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Preface to Big Asks: Six Novelettes About Acceptance

Thursday 9/21/23

Preface: Our Acceptance

It wasn’t until the twenty-first century that large numbers of people began doing something large numbers of people had never done before: They started saying that they owned the truth. The truth wasn’t just a thing that was true, regardless of how a person felt about it. Instead, it was something that belonged to them, like a mug they bought at Disney World in 1993 or a Frisbee from college stashed with a box of books in the garage.

In our social media age, people began to employ the possessive in earnest. “My truth,” “His truth,” “Her truth,” “They’re living their truth,” “You have to live your truth,” have become terms and declarations we’re all familiar with now. The truth isn’t what it is: it’s what we’d prefer it to be, as if to say, You’re not the boss of me, truth!

Of course, this isn’t how reality works. The truth is going to truth, if you will, and be the truth, regardless of how any of us feel. The truth is like the tide that way, only stronger, because the tide is a force of nature, but if the oceans somehow burned away, the truth would still exist that they had done so.

Truth outlasts everything. It can change, but it’s always there as the truth. We frequently resent it a great deal. You’d think truth was the devil, but less fun at parties. We often don’t like when it’s said. We don’t like dealing with it. We really don’t like hearing the truth about ourselves if it’s not exceedingly favorable. We may lash out at someone who dares to say it. Cut them from our lives. Those are the people who are shunned by society. Good riddance. That’ll show them for attacking me. Making me feel bad. Making me doubt myself. Making me envious.

Or whatever it may be. People can find a way to get themselves to believe anything, and that includes villainizing who and what we all really need the most.

Keats famously wrote that truth is beauty and vice versa, and that’s really all you need to know on this earth. He was also looking for a rhyme, though, so there is that. But he was on to something.

We talk about “true love,” like there’s a fake kind. That’s because the idea of truth strengthens everything. When something is true, it’s more real. It’s not a passing fancy, a daydream whim, a flimsy idea that you try to cling to because you think you need to.

We’re in a world now where a lot of people pick who is going to be in their lives based on whether or not they’ll tell them what they want to hear. And usually that’s not the truth. It’s no wonder we’re so disconnected and even disconnected within ourselves from who we are—in actual truth.

One of the reasons people tend not to like truth is because they feel that contending with it will involve a lot of work that will take copious amounts time, and more strength, energy, and perseverance than they have or could muster. You can’t just stick much-needed change in the microwave for three minutes and get your results in the time it takes you to make your Hot Pockets dinner. The truth may loom at the outset of a journey as this exhausting specter in imagining how much would need to get done—and how far you’d be required to go—in dealing squarely with that truth.

There’s no overnight solution. It’s a lot easier to reject the real truth, claim to be living one’s truth, and then have people in one’s life to back up this assertion, whatever it means or however untrue it is.

Perhaps someone really wants to be something and they’re not that thing at all. Facing that reality is hard. Life changes. The truth may set you free, but she might extract a chunk of your hide—or worse—first.

You have to ask yourself if you want to stay where you are and try and pretend that what’s false is actually accurate, or do you want to get up and go and discover and max out on what is? And also what you learn that you can become.

I’d say that maxing out is the point above any others of being human. It’s why we’re here. But so many of us are using up our sick days, so to speak, and staying home with the video games and Netflix, where none of the answers are. And precious little of the truth.

Truth is autonomous, and it no more belongs to you or me than either of us owns the sky overhead, but if we’re going to face the truth and set off in search of it on our travels—and what a glorious, necessary, saving road that can be—we also have to deal with its partner in these matters, and that’s acceptance.

There are many varieties of acceptance, big and small, painful and pleasurable, easy and hard, simple and complicated. You accept that the bakery is out of your favorite dessert that time you went there for the sole purpose of buying it. You accept that someone holds a different view than you do (the same as you may have to accept that they’re talking out of their ass and you’ve done your homework and it’s their right to be as dense as they please). You accept that you could have acted better. You accept that the advice you gave your kid was spot-on and you deserve a little quiet credit.

Acceptance will make a human out of you. (Which is a far bigger thing than simply being born.) It’s always a choice, even when it seems like it’s not. As we’ve said, reality is going to be reality. But acceptance is up to the person faced with doing the accepting.

Isn’t that good? It seems like it’s good. An honor, almost. Gives you a say and a voice. You are the one making the selection. And one choice leads to additional choices. We go from there.

People will often think that acceptance is a form of admitting defeat. It’s an end. You accept that you are never going to make the NFL and drop back into the pocket to throw a thirty-yard out pass on a bead. You are not going to be that rock star who travels the country and asks Detroit how Detroit is doing. You accept that you didn’t marry the girl or the boy you thought was the love of your life. That you are going to have two kids instead of the four you initially planned. You accept that you won’t be running the company.

That's how we tend to think about acceptance. It can feel very defeatist. But the person who does do those things I mentioned above also had to accept that they were going to. Or that they could. It works both ways.

Acceptance isn’t an end—it’s a start, because it frees us up for what is next. Very little matters more than what’s next. The new day. The new direction in the relationship. A deepening connection. We always have new layers of skin. We don’t see the change. But the skin on the top of your body last year isn’t the skin on the top of your body right now. The soul is the same way. But it’s acceptance that does that kind of exfoliating. Acceptance first, then what follows—and gets chosen—second.

What are you going to do? Who are you going to be? Acceptance can ask much of a person. But the more they deal in truth and acceptance, the bigger that person becomes, the more they have to give, the more they can ask of themselves, and less are their limits.

Every precious beginning—which is different than a mere reset—is jump-started in this fashion. It gets to be what it might become because someone accepted the truth for what it is. Acceptance can be hard and painful, but it’s also empowering. It’s how we partner with truth. Then we’re free, because we’re moving, advancing, growing.

This is a book of long narratives called novelettes about acceptance. That acceptance takes different forms for a man who is in his late seventies as he tries to be the best brother he can be, or a lonely girl who thinks she lives alone in a tower, or a couple of friends in a suburban neighborhood who share a name and opposite body types.

The truth happens because the truth is, no matter how much we might be trying to misrepresent or even deny it. Acceptance is what starts truth on the road to functionality in our lives. It’s how we harness the power of the truth. It’s also how we live with it. And how we live better.

I remember that old, bad joke from when I was a kid about how denial is more than a river in Egypt. That always made me think of crocodiles and being eaten by one, or at least losing a hand, Captain Hook-style. We love denial, but it’s not real love. It’s akin to that person who’s not good for us that we keep calling up regardless. Keeps us from meeting someone else. A person we deserve. The person we deserve to be. The life we may have. The peace we can know.

And yes, it’s work and pain and all of that stuff that makes a person want to pull the covers over their head and go back to bed. But you always feel better when you’re trying, and acceptance is a formidable unburdening. The weight lessens. You’ve let something be what it is, so that’s one battle you don’t have to fight anymore—the battle of pretending, and not in the healthy, inventive way—and now you can get on with whatever you must do as a result.

Acceptance isn’t resignation. It’s the call to arms; the start of the action and a kind of abounding action itself.

Never cost yourself beginnings. Always be having them. Even with things you’ve been working on for years. Beginning isn’t starting over. It can be accepting where you’re at, knowing what that entails, and the next move to make.

The truth isn’t yours, but acceptance is up to you and no one else. Let’s call it even then. And let’s get started.


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