Monday, March 25, 2013

A Tale of Acceptance, Surrender…and Ed Sheeran

I wrote the text of this post almost exactly a month ago but didn't post it 
because life just swept on, 
kept on coming and coming, all tangled and complicated,
curious and delightful, 
and I couldn't get back here to finish it up.
Which says something about the the month I've had!
Full of adventure, delight, novel writing, sorrow, worry, 
sleeplessness, novel writing, joy, novel writing, spontaneity and passion
But I still want to share these words, late as they are. 
They still mean something to me, all these days later. 

Before I begin my Tale,
I have to tell you something astonishing.

Something Mind-boggling and Wild. 

I have come to realise (and I suspect I've said this before, in other words and with other posts, but bear with me here because I need to say it again),

the more I accept, the happier I am.

I know—who'd have thunk it?!

It's crazily simple.

I've discovered that if you spend your life resisting LIFE (with all its awkwardness, chaos and surprise),

      if you choose to meet life events with frustration, resentment, anger, and complaint,

              your happiness decreases.

And yes, I know other people have figured this out already…!

Michael J. Fox, for one, captured this idea beautifully in his quote:
“My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.”

It's true.

The fewer expectations I have
(Like, Oh, this will be great! At least, I hope it will be great. Well, it will be great if x, y, and z happen. So, I'd like the path of Great to look like this…(x) and this…(y) and this…(z), thank you very much), 

and the less attached I am to a certain outcome
(Okay, I will be really happy if x, y and z happens. But I'll be bummed out if N happens, and I'll be really bummed if B happens. Also, I'll be miserable! with P, outraged! with M, and destroyed! with S, so please…let life be filled only with x's and y's and z's.)

the greater my joy is.

But what is joy?

What has joy become, for me?

At its most basic level, my joy is the kind that makes me smile. Sometimes it brings a spontaneous happy dance, a fizzy feeling in my chest. It might even bring singing.

But, sometimes the joy comes more quietly than that. It comes in the form of deep contentment. A sense of peace.

And most importantly, my joy doesn't hurt.

Come again? Joy…hurt? How can that be?

Well, joy hurts when you are so aware of how fleeting it is, you spend the whole time holding it tightly against your chest instead of letting it Be.

Joy hurts when it becomes more like catching than watching. You run with your butterfly net waving, desperately trapping all that flying colour and when it's caught, you try to pin it, keep it, bind it into books and frames.

Joy hurts when you want to freeze it so it doesn't end.

My joy used to make my chest ache. 

I used to spend most of a concert or a visit by the sea thinking, "This is so beautiful. But this won't last. Take a photograph, quick, quick, with your camera, with your mind, because soon it will be over."

I'd give myself special time, a day off when the kids were young, and when a friend asked about it, I'd find the things that went wrong and detail them. Sure, I'd paint the whole picture, show the good and the bad, but I'd focus on the bad; I wore it like a little coat over my heart.

I used to be disappointed if a life experience went differently to my Plans. Even if the new outcome was fun, filled with laughter and everyone around me seemed to have a good time, I'd see where I'd failed, or where others had failed, where the moment was Less than it "should" have been.

If result wasn't x or y or z, I often saw only the letters that weren't there, instead of the letters that were.

I could spend time worrying over and explaining the Why of this, but I don't need to, because that was Then. And this, of course, is Now. Somewhere, at some point, I made a choice to see things differently and Now began.

It came slowly.

It came steadily.

Now, it's (mostly!) here.

"It is what it is." 

This is my husband's constant mantra. It's a very wise mantra!

(And I should say, that as silly and goofy as my husband is, he's actually an incredibly sensible, solid person. He's become that cheesy thing people write songs and Hallmark cards about—my "rock.")

I have come to absorb these words so completely it's my mantra, too.

It is what it is. 

In other words:
The things I would like to change (in me, in society), and can change, I work on. 
The things I cannot change, I do my best to accept…at least I try to accept without becoming a miserable mess.

People do things I find difficult. People make choices I wouldn't. The world has muck in it: it's heavy, hard, impossible. Sometimes this gets me down.

