Acceptance and a Hirschfield Poem I Can’t Remember

I loaned my book of Jane Hirshfield poetry (“After”)  to a friend after she was in a Car Accident. This was over three years ago. I lived on Foster Ave in State College. e sat on the wooden slats of my bedroom floor in the evening light and talked about it.I gave her a change of clothes and the book.

I never saw her again. I’m not even sure where she lives now. Clothes and book didn’t come back to me.

Somewhere burried in that book of poems is one about accepting. At least, I think it’s in there. It describes flowers in a vase and how the vase receives the flowers or whatever is placed in it with grace and tranquility. It’s natural. It is what it is. It holds flowers. Receives. Displays.

The image in that poem has stayed with me. Accept. Receive.

It has come up again this year in Bulgaria. It was there the whole time but it was given new words recently as I dealt with another shift and trial in teaching in mid February. I’ve come to realize that this year is far less about accomplishing anything. I thought I would accomplish. I thought that’s what I was asked to do.

Instead, I think I’ve been asked to accept. To take situations where I have done my best and my best was woefully inadequate. To see problems and know that they are what they are and I must know them and see them and experience them and probably not even touch the solutions.

I was raised to believe in Change. I was told to Be The Change You Want to See In the World. I went to the Jubilee conference and thought about ways to bring my Faith into every area of life and watch the world glow with the Goodness of God.

No one told me about the acceptance bit. Or if they did, I didn’t hear. No one told me that there wasn’t going to be a Glow. Or if they did (and I would bet they did), I chose not to hear. I chose not to accept. It wouldn’t be that way for me.

And then Life happens. Family problems you don’t talk about because it’s not that big of a deal. Until it is. And separation. And depression. And break ups and friendships won and lost. And divorce. And Moving Away. And being lonely.

Robbie and I were talking the other day (we talk most days). I was listing all the things I wasn’t going to change this year, in the world, in my teaching skills, in me: “It starts with accepting. You don’t get to change anything until you accept what it is.”

This is the hardest lesson because I have been taught it many times and I refuse to hear it or see it. I don’t want to accept. Accept sounds like Settle. Who wants to settle? But the two are different. I know they are. Settling is giving up. Telling God that No you won’t be part of the work.

Accepting is this element of hope over current things. A sliver of life. It’s not my work anymore.

I find this hardest to deal with in myself. I’m constantly trying to Fix Things, as if fixing things would save me from the future I fear. Someone told me this spring that I was addicted to self-improvement. Entirely internal. I overanalyzed every situation, every classroom hour, because if I could fix myself I could fix anything. I spend days in a frenzy of self-complaint and listing of failures. Addicted to this? Yes. Likely. ‘How long has it been since I even started using the Bible as a way to Fix Myself whenever I opened it? (The Bible is a terrible self-help book, by the way. You have a perfect God and not a lot of details on Becoming God. Touche, God).

So I made my own vase. And by vase I mean nothing like a vase but an art piece for my wall. I took the hammer I keep in my kitchen and tied its head with brightly colored scraps from another decorating project. It’s now unusable, kind of whimsical. Its hanging on the wall in my hallway. When I walk out of my apartment, it’s there, a purple and blue ribboned reminder that I’m putting the hammer down.

And by putting the hammer down I just mean watching how often I walk around with it in my hand. Hammers and vases don’t go well together. I’m waiting for that piece to appear, and trying not to get too anxious in the process.

PS. If you can find the poem I’m talking about, please share with me! I’ve been curious for years what poem I’m remembering. I don’t remember it in enough detail to find it online.


About the author

3 Responses