“Acceptance Is The Key To Happiness” – Yes, But HOW?

You’re likely under no illusion that life will always go the way you want.

In fact, at times it may feel that life is actually conspiring against you – so entirely and thoroughly not on your side.

Today, I’m sharing what I’ve learnt about acceptance: namely that it’s not a single process, but a journey of four stages.

Stage 1: Grouchy Tolerance

When I was placed on a restricted movement regime just shy of 23 weeks pregnant (to stop my short cervix sending me into premature labour), I was nowhere near acceptance. For someone who loves to move, the instruction “no more yoga, forget your 20 minute walks, don’t even carry a bag” was the exact opposite of how I wanted the rest of my pregnancy to go.

I felt angry at my cervix for being short, displeased with my doctor for being the bearer of bad news. I worried I’d develop a blood clot from immobility, that I’d lose the strength and stamina needed for birthing. I grieved the loss of freedom; three months of restriction felt like a prison sentence for my restless body.

For the first few days, I lay on my sofa in an incessant argument with life, protesting that feeling like a beached whale was not what I wanted and that all the joy of a healthy, active pregnancy was now over. But as the days ticked by, I started to grouchily tolerate my new regime. It seemed to be working to keep baby safely inside, so although I still didn’t like it, I was grumpily bearing it.

Stage 2: Mild Acceptance

At some point, tolerance shifted into a mild form of acceptance. I became less grouchy, less argumentative; there was some surrender. “Okay, so this is how life is now,” I’d reason from my sofa. I started to concede that my limits weren’t as bad as they could be. I wasn’t on strict bed rest. I hadn’t been admitted to hospital. My baby was still kicking. I could accept that this state of restricted movement was temporary and all for a good cause.

Stage 3: Embracing

While acceptance was a neutral state – the absence of resistance and argument – something else then started to push forward: a twinkle of enjoyment in my new normal. I let myself catch glimpses of the benefits of restricted movement. More time to think. Rest. No swollen ankles from walking, no back-ache from carrying a bag. All my meals cooked for me (my wife should be cloned). A clearer diary to fill with coaching clients and writing.

I realised that I could be more present with the trees, birds and sky when I took my rationed five minute walk around the block. I discovered the wonders of chair yoga on YouTube. I noticed my breathing.

Stage 4: Choosing

Once the benefits started to be seen, I realised a part of me preferred this new way of being. And it began to dawn on me that I might even choose this restricted regime over freedom of movement. It was teaching me to fully rest, surrender and be. It was giving me so much time to read, write and ponder – to detach from the identity of someone fiercely independent, active and busy.

If there were a big red button in front of me which said PRESS HERE TO GO BACK TO FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT, I was no longer sure I’d press it. I was discovering a version of myself beyond the habits of walking, yoga, housework and socialising. I was feeling more connected and present with my growing son; I wasn’t missing a single kick and he seemed delighted by the extra flow of blood to the uterus. I was beginning to let go of the distraction of social media and either listen to a mindfulness audio or just be with my thoughts.

I could see that restricted movement was, in many ways, a dream scenario – an enviable state of relaxation, surrender and dependence, a season to pause and retreat before the busyness of parenting ahead. I could see a part of me would have asked for this, would have voted for this, would have chosen this.

Over to you

What change in circumstance have you protested about? Can you identify with these four stages of acceptance? I’d love to know; leave a comment below and join the discussion.

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