But what rises always, is hope. I try to live the change I would like to see in the world, and that buoys me. I let kindness and compassion be my guide, and that keeps me steady.

And, as best I can, I try not to let my hopes, wants, or desires decide my emotional well being, or affect my mental health.

I tried life the other way, and it didn't work—sadness always seemed to stick and cling.

Now, I choose to simply BE. I do my best to be open to whatever comes and to accept whatever is. This might bring joy or sadness, and the great range of feeling in between, but doesn't change who I am.

Nothing clings to simply Being. "Being" is like duck feathers, don't you think?

The water beads and slides off, in rain or shine, puddle or pond. And no matter what, whatever the state of the water, the duck stays a duck. The water (soft or hail-hard, warm or needle-cold) doesn't change that.

Which brings me to Ed Sheeran. 

That is, 
The Tale of Acceptance, Surrender…and Ed Sheeran

(Of course it does. That makes total sense.)

Ed Sheeran is great. Like, really great and stuff, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a teenage girl, 40-something-year old woman.

I've liked his music for a while—mostly from watching videos of him playing live. The guy takes his guitar, a loop pedal, and two mikes, and makes incredible, intricate melodies from his voice and guitar alone. He turns his guitar into a bass drum, into a snare; he layers his voice into four part harmonies; he beat-boxes and sings jazz with the clearest, cleanest voice. It's dazzling, the things he does. Plus, he sings lyrics and tells stories that matter. And, from what I've seen, he's also a really nice guy. Which makes me like him even more.

I knew he was coming to Australia, to my town; I also knew I couldn't afford to see him. Over the past few months, I'd think, 'Hang it, I'll just go.' Three times, I logged onto the ticket server thingy only to change my mind at the last minute.

I said to myself, 'You can't afford to go. And your husband isn't even that into Ed Sheeran, so you wouldn't have a date. So it's decided. You aren't going. You can accept this. You can watch him on Youtube; it's no big deal.'

But I kept thinking about it. The concert. In my town. Coming.

On the morning of the concert I thought, 'Well, I sure would like to go see Ed Sheeran.'

I thought, 'But you're not going. And it's sold out. And you can't afford it. And that's okay.'

I thought, 'Yes. That is okay. But I sure would like to go see Ed Sheeran.'

I thought, 'Remember you don't have the money. And you wouldn't have a date. And that's okay.'

And I thought, 'Yes. But I sure would like to go see Ed Sheeran.'

And so on!

At some point in the day, though, a new thought came into my mind. It was clear and distinct. It came with the quietest voice.

It said:

If you are meant to go, you will. You either will, or you won't. 

Just surrender. 

It will be what it will be.


I've never exactly been a "meant to be" kind of person. I've always thought that was something other people Said.

Did I believe it? Do I have the beliefs and particular faith to support this kind of thinking? Well, I do… and I don't…and I do, in my own way…and…

the things I believe are actually deeply felt, personal, intensely spiritual, beautiful things. And all that's for another post, perhaps a different conversation, or maybe it's actually private?

All I know is, I thought the thought…or the thought came into my head…

and I surrendered.

Not the kind of surrender where you give up—where you wave your white flag hopelessly, in tears.

Rather, the kind where you wholly accept.

It felt really, really peaceful.

So, cut forward about 9 hours to that night—the night of the concert. It was seven o'clock, and I was making dinner. My husband walked in the door from work, and within five minutes gave me the news.

The t-shirt I always design for the big Megaband concert he organises every year, the one over 100 kids wear…well, I would be paid for designing it this year. I would be paid. Like, in real money!

Enough money to go see Ed Sheeran.

No way.



But the next hurdle came quickly:

You see, I had no ticket.

And the concert was sold out. (Except for the nose-bleed seats with completely obstructed views—which would mean I'd be paying to not watch a dot on a stage moving about behind an enormous pole).

So I said to myself, 'Well, I'm going to give it a try. By myself. I'll see if someone is standing outside selling a ticket, for a reasonable seat. If there isn't a ticket, I'll just come home.'

