by Susanne Kempken
The sky was a vivid blue, the sun was shining bright and a mild breeze made the day perfect for a spot of gardening. I pulled on my gardening gloves, brought the green waste bin into the backyard and hunkered down to do some much needed weeding. On a perfect day like this even a chore like weeding was enjoyable. I was just about to yank another thick bundle of weeds from the garden bed, when I saw my cat pounce on something skittering across the garden path. Whatever it was didn’t get very far, stopped in its tracks by a heavy clawed paw. I quickly scrambled to my feet and as I stepped closer, I saw a small lizard struggling wildly beneath the paw. I was more than happy to play the saviour. As soon as I lifted the cat away, the lizard scampered off to safety. What a great day! Beautiful weather, weeding was almost done and to top it off I saved a lizard from being used as a chew toy. I was happy.
When the weeding was done I filled my green waste bin and started rolling it back up the path. It was quite heavy and as I paused to get a better grip, I noticed that the bin was leaving an ugly smear in its wake. Expecting a squished plant I paused to inspect and to my utter horror I saw that it was the remnants of the cute little lizard. It had hidden beneath the bin and gotten crushed as I moved it. I was dismayed . . . and after my immediate ‘oh no’feeling faded, I just felt guilty.
I wondered why this had happened. I saved the lizard from death by cat only to have it killed by a bin. Not to mentioned that I was now responsible for its demise instead of the cat. It seemed so absurd. What was the point of saving the lizard in the first place? While its actual death was probably kinder than what the cat would have put it through, the outcome was still the same. I couldn’t make sense of it. It seemed almost cruel.
Since I couldn’t find any immediate answers my mind jumped onto the ‘What if’ and the ‘I should have’bandwagon. What if I had simply been patient enough to wait for the lizard to disappear? I would have seen where it chose to hide. Score one for ‘this is my fault’. I should have checked under the bin before I moved it. Score two for ‘this is my fault’. What if I had left the bin in its spot until tomorrow? Score three for ‘this is my fault’. Even though I was aware of what I was doing, my mind refused to stop throwing things at me that made me feel worse. For me this is a very typical, almost innate response to an unpleasant experience. The ‘What if’ curse of hindsight. The extra serving of guilt we place on ourselves following a negative event. It doesn’t matter that, more often than not, these events are accidental, and in the moment of occurrence most likely out of our control.
While I was standing there allowing my mind to ride the merry-go-round of ‘What ifs’ a sudden knowing jammed the gears in my carousel. Thought after thought popped into my mind and none of them felt like my own. Here’s what came to mind. . .
This was a lesson in acceptance. It was the lizard’s time to go and nothing and no one could have changed that. Call it the flow of life, fate, destiny or nature. By saving the lizard I merely delayed its fate and gave its fate a different packaging. The outcome was always going to be the same. It was inevitable. To be able to accept this is the acceptance of a greater truth. Life happens and while we get a choice in so many things, some things are beyond our conscious control, and always will be. So be kind to yourself and realise that sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do to change an outcome. Acceptance is an important step towards healing. You find peace in acceptance.
When misfortune befalls us we often get caught up in the ‘What ifs’ of the situation. What if I hadn’t gone out tonight? What if I had chosen a different road? What if I hadn’t been late? What if, what if, what if. . . . A person can go insane wondering and worrying about the ‘What ifs’. It is a simple fact that all the ‘What ifs’ in the world won’t change the outcome of what has already happened. Acceptance is the key. The key to peace.
Being stuck in the ‘What if’ loop only prolongs our pain and suffering, it blocks the natural process of healing and most importantly, it prevents us from moving forward with our life. Acceptance is the only way to extract ourselves from the ‘What if’ quicksand, it’s the only way to move through and forward. Acceptance reanimates the flow of life towards us and makes joy possible again. Through acceptance we affirm to the universe that we are ready to heal, we are ready to move forward, we are ready to receive light and positivity back into our life.
I’ve added an excerpt from ‘Auguries of Innocence’ by William Blake. In a few lines he manages to sum up the idea of acceptance so beautifully.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.