Reprinted from my monthly column in 110 Magazine
The news media reported that drugs killed Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson; however, Dr. Robin Smith shared in her book Hungry that what she thinks really killed these two iconic humans was their incessant hunger to hit the high note once again. She suggested that they each had an inability to accept where they were in life. Michael Jackson could never accept that his album "Thriller" was simply a phenomenon; he spent every year following that album not accepting that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even after his album, "Bad" had sold 20 million copies, he still remained unsatisfied. Whitney Houston told her producer Clive Davis before she died, “I’m going to hit that high note again.” Both stars were dissatisfied with the here and now, seeking to return to time and place they most likely would not return to. Hearing Smith’s ideas a few years ago left me taking a deep dive into their stories and the concept of acceptance.
What do you do when you don't know what to do? Stay or go? Speak up or keep silent? Pack up or hunker down? Hit send or delete? What do you do when it appears that the person you trust the most betrays you, your friend deceives you, your sibling curses you, the wolf is at the door, the white picket fence burns down, when you receive that call, or open the letter?
Whether we’re shocked or shattered, we all experience uncertainty, change,
and at least occasional disappointment. What do we do next? We’re able to do a lot mentally to either intensify suffering or diminish it. If we want to live from a place of freedom, we’re able to accept whatever unfolds. As the saying goes, what we resist, persists. What keeps us suffering is the inability to accept what is, whatever it is: who they are, how they acted, who you are, the body you have, the job, the decision, the outcome…
We create the difficulty whenever we judge people or situations as bad or wrong. It’s not reality that is bad or wrong; it’s our decision to make it bad or wrong. This dissatisfaction creates dissatisfaction, suffering. The essential story is always the same: I want this to be different. This situation isn't right; it's not going the way I planned. This person disappointed me; I’m going to be angry about it. Life isn’t fair. I’ve been done wrong, I’ve been taken advantage of. I want to hit that high note again. In other words, I don't want to let go of my attachment about what I think reality should be like, so I kick and scream because being mad gives me a false sense of control or power.
Eckhart Tolle claims there are all kinds of addictions, but the one rarely discussed is our thinking addiction. We can fall into the habit of being dissatisfied -- dissatisfied with others, with the situation at hand, with ourselves. Acceptance, surrendering, letting go, heals the habit of being dissatisfied.
Lionel Richie speaks openly about his years with the Commodores and the years he went solo and about how exciting the fame, glory and hitting the high note were. He also openly acknowledges the changes and says, “I accept that I just don’t have those vocals anymore.” He brings this into the open. He accepts where he is. He doesn’t keep it a secret. In recent years during concerts, he shares with the audience when he’s going to sing a song in which he can no longer hit those high notes. “I invite the audience to sing along with me to help me through that part.” I found such beauty in his story of releasing any dissatisfaction about the way his voice has changed over the years and, instead, accepting what is and creating a beautiful experience for himself and his audience through his acceptance.
Acceptance is always the key to peace.
The difference between the artists who suffered and Lionel is huge, but why? Consider how many celebrities you’ve witnessed over the years in and out of rehab and exhibiting outrageous public displays. If acceptance of self is based on acceptance from others then suffering is a result. As long as the fan base is tossing accolades on stage, everything seems to be on an endless upward trend. The moment the applause stops, their lives spiral into chaos.
When we take situations more lightly and playfully and learn to laugh at ourselves, we don’t so easily give away our control or power. Security in this ever- shifting world is an inside job. Waiting around for the outside world to show up and match our expectations is a game we’ll often lose.
As we welcome an uncertain 2021, let’s resolve to diminish suffering by embracing what is. We don’t have to like it, but, if we want less dissatisfaction, acceptance is the key.
Are you looking for tools and support on your path to acceptance? Reach out. I'd love to partner with you. xo -a