And I thought, 'And that will be okay. I will have tried. It will be what it will be.'

I showered and zipped off, through the rain and into the city.

Where there was no parking! And time was running out!

The concert was starting in an hour and I had no money. I found a 15-minute parking spot outside the stadium—enough time to go to the ATM and buy a ticket, if a ticket was waiting to be bought.

I stood in the rain, in a queue for the money machine. The line was soooooo long, like a thousand people long. (Not really, but close)

I thought, 'This isn't going to work. This is a sold-out concert. No-one is selling tickets outside in the rain. No-one is selling tickets, full-stop. Hmmm. Perhaps I should go home.'

The quiet, determined voice from earlier popped into my head again.

Wait, it said. You haven't seen this out yet. Wait.

Huh. All right, "Persistent Voice of Acceptance and Surrender": I'll wait.

I stood in line and finally got my money.

Then I stood outside the stadium in my hat and snug coat as the rain came down, comfortably warm and not very wet, watching to see if a person might try to sell a ticket they didn't want. I stood there for five minutes. My parking time was almost out.

I thought. 'Ah. So that's how it will be. No concert tonight.'

It was as though I was watching myself from far away—a woman waiting calmly in the rain, accepting whatever outcome might happen, truly at peace. How funny, thought my watching self. You've taken yourself right to the heart of wanting; you've walked right up to it, and you are okay. This doesn't hurt. You aren't anxious. What a change.

And I thought, 'Right-o, I'll go home.'

The quiet voice came again.

It said, You haven't tried the Box Office yet.

'But those are the Obstructed View, Nose-bleed seats,' I thought. 'I can't justify spending this kind of money on those kind of seats!' (Because I might be a fan, but I'm a sensible, 40-something-year-old woman who knows about the cost of groceries, and books, and shoes…the curse of being a Grown-Up).

The quiet voice said, You haven't tried, though. Just try.

So in I went.

Me to the box office girl: "Hi, just wondering if you have any seats left?"

"Yes!" she said cheerfully, "We do!"

"Ah…are those the full-on nose bleed seats with the obstructed view?" (Yes, I really asked that question!)

"No. Actually they aren't," she said, smiling. "We've just released some new seats, down at the front."

Like at the front front? Like, first row of the seats? Like, directly beside the stage?


No way.


I handed my money. I got the ticket. I gave the girl the biggest grin.

And, Weeeeee! I went leaping back to my little car.

So. Exciting!

With only half an hour to go, I drove through the rain, drove around looking for a park. Of course, just before a big concert in a small city, there was nothing.

I thought, 'Huh. Maybe I should park kind of far away and catch a cab? Maybe I should drive quickly home and get my family to take me in?'

And I thought, 'This will be interesting,' I thought, 'if I miss the concert because I can't find a place to park.'

The quiet voice came again.

It said, It will be okay. Just keep driving.

It was like having a spirit sitting beside me, in lotus position, floating. Or sitting on my shoulder, watching the road. Or curled like a wise cat in my lap, his paws tucked under.

Or something inside my own self, speaking sense.

Or something else entirely.

I kept on driving. I turned right and saw, waiting there, a parking spot. Two blocks from the stadium. An easy, five-minute walk.

Everything clicked into place.

Off I went to the concert, by myself.

Sat in the front row, just to the side of the stage.

Watched Ed Sheeran do wild and fantastic things with his guitar, his voice, two mikes and a loop pedal.

Yelled and carried on with all the teenage girls.

Sang along, harmonised, laughed at Ed's stories.

Gave myself to the moment without reservation.

My happiness didn't hurt; it felt, simply, like happiness.

I didn't think about the concert ending.

All I did was BE.

And along with simply BEING came:

Deep contentment.

Amazing peace.

Beautiful, in-the-moment, tip-to-toe, joy.

I was so glad to be there.

Thank you, Quiet Voice of Acceptance and Surrender.

Thank you, Spirit…within and without.

I am so glad I found you.

I am so glad you found me.