Can a quotation change your life? An epigram at the beginning of an obscure seventies movie entitled Son Rise did just that to me. "To love is to be happy with." Imagine the ramifications.
If you love someone, you accept that person unconditionally. That means the odd habits, the characteristic expressions, the tics, the eccentricities, the whole package. The individual is not a work in progress, someone who has a good basic core that can be improved with just the right amount of judicious formation. No, the person is perfect just as he or she is. And, if the person does not change one whit during a lifetime, that is fine.
The theory is that unconditional acceptance is a prerequisite for change. In the movie, a mother pulls her autistic son out of his world by entering it, whether that meant spinning plates with him, or shaking wrists, or bobbing heads. Eventually, her perseverance and tenacity pay off, and she succeeds. Acceptance was the key. The movie shook my world to the core. I was impelled to reflect on my own acceptance--or lack thereof--of my children. Never mind the explicit indicators of non-acceptance, what implicit messages was I sending? Consciousness helped me catch myself once in a while, to make incremental improvements along the way.
Eckhart Tolle takes the idea in a different direction. In his view, acceptance is crucial for living in the present. In each moment of life, he says, one of three things must be present: energy, enthusiasm, and acceptance. If we can't muster energy or enthusiasm for something, then we must be able to accept. This does not mean being resigned to our fate; it means understanding that, in this moment, that is our reality. Coming to terms with that allows us to move forward without frustration or anger.
Today, I was listening to a podcast of Tapestry on CBC. Mary Hynes was talking to author Adam Phillips about accepting our own lives and avoiding reflecting on the road not taken. Phillips says we are given to thinking about what might have been, or what might be, had we made different decisions, or had different experiences. Instead, he says, we can accept that our lives are full and rich just the way they are. He was spelling out contentment, I think.
I didn't necessarily expect contentment in this new decade; why, I'm not sure. Yet, it is happening. I am so grateful for my life, my family, my children, my community, my colleagues, and the opportunity to use the composite of my experience and knowledge in new and exciting ways.
"To love is to be happy with" means loving yourself, being happy with yourself, accepting yourself. Contentment results, and change becomes possible.