“All the women called me Coach and I loved that the place had tablecloths”, exclaimed my Father, over two decades ago, regaling the virtues of a local restaurant he and his woman friend enjoyed in Calgary.
He wasn’t all that concerned with delving much deeper into anything; his preference was to take things at face value. He’d remind me, “It’s simpler Son when you accept what is.” He was more Buddha like then he was Catholic.
I realize today he spoke from profound experience because he lived for over thirty years in the reality that his former wife, my Mom, had torn his children away from him. Talk about acceptance.
I am not a big fan of doctors for some reason; somewhere there is still a part of me that denies telling the truth about how I feel or where it hurts. Perhaps it is also tied to my denial about growing older. But this week I was channeling the energy of my Dad when I noticed a desire to accept “what is.”
Brian, my physician, opened with the classic line, “So how are you?” Immediately I noticed the sarcastic side of me think, “Is there anyone who comes to their doctor and answers that question with… I’m awesome, couldn’t feel better.” I took a deep breath and said, “I’m feeling absolutely exhausted.”
Accepting what is, one’s reality, I’m told is the key to freedom. Expecting something or someone to be different, in any way then how they are or how it is – this is the cause of suffering. Of course, for as long as you hold that expectation, you run the risk of the suffering to continue.
It was a big deal for me to list the symptoms of my exhaustion; there was something within me that surrendered to acceptance as a way to perhaps, just maybe, start to feel invigorated. But in that moment that was not my motivation.
I’ve had this immense bout of change, growth, grief, introspection, discovery and release over the last 18 months of my life. Tired seems to be my reward. Yet in front of my doctor it seemed like the time to name the elephant in the room.
Byron Katie, in her volume of work literally called “The Work”, talks about how when we don’t accept what is, we are sure and only 100 per cent of the time to suffer. I hear Dad’s voice, “It’s simpler when you accept.”
“Does it feel that all you can do is put one foot in front of the other just to keep moving?” he asks. Boy, did he hit the nail on the head (ouch, my head). Then out of his mouth came, “What would your life be like if you just stopped putting one foot in front of the other, if even for a short period of time?”
My ego thinks “I” am the poser of great questions. Here was a powerful question that had me land on another option for the exhaustion I was feeling. What if I just chose to ‘be’ with it and stop ‘doing’ things that only added to the exhaustion I was feeling. Imagine, I wondered, what would it feel like to stop putting one foot in front of the other, in the name of growth, and just ‘be’ for a while.
I brought acceptance into my doctor’s office and with that, I choose to chat with my counselor about the same thing. He affirmed all of the change, all of the stress, all of the growth I’ve experienced and wondered what my life would be like if I just took a hiatus from ‘doing’. Well, that’s three for three, Dad, Brian and John. Perhaps time to listen?
I’m notorious for thinking I’ve got to have it all figured out. I have a PhD in figuring things out and that acronym, for me, stands for ‘Pile it Higher and Deeper’.
Today, as I am gently reminded of the gift of my Dad’s wisdom, I’m leaning toward just ‘accepting’ for a while my experience of exhaustion and just ‘be-ing’ with it. Life is growth, I get that. Yet on most of the gadgets I own there is a pause button.
Growth for the sake of growth is dangerous and over-rated. It presupposes that if you’re not growing, there is something wrong with you. That is a pressure I’ve taken on, grow or die. All life rests.
So as I breathe into accepting the feeling of exhaustion I let go of the unexamined truth of full steam ahead or nose to the grindstone. What’s the point? I think at times, there is no point.
There was something about that restaurant that I never felt moved to share with Dad. He loved being called Coach Dolan and enjoyed dining at a table draped in linen. He accepted what was. He had some amazing experiences there and I’m sure the owners of Calgary’s only lesbian restaurant and bar loved sharing many a sporting afternoon with him.
He mastered accepting what is and today I am proud to be one of his students.