The Plagued Parent

posts about surviving our children, the Baby Boomers who raised us, and everyone else with an opinion...

Acceptance, meet Reluctance

So it happened: this week I turned 50.

How the hell did that happen?

I don’t really “feel” any different, or more grown up. I keep waiting for wisdom to descend from up on high, but that appears unlikely.

Probably for the best. Chasing that need for wisdom, I realize there are a great many things in the world that I just don’t get — Selfies, Snapchat, Trump, Dancing With the Stars, certain home improvement shows on HGTV… As I age, however, I am starting to get Robert Frost.

When my wife and I began dating in college she gave me a collection of Frost’s poetry. I didn’t have the heart to tell her at the time that I loathed Frost. I mean loathed him. She was blonde and cute and smart and I treasured the gift nonetheless less — its up on my desk to this day.

At the time I was all about The Beats and their F.U. attitude. What an arrogant prick I was as a college; a Sophomore, which seems appropriate since that term literally means “wise fool”. A little bit of knowledge, as they say…

Looking back The Collected Poems of Robert Frost was the right gift, just given to me at the wrong time. Now, I can’t read enough of the guy.

The Poet, Robert Frost

What else is like that I wonder? What else might we have received over our lifetimes as gifts which we left unopened for one reason or another? Or gifts we did open yet saw no real use for at the time? Guess that’s where being a hoarder can come in handy.

I’ve tried taking inventory of all the things my youthful and narrowed self has neglected, rejected or outright refused to accept. Some of this inventory stands as an embarrassment to me.

The other day I accidentally ran into a Frost poem entitled “Reluctance” that stilled me. In the poem I see a man in motion who forgets that the world is moving with him as much as he is moving through it.

This is a hard thing to realize: change happens. And as you’ve been changing so too arrive changes to the place you live and the people who live there with you. Wrongly — but very humanly — we stand reluctant to accept all manner of things we should just steadfastly face with nothing more than a, “Well, that happened alright.”

In Buddhist thought the concept of impermanence is vital, almost as vital as acceptance. We must embrace the transient nature of all things — including the self — otherwise we suffer trying to hold on to things as they were rather than things as they are. Or, worse still we lament that things are not as we imagined.

As Frost points out, our reluctance to embrace such things as they change is a fight we’ll never win. So, reluctantly, I feel as if moving into my 51st year will undoubtedly require more acceptance than reluctance, and in a sense more giving in rather than giving up.

Reluctance

Out through the fields and the woods
   And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
   And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
   And lo, it is ended.
The leaves are all dead on the ground,
   Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
   And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
   When others are sleeping.
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
   No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
   The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
   But the feet question ‘Whither?’
Ah, when to the heart of man
   Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
   To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
   Of a love or a season?

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Updated: October 30, 2017 — 8:34 pm

16 Comments

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  1. I never liked pumpkin and yet now I am decidedly a fan. Still not a fan of poetry of any kind but I am giving it a revisit. Frost might be a good one to add to my list. Thanks!

    1. By the way, happy birthday! 50 is a good number.

  2. That’s a lovely poem which fits your thoughts very well. Happy Birthday, it really isn’t too bad an age and acceptance certainly helps as you get older.

  3. Thanks for hitting the nail on the head. I feel that way at my age. How did this happen?

    1. At least I hit the nail and not the thumb this time around. And I have no idea how any of this happened. Time just ticks on…

  4. I have found, as I changed from a stupid single 28 year old over the last 5 years to a stupid, married 33 year old with children, that no matter how much I romanticized my past, I was still stupid. The only thing that made me realize that my life is pretty great at 33 was accepting my role as dad-husband-30something.

    Only took 4ish years but it’s done wonders, though let’s see how I feel when I’m 50.

    1. Touch base when you get there and we’ll compare notes. Thanks Tony

  5. “To go with the drift of things,
    To yield with a grace to reason,
    And bow and accept the end
    Of a love or a season?”

    That’s beautiful. I guess it’s something that I am still learning – to accept the end of a season. Maybe in a decade I can look back and see that this is happening as it should be and able to say, “Well, I am glad that happened.”

    Happy birthday by the way! That makes you a Scorpio, isn’t it? Well, high five from a fellow Scorpio. Not that you believe such nonsense… 😉

    1. Thank you Herlina. And, I believe in all sorts of “nonsense”… So Scorpio High-Five right back at ‘ya.

  6. Letting go of how I imagined things would be/should be was a hard one for me -and sometimes I still have to work on it – but coming to accept the now is so precious! And – happy late birthday!

    1. Yes, I agree. And I too am finding that I am a little late to the acceptance game.

  7. Happy Belated Birthday! For my wedding in 1987, I received a beautiful set of Irish linen from friends of my parents. It was so beautiful that I didn’t use it because I didn’t want to ruin it. Just carted it from apartment to house in its original box. It wasn’t until after my marriage fell apart and those lovely friends had died that I realized I shouldn’t be saving things like this. Saving for what? A special family dinner? Plenty had passed that I never used it for. It was then that I started taking it out and using it and not just four times a year. It has stains on it now and I don’t care because the stains tell a story.

    1. Thanks Jenn. Loved this anecdote. Made me think about any of the things I’ve failed to put to good use. I remain on the lookout…

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