The opposite of every profound truth is often another profound truth, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the context of acceptance versus change.
Lao Tzu said, “A man is born gentle and weak; at his death he is hard and stiff. All things, including the grass and trees, are soft and pliable in life; dry and brittle in death. Stiffness is thus a companion of death; flexibility a companion of life. An army that cannot yield will be defeated. A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind. The hard and stiff will be broken; the soft and supple will prevail.”
There is a great case for acceptance. To go with the flow. To be pliant to change, and mould yourself accordingly. I am a great believer in accepting what one cannot change, like my frizzy hair or curvy structure. I work my way around them, and I accept that I can never look like the models I work with.
On the other hand, there is also a great case for being the change you want to see in the world. For not just accepting change as inevitable (“nothing is more permanent but change”) but also being proactive in bringing change about in your life when your situation forces you to. There is a great case for being courageous and taking the bull by its horns, jumping in with faith for wings, and course-correcting when you feel you aren’t on the right path.
Neti, neti, said the sage on his way to enlightenment. ‘Not this, not this.’
That’s what our journey looks like, sometimes: This is not who I am. Turn. That is not who I am. Turn. This is not who I am. Turn.
(Next question: Who am I?)
Sometimes it takes a vacation with all the people you love the most in your life and celebrating your 40th birthday on a cruise to awaken you to the fact that something in your life is bothering you like a needle in your brain and needs course-correction.
Sometimes, nature forces change on you. Sometimes, you change things yourself. Either way, you will never be the same again.
And that’s something you may as well accept.