Lately, I’m struggling to accept reality. I don’t mean things like the Earth being round, I mean the reality of my life. For instance, a client is one month late on a payment. I haven’t heard a peep despite the repeated telephone calls and emails I’ve sent. Every day I check my bank account hoping the payment has arrived, and when it doesn’t, I call them again, email them again, and still nothing. I’m having a LOT of trouble accepting that situation. And then there’s what happened on Saturday.
My next-door neighbor, the one that lives in a house, hired a construction crew to jackhammer their pool from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Yes, I used noise-canceling headphones, and yes it helped a lot, but still. Reality was not what I wanted. When I fantasized about how I would spend my Saturday, it was not wearing headphones all day.
For things I don’t enjoy, a part of me says, “No! It’s not supposed to be this way! Something different is supposed to happen!” It’s true I want a different reality, but that doesn’t mean it’s occurring despite my best efforts. If there’s a way for me to will my desire into existence, by golly, I’ll do it. And yet, there comes a point where there’s nothing left to do. There comes a time when you just have to wait for the jackhammer to finish, literally and metaphorically.
The only time I felt peace on Saturday is when I surrendered, when I stopped fighting reality. When I said, “You know what? This sucks. I don’t like it. But there’s nothing I can do to change it and instead of spending energy wishing things were different, I’m accepting what is.”
I don’t want to sit with pain because it’s well, painful. It’s uncomfortable. I try my best not to feel uncomfortable, but that’s not reality. In reality, life is messy, uncomfortable, it doesn’t go our way. In reality, a client is late on a payment and a jackhammer runs for about six hours. I can’t dictate reality but I can control how much or how little I’m surrendering. There’s a story I like about this.
A professor walked into class one day, held up a cup of water for all to see, and asked, “How much do you think this cup weighs?” The students answered, “50 g! 100 g! 125 g!”
“What would happen if I held the cup like this for a few minutes?” the professor asked.
“What would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?”
“Your arm would begin to ache.”
“You’re right. What would happen if I held it for a day?”
“Your arm would go numb, you would have muscle stress and paralysis and have to go to the hospital for sure!” one of the students shouted amid laughter.
“Very good. But during all this did the weight of the cup change?”
“Then what caused the arm to ache and the muscle stress?” the professor asked.
The students were perplexed.
“What should I do now to come out of pain?” asked the professor.
“Put the cup down!” said the students.
“Exactly,” the professor replied.
I don’t have a magic wand to make things the way I want them to be, but instead of expending energy stewing in irritation, I can put the metaphorical cup down. I can say, “OK,” and stop fighting. Surrender isn’t sexy in action-oriented cultures, but there’s a reason it’s mentioned so often in spirituality. Surrender usually leads to serenity and that’s certainly something I could use more of. I bet other people could too.
I dream of a world where we accept reality. A world where we understand the wisdom in no longer fighting circumstances, of instead surrendering to what is. A world where we let go of what we can and cultivate a feeling of serenity.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.