Unacceptable to Me
Every time I hear someone talk about acceptance whether it's from a negative or positive context, I can't help but think of page 417 in the AA Big Book. I've had a copy for years and have found it to be one of the most powerful texts I own. I don't identify as an alcoholic but I sure can relate to much of what is written.
I've always had good memories of recovery groups dating back to when I was six or seven years old and going to NA meetings with my Dad at the City Road Chapel in Madison, TN. So about ten years ago, after I moved back to Nashville from Montana, I went to a 12-Step meeting to try and understand my own struggle and to heal from a tough family situation.
I walked in and was kind of nervous. I didn't know anyone and didn't really know what to expect. I noticed that it wasn't very clean, like when everyone thinks that the cleaning is someone else's job. The coffee pot was half-full and had that burnt smell and the chairs were mismatched and arranged haphazardly. Someone walked a few seats next to me and as he plopped down I could smell the cigarette smoke being squeezed out of his rugged jeans and old sweatshirt.
More and more people trudged in, many seemed to know one another. I said a few casual hellos but you could tell that most folks weren't too worried about me, to my relief. It was still a few minutes before the meeting started so as I got some coffee in one of those tiny styrofoam cups. I started to examine the room. There were a few bulletin boards with corrugated ribbon around the edges, several Bible verses posted here and there. I remember a bookshelf filled with old hymnals and one corner full of junk. It was one of those rooms that reminded me of a Sunday school classroom that had been adopted by the group because church attendance had dropped... or something like that.
As the meeting started, I quickly changed focus to listen and follow the lead of others. Introductions got to me and I said, "Hi I'm Robert. It's good to be here," and then I forgot to say hi to the fella next to me because I was still stuck in my head from being so self-conscious. Nervous jitters I guess.
At some point during the meeting, I got into a bit of a daze, and started tuning folks out as I read the stuff on the walls more closely. I came across one laminated poster titled Acceptance and it read "Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation-some fact of my life-unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment."
Wow. Striking. I had never read anything like that before. How could that be true when so many things in life are unacceptable like poverty, disease, addiction, etc?
However, it has stayed with me all these years as I continue to mull it over from time to time. The craziest thing about it, is that it always seems to work. Acceptance.
My life may not always be the way I want it to be or think it should be, but it's exactly how it needs to be, now. If I can be present, peace and joy are not far away.
Someone I know was recently talking about the idea of acceptance and I happened to have my old paperback copy of the Big Book near by, and sure enough, the only page that I had tabbed to remember was page 417 with the acceptance quote circled. I read the quote aloud then we both sat in silent contemplation for a few moments.