The concept of acceptance never carried much weight in my life, and to prove its insignificance to my age, I ran my first 5k when I was 50 years old.
Since then I have refused to sit down for these middle age years. I have kept running, delved deeper into yoga, started lifting weights and streamlined my eating habits as well my figure. Though articles like this one on Webmd.com where the writer quoting Nora Ephron lamenting her 60-something neck periodically frightened me, physically, so far, I have defied my present age of 52 and proved that age is just a number. I do not have to accept middle age and all of its characteristics: a low metabolism, medications to control my blood pressure, a couch potato life-style and a hip-thigh-tummy spread that extends well into my senior life. I can banish acceptance from ruining my physical health and age gracefully by eating well and exercising because I am in control.
Friending the emotional side acceptance
Here, the only part I controlled was the biggest problem: me. But, after years of mistakes, I have learned to accept that my three daughters need time away from me. That concept, in and of itself, was a difficult one for me because I always thought that communication was the best remedy for what ailed a relationship; and of course I had to be right since I had studied communication. But, because it was personal, I forgot that communication can’t happen unless time has cushioned the anger, and heightened a mutual desire between both parties to listen and hear each other. So I have accepted that I have to practice acceptance – acceptance that this is where my daughters are, that nothing I say or do will hasten their willingness to form a relationship with me, and that – horror of all horrors – I was what Martha Beck called, “an approval whore.”
My need to please and be accepted
Branded any type of whore makes me want to shove my fingers in the ears of all my grandchildren, but Beck’s article on a 2003 post on Oprah’s website described me to a tee. I had allowed myself to keep dealing with frustrating, humiliating, and verbally violent situations because I thought “this is what a good mother should do.” It didn’t dawn on me that in the process I was becoming fake mother, not good mother. While accepting my daughters’ emotional states, I had to learn to accept my own. Getting older has afforded me the time to respect myself more, and to understand what part the concept of acceptance plays in my life.
The wisdom of a new perspective
Until now, I couldn’t see how a dichotomy of acceptance had provided a theme for my life. The physical part was easy to see – mainly because it worked in my favor. The thrill of improving my health despite my age was a challenge that relied more on physical exertion and sweat. It was much easier for me to manage that than the tear-drenched, energy-draining emotional pain of wading through the anger of three daughters. I used to think I could fix things by talking, by listening, by band-aiding old wounds. I thought these things throughout my 30’s and my 40’s with no clue that not only was I destroying any chance of reconciliation, but that I was interfering with their need to handle their anger as they saw fit.
I don’t believe I would have recognized my need to strengthen this deeper level of acceptance before now. In my mind, fixing the past meant improving the present. However, that thought process also meant that I inadvertently ignore the emotional state my daughters are in now. It meant that I expect them to move on and see things differently just because I felt helpless to fix the past.
This deeper level of acceptance is an asset with each year that I get older. I have no desire for a fountain of youth nor to blacken the gray strands weaving through my dreadlocks. I accept the natural gifts that Father Time will bestow upon me, and continue to improve the concept of acceptance in my emotional relationships.