Tuesday, June 14, 2011

 (How Do You Play Your Hand)

     The word “acceptance” is an emotionally charged word. It comes with all sorts of definitions, concepts, and connotations. If I were being true to the survivor’s journey, this installment of The Survivor’s Handbook would be the last chapter. Because embracing “acceptance” is living life to its fullest, no matter what hand you’ve been dealt. It often takes most of us a lifetime to fully embrace our lives...regardless of what our hand looks like.
     My dad, whose theme song was Bob Marley’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, often said that you play the hand you’re dealt, and play it as well as you can. “If you fold,” he said, “that’s it. Very rarely do you get a second hand that’s any better.” My father was a mighty fine poker player. He was able to take any hand life dealt him and make it a winner; he seemed to take any circumstance or situation, good or bad, in stride. And at 6’4”, he had a very long stride.

     The topic of “acceptance” was on the agenda at our amputee support group meeting. We went around the room giving our individual interpretations of what acceptance meant, and how it fit into our lives. The definitions were varied depending on how each of us had come to terms with our own disabilities.  One of the men in our group was very angry with his situation exclaiming vehemently that he would “never accept” what had happened to him.  Another person proclaimed that he was “coming to terms” with his amputation, but he was still deeply saddened over the loss of his leg.
      And then the breath of fresh air spoke. Her words lit up the room, and lightened the heaviness that had been draped over all of us. “If someone told me that I could have my leg back if I would give up everything I’ve learned on this journey, I’d say ‘no!’’ Her words reflected everything that I was thinking.  She went on to say that her life was full, and that opportunities had “found” her simply because of her amputation. “This has been an incredible journey so far,” she said, “and I wouldn’t change a thing.”       
      “I feel the same way,” I said. “I’m just happy to be alive, regardless of my fake parts.” I went on to say that my experiences as an amputee had been pretty amazing for the most part, and that I had come to terms with my physical limitations. “And regardless of missing parts,” I said, “I feel whole and complete--complete in the acceptance of who I am.”  
        Through the years I have come to understand that there is a continuum of “acceptance”, it is dynamic…there’s movement there.  If you think about a situation in your life which requires acceptance, you may find yourself on this continuum. If you get stuck in non-acceptance, you may very well find yourself motionless, miserable, and upset with the hand you’ve been dealt.
     I play the hand I’ve been dealt each and every day. Most days, I do it joyously even when I find myself drawing to an inside straight. Being a survivor means taking the hand you’re dealt, playing your cards, and never folding.
      Acceptance of yourself, your situation or circumstance, changes your viewpoint of the cards you hold. Whereas you may have thought you’d been dealt a “stinker”, when you accept your cards, you will realize that you’re holding the winning hand.