I try to skip lightly through the dark parking lot. I have at least had enough common sense to give in to the elements and not wear party shoes, instead opting for a sensible pair of boots. I am on a time limit. I have only a half hour to pick up my son from a movie, drop him off at home and get to a Christmas party in the next town over from mine. I have told myself I’ll be on time (ish) for this one. The friend who hosts it and invites me every year has (rightly) started assuming I kind of avoid it. It’s not her, it’s me and my dread of large groups of strangers. But this year I will do better.
In my usual failure of planning, I have left it to the last minute to pick up the required hostess gift. Lacking any kind of imagination in that department, I always opt for a bottle of wine, chosen without inspiration. I’m in a smallish mall, with a Target and a Staples and a bunch of little stores I never go to. In the corner near the main road is my destination, the liquor store. I’m hopping fast through the icy December rain to avoid the puddles. Until… I take a giant swim in one. An up-to-my-ankles soak that gets icy parking lot water between my toes and diminishes my desire to party just a little bit more.
It is at this moment that I remember a passage from Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author, is in a decidedly more exotic locale than Edgewater, New Jersey. She’s in India, sitting on a bench, meditating. As evening falls, she starts to get stung by mosquitoes. Her usual urge is to swat them away. But the act of swatting takes her away from her sense of centeredness. She wonders: what if I just let them sting me? It strikes her that never in her life has she just let being bitten just happen. We always fight the bite. It is the fighting of the bite that causes the stress, not the bite itself.
It strikes me that I can let this puddle forming in my boot ruin my night, or I can ignore it. I can let it make me mad or I can accept that puddles happen. I experiment with having no reaction to the soaked foot.
I am surprised to find how easy it is.
Once I stop being mad, in a hurry, late, I find that my brain works much better. I remember I have to drop off my son at home. I can run in and change my boots if need be. It will only add 5 minutes to my time, if that. By the time I get home, I forget to change my boots. It’s about an hour later, while I talk to a non-intimidating group of strangers, that I notice that my foot has totally dried when I wasn’t paying attention.
I am the poster child for lack of acceptance of life’s ups and downs. I don’t accept. I fight. I force. I cajole, I convince, I argue. I take care of business. I never just am, a state akin to sloth and lack of inspiration in my mind. I angst. I think. Acceptance feels like surrender, like the end of desire for better things. But this world-view has failed to create a lasting peace in my heart.
In that small moment of the soaked foot, I learned that accepting what is isn’t weak or some kind of character flaw. It’s wise. Life happens, puddles and all. We can fight it or we can embrace the truth of what is, and then go one from there.