I have a great life. I love my job, I love where I live and I love the freedom that I have. It’s taken me a long time to be able to say these things and to openly admit that I am good and that my life is good. You’re not supposed to proclaim your happiness too loudly or you might hurt someone else’s feelings, you see. It can be considered selfish or proud or arrogant or even in the more popular parlance of the day, “offensive”. You’re bragging if you’re happy and successful.
Well, enough of that. I have been working a long time, personally and professionally to arrive at this place, where I can openly proclaim satisfaction and gratitude and it feels great! Let me be clear, my life is not perfect, but it’s pretty doggone workable. I can look back and see all of the right and not so right decisions I’ve made over the years and I’m happy to be able to accept them and live with them. It wasn’t that way for a long time.
For instance, my husband and I are childless by choice. We decided early in our marriage that we would not have children. In fact, we were so sure that he had a vasectomy in his mid-30s. Over time I started to feel little pangs of regret, guilt and yes, even some anger over this decision. It ate at me for a few years and I must admit, I blamed my husband. HE was the one who didn’t want kids, even though I had stated my feelings very clearly and even encouraged him to get the ‘snip-snip’, so that I could stop taking birth control pills.
As I approached my mid-40s and past any kind of normal child-bearing age, I began to accept that we would not have children. Oh, I know; there’s adoption, vasectomy reversal, medical intervention, but the fact that we didn’t explore any of those solutions shows me that we had made the right decision all along. I struggled with feelings of inadequacy as a woman because I didn’t have kids; it’s an ugly truth, but other women were the most brutal in letting me know that I was sorely lacking as a ‘real woman’, since I was childless. I’ll never be a member of ‘the club’ of motherhood and I’ll admit that it has caused me a great deal of pain over the years.
But, I’m officially over it. I’ve watched a couple of our friends succumb to life threatening illnesses over the past few months and I’ve been smacked right in the middle of the forehead with this message: quit wasting time. Quit wasting time on regrets of what could have been, what you should have done, how you could have done things differently. None of it matters. I am who, what and where I am and that’s the bottom line. Being childless has allowed us to build a stable financial foundation; I have been able to build a career that I love and my husband was able to basically retire from his business several years ago. We live in a place that is beautiful, where we can enjoy all of the outdoor activities that we love. We have friends and family that we love. I am here, now and I am grateful.
Acceptance. What is it? Why are we so obssessed with it? “I just wish people would accept me for who I am”. We’ve all whimpered that one, haven’t we? Usually when we’re about 14 and someone made fun of us or snubbed us, which happens a lot in middle school.
It would be great if we outgrew our obsession with “acceptance” like we outgrew our size 5 jeans, but being human and all, we don’t. We still crave it and in some cases unreasonably demand it. Really all that we can hope for is an uneasy truce over the years with those we feel are ‘unaccepting’.
Last week my counselor had me make a list of things that I am powerless over. Try it if you’d like and I suspect you’ll come to the same conclusion that I did. You can’t control other people. Period. Demanding love, acceptance, understanding, cooperation, etc. from other people is a recipe for misery and victimhood. It’s just not possible for any of us.
So, back to acceptance. It’s a fact of life that we just can’t please everyone and doesn’t it seem as if those are the people we focus on? There are a few people in my life who are accepting and encouraging in most every way. However, if I screw up, which I inevitably do via bad choices, they let me know. I love them dearly and tend to take them for granted because they let me, be me.
Then there are the folks in my circle who have expectations that I have determined are beyond my ability to fulfill. I have spent way too much time agonizing and questioning myself, thanks to their lofty goals for my behavior and contributions to their lives. I’m finally at a point where I can say that I’ve met and exceeded many of their expectations and if they must keep raising the bar, then that’s their issue, not mine.
They may never accept me wholly and that’s okay. It’s probably better that I accept myself or keep working on it.