Friday, June 25, 2010

More on acceptance

Teflon’s recent post “What Do You Want?” set me thinking. Not just about that question; what caught my fancy more was his account of life in the Berkshires versus the big city and how he settled into it eventually despite not being attracted to it at first. I see two parallels for myself personally, in the geographic-move respect – India versus the US, and Detroit versus Houston, with the second being more instructive than the first. After having lived in the Detroit area for close to two decades, our recent move to Houston was definitely a big change. Visually the two cities aren’t particularly different, just in degree – Houston has the same roads & freeways (maybe larger), similar sprawling suburbs with similar houses (maybe larger), more bugs for a larger part of the year, more Mexican-food restaurants, and so on. But the big difference is the weather – Detroit’s maximum temperature is invariably lower than Houston’s minimum. Detroit’s winter can stretch out to well over six months, whereas in Houston you could be out in shorts enjoying carnival rides at Christmas.

But the instructive part for me is how the winter used to absolutely dominate our daily conversations, plans and activities in Detroit. Come to think of it, that’s probably because of the wonderful multi-dimensionality of winter. You have the regular low temperatures, below-freezing and windchill factors. You have regular wind and Arctic winds. In the precipitation department, you have flurries, frost, snow, snow showers, squalls, lake-effect snow, blizzards, clippers, ice storms, freezing rain, wet snow, sleet, and black ice. In the warm clothing category, you have fall & winter jackets, coats, overcoats, parkas, scarves, hats, boots, gloves, mittens, and earmuffs. I won’t even start enumerating all the winter sports, road hazards, driving precautions or health issues resulting from wintry weather.

Whereas in Houston’s weather, we have … heat. That’s it. Just more or less of it (at least, that’s what I’m choosing to see right now; I’ll report back in a couple decades).

So it would appear that a whole lot of time (and probably some money) is now freed up for discussing and doing non-weather-related things. More time for life, so to speak. More space for What We Want. Hmmm. I could probably look back and see how well we have used this extra life we have been granted.

In my initial years in Michigan, when I was still new to the winters, I did spend prodigious amounts of time and energy on it, just like everybody else around me. But it quickly dawned on me that the weather was paying no heed to my complaints. It was always amusing, and sometimes astounding, to see the extent to which even lifelong Michigan residents were invested in complaining about their state’s weather.

In general, I think I get used to things pretty quickly, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that our new location quickly became part of my mental landscape and merged with the background. But I’m also aware that not everybody is like that. In particular, I have a colleague with a remarkable ability to find their present situation objectionable in comparison with the past. I’m also thinking of another person who mobilizes the most amazing amount of energy and intensity every day into resisting something that has been part of their life for over twenty years. This ties in with our recent discussion on accepting what is (in the sense of recognizing or acknowledging, not being resigned to). A great deal of the unhappiness we see around us comes from incomplete acceptance of what is, or was. One can be so attached to a particular desired outcome that they get completely bent out of shape when it doesn’t happen. “How dare you do/say such-and-such”, “I just can’t get over how X” or “I can’t BELIEVE Y happened” are fairly reliable indicators of non-acceptance.

To visualize perfect acceptance, I usually channel Tom and Jerry. Picture then, in slow motion, the mischievous Jerry, with his gleeful smile, beginning to tip over a jug of milk at the edge of the kitchen counter. Tom spots the first drop leaving the jug. Expression of shock and terror on Tom’s face. Stream of milk inexorably descending. Tom racing around madly trying to find any available vessel to catch it. The first milkdrop hits the floor, and - voila! freeze frame - the manic piano allegro switches to soothing violins, peace replaces terror on Tom’s face, he rights the milk jug, takes it away from Jerry, grabs a mop and begins wiping up the spill. Then a caption at the bottom appears – It’s No Use Crying Over Spilt Milk. Fade to black.
I’m also fascinated by the process by which people make changes in the way they think and see life. Or, to use this blog’s language, the way we make and change our beliefs. I hope to record my musings on that later. I’ll end with a couple of relevant quotes:
“When it rains, I let it” – 113-year-old man, when asked for the secret to his longevity.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there” – Rumi.

4 comments:

  1. Sree, welcome as our newest author to the Belief Makers website. I'm grateful to be able to read your musings over the coming months. I also hope that you will include in the future some of your personal pictures that you would like to share with us.

    I love the Tom and Jerry analogy. I can imagine myself stopping the time at certain moments of distress and change the music I am playing to myself. Just some beautiful wonderful soothing notes of acceptance...

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  2. Many thanks, Iris. I hope it's already evident from my past comments how much I love this blog and community and how much I'm getting out of it. Writing my first-ever blog post was a growth experience in itself, and I'm excited to contribute what I can.
    sree

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  3. Sree, Bravo! Thank you for joining our merry band of blog contributors and thank you for such a wonderful first post.

    As I was considered Tom, Jerry and the weather, I thought about the time just after Iris arrived here in the states. Iris spent her life in the Netherlands where it rains most days of the year. It never gets really cold and it never gets really hot, but it can be damp and cold for long periods of time.

    When she first came to Boston, whenever we would see people at the coffee shop or at the bagel store or walking in town, Iris would almost always comment on what a nice day it was. It could be sunny, it could be cloudy, it could be raining (although I'm sure that Iris counts it as rain if it's falling straight down), and Iris would call it a nice day.

    Our friends would initially respond as though she were being sarcastic and then realize that she actually meant it. To Iris, it was a really nice day.

    I loved your description of Tom and Jerry bringing home the concept of acceptance. "No Use In Crying Over Spilt Milk" is an old phrase that we'd do well to revitalize.

    As I consider Iris' response to the weather, I'm wondering if there's something beyond acceptance (though 'beyond' is the wrong word.) It's as though you see the milk spilt on the floor, but don't see 'spilt' it is an issue. It's just spilt.

    Thank you for jumping in! Really great!

    Teflon

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  4. Living in my country - I'll go with the 113 yrs old: When it rains I'll let it!!!

    But I'll also see how I can expand it.

    Thx Sree

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