Tag Archives: acceptance

“The most dangerous secrets a person can bury are those we keep from ourselves.”

This is a story nobody wants to hear. Not that it hasn’t been told. Plenty of souls have tried in many differing ways to tell it. In fact, it is trending right now to admit via your blog that anxiety and depression are frequent visitors to your heart and head. But anxiety and depression are only the tip of the iceberg. And these bloggers only admit to it via the interwebs because the anonymity makes it safe to publicly declare that all ain’t right.

Often people try to discuss the issue through art- music, writing, paintings- which makes it easier to digest. The audience can relate in a way that says “yeah I’ve felt that way before, but glory hallelujah I don’t anymore. I am now a happy, well-adjusted adult.” Oh yeah? Are you now? Because after your work day, when the kids are taken care of and happily preoccupied, the dishes are cleaned up, the e-mails have been answered, can you truly sit down and just be? And then can you keep being and calmly face the demons who only show up when all is quite?

How quickly do we fall apart when some piece of the routine is destroyed. Will a pint (or half-gallon…) of ice cream actually take care of the pain after your significant other moves on? Or how well do the ideas gleaned from pinterest actually keep your unemployed self doing ‘productive things’?

But these are just rich white people problems right? So we seek movies and documentaries highlighting the injustices of Africans or Asians (often at the hands of rich westerners I might add) to ignite our fires of righteous indignation. Because at least watching documentaries about Darfur give us a reason to feel bad.

Who is willing to say that even with the job, cute urban house, dog to walk in the park, and hot wife, life still sucks? But it does doesn’t it? There is pain. And sometimes just getting on the train with a hundred fellow commuters can break your heart. But that is strange. No one else feels empty. They all seem to have life figured out. So we hide it by aiming for more money and a hotter wife. (Maybe the last one didn’t look good enough for my sub-conscious to truly be satisfied.) Or we read all about how the sale of chocolate to an increasingly unhealthy, obese, United States of America is a part of modern day slave trades. Now that is real reason to be unhappy. After all, no one wants to hear that you are unhappy merely because our world is broken and human souls are empty.

That is weird right? Being unhappy because the world you were born into is broken certainly is stranger than making yourself unhappy by watching Blood Diamond alone in bed every Friday night.

I venture that it is easier to explain that, even though I am part of the 10% most privileged humans on this planet, I am unhappy because the world is not as it should be. But no one wants to hear this. This is a story where the reader can only accept what is written. There is nothing the author offers for changing the plot.

See, it’s true. All is not the way our hearts say it should. Even when friends are near and food is on the table, something aches. But denying it and hiding from it only aggravate and spread the hurt. Denial is the strongest poison out there. It made an entire country live with stewing hatred, only to explode every 10 to 15 years in violence so massive it merits the word “genocide”. It simmers in your heart, causing you to withhold communication from the ones that love you the most and can actually accept you as you are.

No we can’t change the evil and broken of the world. But we most certainly should not pretend that all is well.

“A doctor lets a war injury heal slowly from the inside out. He debrides dead tissue and drains poison. Close the wound up too quickly and the filth gets trapped inside. So it is with the mind. Don’t ever walk away and pretend or hope that things can be the way they were before this damage.”  Aidan Hartley, The Zanzibar Chest, pg 384 (in reference to witnesses of the horrors from Rwanda 1994).

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On her blog, Undecided, Shannon Kelley states: “Choosing one thing means you’re killing the possibility of having the other. And when we’re raised on the idea that anything’s possible–and every option is available–we see choosing anything as settling. And, of course, it is–it’s settling for something less than everything.”

Which is true. Saying yes to one thing means saying to no to an unknown number of other things. This would not be a problem if we knew for sure what we wanted out of life. When you know what specific job, house, and friends you want it is easy to go and find them and make them yours.

But as Americans we have been told that we can have and be anything we want. So small children say they want to grow up and be soccer balls, birthday cakes, or hippopotamuses; and we laugh, say how cute, and know they will one day grow out of that belief. But these are logical decisions. They can be anything. No exclusions. We told them so. And then our young adults leave the confines of the education system and fall into depression or ADD because they can’t decide what job to focus on, what city to live in, and whether spending every day with the same group of people is worth their time.

These are worthwhile considerations. The world is a big place. There are lots of great ways to live.

I’ve been laughed at (in a kind-of, ‘oh how adorable’ sort of laugh) for wanting to do everything. I honest to God would enjoy a fulfilled, happy life as a bed and breakfast owner in Santa Fe, as a rancher in Montana, or as a shepherd in New Zealand. Those jobs would be AWESOME.

But you know, after I denied my humanity by dreaming my life away in high school, and after succumbing to anger at my humanity in college, and after the bargaining I did with the universe, and after the depression I found myself sucked into, I have no choice left but to accept. Accept the fact that we can’t do anything, be anything, have everything.

I have one life, one chance, one story. I can have a long story, yes. But only one. And while a choice to take a job, or rent a house, or even, gasp, get married means that there are other jobs, homes, or possible life endings that I cannot experience, I have to offer myself some grace and allow that possibility. As I’ve noted before, all we truly have in our lives is the opportunity to choose.

