“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn't need others' approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” – Lao Tzu
Acceptance has been in my mind all week.I believe acceptance is the key for me of love, of spirituality, of peace of mind, of connection. Last week, I went to New York City to spend a day and night with my daughter, newly married and busy building her new and full life. Is there still room for me, in it, I wondered, on the train to New York?
Can she accept me for the father I am, for the life I life, for the broken parts of me that she will always see?Every parent makes this journey, from the center of a child's life to the edge, at least, that ought to be the journey in my mind.
Don't we all wonder if we still matter? Emma was a metaphor of acceptance for me, we were always so close, yet had drifted apart, our lives took us in different directions, I got sick, caught a fever that lasted some years.Anger and confusion had come between us, I am the father, it was my job to sort it out, repair the damage.
To take the blame, to accept the responsibility – all of it. I imagine I wanted my child to grow up in my own image, I never thought of it that way, but what other way did I know? I wanted her to take the path I took, to love the things I loved, to cast aside the secure and orderly life for a life of change and meaning, as I came to understand it.
This is the arrogance of men, I think, perhaps of fathers, perhaps of parenting. Failure to accept others is a disease, you can see it spreading all over the Internet, on cable news every night, in every press conference held in Washington. In millions of posts on Facebook.
I am to blame, too. Acceptance has always plagued and evaded me, I was broken as a child, and if you are broken as a child, you will stay broken your whole life, it is very hard to accept yourself, the challenge is to pick up as many pieces as you can and make yourself as whole as possible.What did I need to do, I asked myself on the train, to get my child back, to nourish her and help her to feel strong, to give her every gentle and feathery push I could on her own train ride into life, not to block the tracks with my own ego and clouded spirit?
I knew acceptance was the key, I always knew it, even when I could not practice it. Could she accept me also, believe in me, not try and convince me to change my life, convince me of ideas I did not share? To stop resenting me for the things that make me me? I knew Lao Tzu was correct. Acceptance is personal, individual. I seek to accept myself, finally and for good.If I could not accept yourself, no one can accept me.
If I do not accept myself, I will always seek and need the approval of others. If I cannot accept myself, there will be a hole in my heart, it will fill with fear and resentment and regret. I do not tell my daughter what to do, how to live, what to worry about. I do not warn her about the dangers of life. I do not mind her business, or judge her decisions, invade her privacy. I speak as little of my own life as is possible. I accept being slighted, forgotten, or even disliked.
I strive to be gentle, even under provocation, to never hide behind my own dignity.We accepted one another in New York, I could feel it. I realized we both had the same thoughts, resolved to do the same thing. I entered her life, I did not come to alter it or worry about it or judge it. She accepted me (mostly) and did not wish I was someone else, living somewhere else, being someone else. It was a very good trip.
I only ticked her off once, a record perhaps. She returned to her life, I returned to mine, yet we crossed paths in an important way.Love has it's own magic and chemistry. I learned this year that a broken heart can heal, can mend. Acceptance is the doorway to love. If I can love another for who they are, that is pure. If I can be loved for who I am, that is magic.