Whenever I am faced with how truly, amazingly adaptable humans can be, I am even more perplexed by our destructive nature. If we can adapt to the world around us, why do we insist on fighting to bend it to our every whim?
Maybe it’s because we don’t really like to be adaptable; we’d rather be right. It is somehow so hard to just admit that things are beyond our control.
Last week, I literally sat and cried as I wrote a blog about the soul crushing nature of remote learning. I was in pain thinking about all that had been lost for both myself and my students in meaning and connection. I was exhausted physically and emotionally from fighting something that was undeniably happening.
I didn’t want to fight anymore and finally made a simple choice that changed everything.
Ok, maybe it didn’t change everything. If the sky broke open and the angel choirs began to sing, I missed that part, but really, I made the decision to make the best out of what I couldn’t change and suddenly what I was faced with wasn’t so unbearable.
Acceptance and adaptability are really good friends and I’d like to hang out with them more often. Somehow it always takes me to the brink of my own inner disaster before I can reach out and switch my perspective.
I think part of the problem is that my heart and my head don’t completely agree about the nature of acceptance.
My head doesn’t like the idea of acceptance at all. I can feel myself steel against the idea of giving in and letting the bullies win. I don’t accept, I stand up and fight to make things better. Acceptance is for pigeons.
My heart doesn’t quite agree. When I can move past my oppositional reaction to acceptance and let my heart have its say, I suddenly know a small space of peace. My heart understands what my mind could never know. It understands that acceptance and surrender are the only ways to win when I am fighting something that cannot be changed.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I think we should all lay down and let random shitheads walk all over us, it just means fighting something that is immovable is a waste of life.
Wanting things to be different than they are is a huge source of pain that we humans inflict on ourselves over and over again. Whether we are fighting the change in the weather or systemic prejudice, the fact remains that the first thing we need to do is accept that it’s happening.
Accepting that something’s happening doesn’t mean celebrating it or condoning it, it just means allow yourself to acknowledge that this is how it is. (If in your mind you need to add ‘but I don’t want that to be happening’ then you probably haven’t quite arrived at acceptance.)
There is racism, there is covid, there is climate change. Whether you like it or not, these things exist.
It is weird how hard it can be (at least for me) to just do that acceptance step, but when I finally get there, it is a relief to no longer be fighting reality. Swimming against the current just doesn’t work. The river flows too fast and I’m not that good a swimmer.
The next step is a little different depending upon what I’m accepting. When I have to accept that the weather is going to do something that I don’t want it to do, the only choice is to alter my expectations and perspective because the weather absolutely does not care what I think.
If I’m accepting that there is systemic racism, I don’t have to be so complacent. I still have to accept that it is there and that it exists, but I can look at real tangible ways that I can make a difference. I can stock my bookshelves (at school and at home) with diverse voices and authors, I can teach my students about systemic racism, I can spend more time listening and less time talking so that I can hear the experiences of people who have lived this reality. I have to accept so that I have room to act.
So, what about remote learning? I accept that it is happening. I can’t change it, so I need to change my perspective on it. I talk to my students about how they’re doing, I try to keep them active and engaged in what they’re learning. I give time in my Google Meets for us to play and laugh and have fun.
I try to breathe more and judge (myself) less.
I try to be authentic in my acceptance and not secretly allow myself to rant and rave and fight against what is.
This too shall pass, and while Covid-19 will be something that my students will always remember, I want them to remember how we still managed to learn and have fun. I want them to know that we are all truly, amazingly adaptable and that we don’t need to try to bend reality to fit with our every whim.