“Beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s what’s in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will.” ~ Steven Rogers, Hope Floats: The Screenplay
Change equals loss. I heard someone say something similar to that at a conference a couple of years ago. That is such a simple notion and yet I wouldn’t have necessarily had that realization on my own. When something changes it is different. What was previously there has been altered and therefore no longer exists to the extent that it once did. It could never exist again. In all change something and what it represents to you, or someone and the vision you share together might be permanently lost.
I briefly worked at an intensive outpatient rehabilitation center for adolescents. Everyday, it seemed like, we reinforced with those youth that the only constant in life is change. Life by definition is uninterrupted being. We are growing and aging, learning and forgetting, experiencing and resting. Through it all, we never cease to change. Even at night, while I am asleep and unaware of waking life, change is happening all around me and within me. Every second of the day that passes is another potential memory – catalogued or simply lost and never recalled.
If the only constant is change and change equals loss, then are we in constant mourning? I could see a psychiatrist or philosopher making the argument that we only truly mourn significant loss. Then, I can just hear a group of college students sitting around debating just what exactly constitutes “significant” loss. Doctor “So and So”, The Great “Whoever” and co-eds the world over sit and ponder the truth of it all in the most analytical way possible. They use their cerebral cortexes to bypass any potential spiritual connection to the present – to a deeper knowing. Their moments are ending as quickly as they are beginning and they let them slip by undetected. Not ever rooted in the experiences at hand, their hindsight will no doubt be full of regret. Then will they grieve all of the time they took for granted?
As part of my therapy practice with individuals and groups, I frequently talk about the stages of grief. Though everyone grieves differently, most people pass through some configuration of the following five processes: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I have explained these stages countless times in the eight years I have been a therapist. Yet, each time I begin to describe the “Acceptance” stage I still find myself asking out loud, “What does that even mean?” Most people reply with significant contributions to defining the truth about acceptance:
“I think there are various levels of acceptance that you have to get to. It is about growth.”
“I think you don’t have to accept everything, just the fact that the person is gone.”
“At least I can accept that there is nothing I can do about it now. I am powerless.”
“What I am clinging to right now is the acceptance that I am grieving.”
These fragments of truth are all dedicated to being present – present for grief, for loss, for powerlessness, and for growth. Acceptance at its core is a choice not to pull one’s self away from what is happening in the here and now. We might have hope for the future but we feel it right where our feet are.
I would like to think that I am capable of spiritual connection in this lifetime. Some of you, like me, might believe in the existence of the human soul. My truth is that the soul is as likely to overflow with exhilaration as it is with sorrow. Whether you are facing the sadness of an ending, the fear of a beginning, or everything between the two, I challenge you to stay rooted in the moment and simply ask to know it entirely. Acceptance seems to be more about asking questions than finding solutions. And, acceptance is not the same as resolution or resignation. None of us pulls hope from the depths, dragging it along with us to the future. We simply must be still and allow it to rise to the surface. It is the gift of spirituality only found in the present. With gentleness and grace, hope does indeed float.