Yes, settling is a terrible word. However, living  life in the world of what-ifs and dreams is a worse fate. And keeping options open unfairly strings along all the bosses, girlfriends, landlords, boyfriends, and adventures that we can’t commit to.

You can’t have it all, but you can make a choice. And live the hell out of the choice you make.


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Seeking the Source

Seeking reconciliation, peace, justice, or any type of “healing” suggests a brokenness, tear, or conflict. So what happens when you can’t figure out what is wrong, and it is obvious that something hurts? How do you heal an undefined wound?

We tend to blame our pain, emptiness, confusion, whatever, on a recent break-up, a current bad—abusive or too superficial—relationship, or job loss. Therapists like to blame our upbringings and parents. Parents like to blame us for being unmotivated or irresponsible.

So we turn to alcohol, serial dating, food, movies, music, exercise, church, change of scenery for relief and sometimes answers. And it doesn’t work; the pain is still there.

Sometimes the wounds heal leaving scars. And we celebrate the scar as a sign of survival. Proof that we are strong enough, wise enough, old enough, brave enough, to succeed. We look to our scars as reminders to not let the same thing happen twice. Yet there will be a new pain. If not tomorrow, it will hit someday with a force so powerful we lie in bed all day listening to songs of heartbreak and wondering why life is so unsatisfying.

I have to believe there is an answer somewhere. I have found some answers—to the breaks that have a source. Conflicts ending in loss of/abuse to personal property or threat to/loss of personal safety arrive at a restorative justice circle if they are lucky, or show up in our court systems and one side takes responsibility while the other receives compensation for the pain. Conflicts involving a loss of self-esteem end in alcohol or over-drive sociability. But for the brokenness that stems from nowhere in particular, from what I can only attribute to the curse of humanity? I have no answers.

This is what kills me. This is what makes the brokenness so unbearable. If only we knew why, then we would be able to address it and make it stop. Without that knowledge, we have to accept it, and live on despite it. True strength I guess is not surviving, but thriving in the midst of brokenness.

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Letting Go

There are several ways to be hurt by another.

There are several ways to hurt another.

And both options have elements you can control and elements you have to accept.

I have too often seen the necessity of acceptance here in Rwanda.

Muzungus come in and out of Kigali like middle-schoolers at the mall.  This is the place to be.  Kids still in university come “to do research” over the summer.  Kids newly graduated come out for their first job in hopes that one in a developing country will be more meaningful than joining their peers as office assistants in the U.S. (yeah, yeah, yeah I’m on one of them too…) Middle-aged providers who’ve lost their jobs (thank you U.S. economy) are here as “missionaries” serving God in one of the thousands of churches/schools/orphanages here. And of course the city is littered with U.N. Tribunal Officials, WFP, World Bank, and a myriad of other IGO/NGO do-gooders.  Plus all the diplomatic staff… I digress.  The point is, the poor Rwandans have to deal with all kinds of high and mighty white people who know what is best and nurse their attitudes of righteous anger at whatever injustice they perceive to be happening at the moment. This means that plenty of Rwandans come into the line of fire of some angry white person who can’t take the culture, the food, the injustice, or whatever the hell it is they are mad at.

Accusations are thrown. Threats are made. And excuses are attempted. But when someone throws an accusation, he cannot be wrong. So the poor person on the other side can either defend his ego and control of the situation, or he can accept the accusation and go on with his day.

An attitude that is the unfortunate remnant of years of living “beneath” another person (the white colonizers, yes.)

However, it is also a skill that comes in real handy for avoiding unnecessary conflict. Conflict can often be very helpful.  Without it, there is no reason to challenge ourselves and grow.  However, when it is a conflict of wills, someone has to be a clear winner.  Under it all, the person who swallows his pride and says ‘yeah it’s my fault’ is the winner.

So here’s to all of you I have watched stand down in a conflict of wills. (Especially impressive because the culture here reeks of me-first: making any kind of commute an absolute joy.) Because after all, what do we get for being “right”, or being first anyway? Even after all the pushing and shoving, we all have to wait on the bus for the driver to decide to go.

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I don’t understand anymore. Nevermind, I never understood. And the thing is, when dealing with interpersonal conflict, I never will. I will never, ever understand what the other person is thinking. Which means I can’t understand how they react. I can only accept the facts and act accordingly.

“It’s not knowing that hurts so much. If I could understand, if I could, then it would be all right again…

-Why do we have to understand? Has trying to understand been so wonderful?


Milan Stitt “Runner Stumbles”

“[That is arrogant…]

-To know the truth and to understand it?

-Yes, with respect, Commander, I think it is…[a]n arrogance, and perhaps, an impertinence.”

P.D. James The Private Patient

“What will happen will happen, whether I wish it or no. So, yes, I accept. It does not mean that I like it or wish it were not otherwise.”

Kate Mosse Labyrinth

I’ll Never Understand.”

P.S. The woman speaking in this song is on the board of AWFRI (and Shad K’s mother). That is her personal story she is telling. I am in love with this whole family.

Acceptance and Understanding

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