Two years ago, Brian and I moved into a new house.
After living in upstate New York for 17 years, we decided to sell our wonderful home (which we lovingly built) and relocate to Connecticut—near where my mom lives and I grew up.
It was a bittersweet change, but not because we weren’t ready or were sad to leave. We weren’t.
You see, I’d been manifesting this new house for YEARS. I knew it would happen, I just didn’t know when. I knew what it would look like, feel like, be like because I saw it in my mind and kept watering my vision.
To say we’re happy is an understatement, we love our dream house and our new town! In fact, I’ve seen more wildlife in these last two years (including bears and bobcats!) than I did in all those years living in the rural mountains.
But it hasn’t been pure bliss. In addition to all the joy, our new home has also brought an interesting contradiction.
Our new home introduced me to the in-between.
It’s a happy season, but it’s also sad because my Dad isn’t here to enjoy it with us. He would have loved our new house, especially because we’re so much closer to my parents’ place. It was a long-time goal of mine, but one he didn’t live to see.
Coming home kicks up so many memories. In some ways, I feel closer to him because I remember him in the restaurants, stores, flea market, walks, drives, and other nooks and crannies we used to inhabit together.
Feeling joy after loss is a masterclass in contradiction.
- I love this and it guts me—both/and.
- I’m excited about this new season and I’m so sad.
- I’m joyful and grieving.
- I’m energized and exhausted.
The both/and conundrum is a surreal place. But I’m starting to think that the in-between is actually normal and more realistic—more true to a dynamic, three-dimensional life.
Life doesn’t like to be overly compartmentalized or tucked in, and it certainly isn’t black and white.
- I’m healthy and I have cancer.
- I’m a joyful, life-loving person and I live with chronic depression and anxiety.
- I’m successful and I face challenges.
So how can we respond when we feel conflicted?
The short answer is to accept that we’re in the in-between.
If the word acceptance makes you feel uncomfortable or defeated, you’re not alone.
Years ago, I remember hanging out backstage before delivering a keynote at a wellness conference, when another speaker leaned over and asked me what the subject of my talk was. “The healing power of acceptance,” I cheerfully shared. She paused.
“Oh. So you teach people how to give up?” she asked, with a furrowed brow.
Ugh. There was a reason I’d chosen this topic, hoping to untangle common misconceptions about acceptance with my audience (and now here with you).
Acceptance isn’t giving up, settling, or denying the situation.
Acceptance isn’t being hunky-dory about what happened, either. As it relates to grief and loss, acceptance is about recognizing that life has changed, and we can no longer go back to what was. While we don’t have to like it, here we are in a newly emerging reality.
Acceptance helps us find a way forward.
Acceptance isn’t passive; it’s defiant.
It’s a way to rebel against shutting down, living in a destructive fantasyland, or losing hope. In a world that encourages quick fixes and black-and-white thinking, acceptance teaches us the expansive and revolutionary power of embracing the gray and all that comes with it.
The opposite of acceptance is resistance:
- Fighting against the truth: Maybe he’ll come back.
- Fighting with our egos: I’m not the kind of person who falls apart.
- Fighting against what we know we need to do, say, or feel: Maintain a stiff upper lip.
- And fighting with each other, instead of coming together: It’s all their fault.
For many of us, resistance is our go-to mode. We’d rather deny, avoid, or brawl than face the truth of how our lives are changing or even what we’ve been through. But as the saying goes, “What we resist persists,” keeping us stuck in pain and frozen in time.
Acceptance thaws us out, allowing new things to grow.
“Life has changed. I may not like it, but I’m here. And I can still build a beautiful life—even after everything that’s happened.”
Learning to live with cancer was my first big experience with acceptance. Learning to live with loss—specifically the loss of my Dad—was my second. Acceptance has given me the reminder I’ve needed to be compassionate with myself here in the in-between.
Some days, I’m on board with the limitations of my life; other days, not so much. Acceptance allows me to handle the highs, lows, and contradictions. To forgive life so I can spend more time healing.
So when you’re feeling conflicted, practice a little acceptance.
Give yourself permission to embrace the both/and. And start learning to find joy right here in the magnificent gray.