my present location, I cannot accept the totally needless cruelty and ignorance of those who perpetrate such acts.
Only 77 years ago, the country where I live, Finland emerged from a horrific war fought against Russia and won its freedom, albeit at a terrible cost, but nevertheless achieving peace as well as prosperity. The lies that started that war are just as outrageous as the ones that fuel the present conflict. Propaganda that perpetuates violence should never be accepted.
No thoughts or prayers will stop the present trail of destruction in Ukraine (though reflexively I do pray) but from that conflict, perhaps a new world is emerging where everyone rises above themselves and acceptance and tolerance are the norm — a world where dictators are consigned to history, where they belong.
Finland is not a paradise, but it is a country which is committed to ideals that support tolerance, inclusion and community. The world is too big and too small to countenance war. Acceptance of common humanity and our place in the natural order as guardians of the earth, not its destroyers is the only way forward.