An accepting nature

“I’m not wise, Indy, I am just accepting. We cannot change what is, no matter how hard we try.”

The Midnight Rose, Lucinda Riley

That bad things will happen in life is inevitable. The world can be a cruel place, full of lessons to be learned and injustice to endure. It can also be an indescribably beautiful place, full of light, hope, love and opportunity. But even with copious amounts of the latter, the former still pokes its ugly head into our days and demands that we either run away or persevere.

To have an accepting nature is much more complex and harder to achieve than it sounds. It requires us to rid ourselves of comparison, ‘what if’s, envy and frustration and replace all of those with acceptance, joy and promise.

It doesn’t mean that our emotions remain steady at all times or that we don’t grieve, laugh, try or fail. It means that in all of that, we take a deep breath and choose to see the good, accepting what is and, in light of that, pursuing the best possible future for ourselves and those around us.

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Silence and simplicity

“My own and others’ expectations of how my day is supposed to unfold guide my hours up until the hour when I lie down again to sleep [emphasis added].”

Silence in the Age of Noise, Erling Kagge

Each day can be walked through without conscious thought. If nothing goes awry, the day can unfold without effort, on autopilot, following set instructions or plans. But without waking up to the present moment and realising the impact of our own and others’ expectations, days, weeks, months and years will pass with no growth, no deep rooted contentment and no adventure. That’s not what I choose for my life.

“The present hurts, wrote Pascal. And our response is to look ceaselessly for fresh purposes that draw our attention outwards, away from ourselves.”

Silence in the Age of Noise, Erling Kagge

There is nothing new under the sun” and yet we search for it constantly. We crave temporary fulfilment and grasp at it when anything longer term requires investment. Dwelling on the past or living for the future have their places but living in the moment, finding silence and time for contemplation, prepare us better for life’s inevitabilities and nourish our souls.

“Experiencing rather than over-thinking. Allowing each moment to be big enough. Not living through other people and other things.”

Silence in the Age of Noise, Erling Kagge

It takes humility to declare that each moment is big enough. It takes discipline to accept and relish that our life is full of moments that may not all be monumental but that are big enough. It takes determination to experience the present and know that it is enough.

That’s a whole lot of things to work on but the pursuit of simplicity is, in my mind, worth it because it is one of the things at the heart of contentment – learning to be satisfied no matter our circumstance.

Age and achievement

People’s lives unfold at different rates. Some people gently stroll a lifelong marathon, others speed through a sprint and then relax into a jog while others trudge up mountains, run down into valleys and repeat. For some, huge achievements come early in their lives. Others work a lifetime to attain their dreams. Some hit milestones at an average age while others hit them out of order and back to front.

So why does the age at which you achieve, matter?

Achievement can mean so many things and is totally dependent on the individual: getting a big salary, buying a house, getting married, starting a family or any number of other life changing accomplishments. For some, achievement comes in the form of character, the fruits of which are in a life lived in the moment and for the people around them.

When I hear of others’ achievements, I instinctively find out how old they are; how old were they when they had a breakthrough, made their debut, or had a baby. Mostly I find out their age only if what they have achieved is something that I have achieved or would like to achieve.

Often I find they were younger than me when they reached their goals. It’s the curse of comparison all over again. If I were not proud, then what I have accomplished in my lifetime would fill me to the brim. I have a wonderful job, a fabulous husband and a gorgeous son. I want for nothing and am thankful that my biggest life moments happened in their own perfect time.

But somewhere in there is an edge of competition and it appears I always want to win. I want to get there first, have better stories, more kids and bigger adventures. For someone who isn’t competitive at all with board games, life it would seem, is another matter. What’s even harder is that that is not who I want to be at all. I chase contentment, simplicity, faith and humility – the polar opposite of what those desires conjure up.

Treatment is needed. Taking away the possibility for comparison is the first step – I will not find out ages any more. When the desire for bigger, better and younger bubbles up, I will remind myself that I am in the right place for this time and that the impact I choose to make in my spheres of family, friendship and influence is up to me. I can compare or I can choose to look only at myself and bask in the blessings that are there when I opt to appreciate them. I can feel defeated or I can look ahead to countless opportunities to live life to the full with the people I love.

The curse of comparison

Look at your life for a moment. In isolation from every other person’s life, are you happy with yours? If you didn’t know that a colleague had a bigger house, a friend had more children or an acquaintance had a higher paid job, would you be satisfied with your life?

Comparison is ugly. Not only does it make us compare tiny segments of other people’s lives to the entirety of our own lives, it takes our eyes away from what we do have.

If we were truly to compare our lives to others, then we’d have to take their good with their bad. We can’t be jealous of one element of their lives without taking into account everything else that makes up their daily living. They may have something you want but they inevitably will have other things that you’re thankful you don’t have to deal with.

It’s worth remembering that to someone, your grass is greener than theirs. To others looking in, those Instagram photos, job updates or home improvements are exactly what they are aspiring to in that moment. They won’t see the in between, the struggles, disappointments or failures.

It’s the one time in life when blinkers are acceptable. Usually, a life led wisely demands a broader perspective, to consider the needs and circumstances of others and to see the world beyond our narrow existence. But when it comes to comparison, we are free to put those blinkers on, block out the lives of those around us so that all we see is our own. If there are things we still want to change or we’re unhappy with, we can work at figuring out how to move forward, where possible, but only if those areas and dreams are free from ties to a life lived elsewhere.

Comparison is a curse. Why indulge it when the alternative is thankfulness for the blessings in our lives, which leads to greater contentment and peacefulness? If we weren’t so caught up in contests and races, the answer would be a no brainer.

Trapped in the shadow

My husband possesses what I consider to be a quite remarkable character trait: he doesn’t worry about something until it happens, at which point he sets about dealing with it.

I on the other hand am capable of worrying about the most random, usually highly unlikely but equally highly imaginative scenarios, with great passion and backed up by research which I am quite certain is based on profoundly reliable sources.

He sees today and how today will impact tomorrow. I see a year ahead and wonder how I’m going to get there. Both have their merits but his method allows considerably more room for joy in the present.

If I turn off social media and answer the question my infinitely wise big sister asked me: “If you had nothing and nobody to compare it to, would you be happy with your life today?” The answer would be a resounding ‘yes!’

But this life and our culture forces its timings on us and its ticking hand and encroaching demands fool us into believing that something else is better. It robs us of our patience and tempts us towards things we never needed to know.

So I shall turn off social media for the next little while and instead of looking at other’s lives, I will try to divert that energy into rediscovering the beauty in my own. For it’s only by false comparison that my life looks dull. By returning my attention to my immediate surroundings, I have realised that the only reason my life had lost its shine was because I had trapped it in the shadow of another.