It’s nearing the end of summer, and (hopefully, at the time I’m writing this) we’re continuing to make good progress on the virus to move back towards a sense of normalcy. The strangeness of this time is still present; but, at least we have a sense we’re on the back nine of this treacherous journey.
As I reflect on this moment in time, I’m beginning to understand things that you don’t often see when you’re in the middle of something uncomfortable. Among the difficult and challenging rules and regulations we had to follow (and still are, somewhat) to save as many lives as possible, there were the occasional benefits from all this.
There’s one thing in particular that I benefitted from through all the quarantine and isolation. When you’re “confined” with someone 24/7 you get to see what you “feel” is their negative traits flourish in front of you. Often, the person no long perceives the need to appease you by controlling some of their undesirable traits, because, after all, what can you do about it? We’re all stuck in here together. This produces a difficult situation to be in, for sure.
Of course, I know this person could say the same thing about me. So, let’s just get that truth out of the way from the outset. I mention this not to belabor the negative, because what resulted was actually a positive. The day-in-and-day-out of this experience has allowed me to see beyond their exterior. I’m not shallow; I’ve looked beyond the surface in the past, but the extended isolation can force you to look deeper than you ever have before. If you want to live happier, that is.
I saw not only what this person did that was irritating, I began to understand why they did it. I understood more fully this was a part of them, and wasn’t being done simply to bring me discomfort. Initially, to be honest, this was disappointing. After all, if this was inherent in their nature, then a change might never happen. But one day, almost by design, as if someone were trying to open my eyes, I felt compelled to abandon the failed approaches I had made in the past to address my concerns. This was not done out of any sense of surrender or failure to make things better. On the contrary, it was merely taking a different road to get to a destination I had longed to reach. The interesting thing was, although the undesirable actions continued on this person’s part, they no longer had the same impact on me as before. And that’s when I realized what was happening.
You see, it wasn’t that I suddenly appreciated or liked these actions that prompted this new outlook. It was that I no longer was trying to control these actions. In doing so, I no longer felt the burden of trying to fix something in the way I felt it should work. Instead, I began to accept it the way it is. I learned that my choice now was to adapt. As the saying goes, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Sounds easy, or maybe not, but either way, acceptance is hard sometimes. Not so, at this moment. Maybe it was the pandemic. Maybe it was knowing that there was a possibility that on any given day, one or the other of us may get sick, and not be able to have a proper goodbye.
Regardless of the reason, it changed me. It changed how I responded to them. It changed how I saw them. It lowered my stress level. I no longer felt the need to concern myself with these types of things. It’s not that these things were never important, or any less important; it’s just that I realized there are some things in life you must learn to work around. And again, that goes both ways. I’m older now, I’m more set in my ways, so I can’t be surprised when someone else is, too. We’re not perfect, we all have flaws. Age and experience can teach us, if we’re open to it, to learn to adapt to the “perceived flaws” in our loved ones. The important thing is for both sides to work in unison to make life better for all, whether that requires acceptance or change; and not forget the things about them we love so much.
Realize, I’m not saying one should accept everything in every case. Some things are not acceptable. This wasn’t the situation for me, though. I had found myself swimming against the current and tiring out needlessly. When I turned around and let the current take me (acceptance), maybe I didn’t get to the precise result I wanted, but it was certainly a much more relaxing approach.
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