I think one of the most challenging elements to growing up is accepting that life can be complicated and mysterious and nuanced. That easy answers are not always found.
Especially when it comes to our families of origin. How do I have a relationship with this person I really love but who also hurt me or still does sometimes hurt me?
Tricky tricky waters and no one can answer this question but ourselves. Sometimes the answer is mile-high boundaries and a birthday card once a year. Sometimes it’s no contact at all; other times clear boundaries regarding time spent together and off-table topics.
Whatever path we choose, I believe the most loving approach is acceptance—acceptance of what was and what is. We love ourselves because we stop living in the fantasies of what we wanted our childhoods to be, and we learn to give ourselves whatever we believe we did not receive. We take responsibility for our healing! And we love others by accepting them for all they are—warts and all. No illusions, no lying to ourselves, no expectations. Standards—yes, boundaries—yes, but not expectations.
I think that’s one reason why we are here, on this planet, to make sense of this life and its myriad complexities and contradictions. Poet Jane Hirshfield puts it beautifully:
I have been given this existence, these years on this earth to accept what has come into my lifetime: wars, loves, trucks, betrayals, kindness. I must take them. I must find a way to live in this world. You can’t refuse it. And along with the difficult, is the radiant.
This is not about denial. It’s accepting the difficult and radiant moments in our lives. It’s about accepting that there is pain and also fields of sunflowers, and long cold winters, and celebrations of light. And trying to find a way, our own way, to live in this world.