The title of my favorite Charles Bukowski book is: WHAT MATTERS MOST IS HOW WELL YOU WALK THROUGH THE FIRE.
For someone that is considered a drunk and perhaps even a degenerate at times, this title sums up how to survive life in a prolific yet simplistic way – a talent Bukowski is known for.
What matters most in life is how well you walk through the fire. And to walk well through the fire, you must accept that it a) exists and b) you must walk through it. Only after you have accepted that to get to the other side of something you must first walk through fire are you capable of actually succeeding. You must persevere.
Acceptance can be an abstract subject. I used to ask myself all the time, “How do I actually accept the things in my life?” or “What does acceptance truly look like?”
True acceptance looks like the following:
You pick your battles: you know what you can and cannot control. You accept the things you cannot and embrace them for living in their natural state.
You love unconditionally: that habit your partner does that is never seeming to go away, you embrace him/her for that habit understanding that his/her entire life was built up to that behavior. You see the other side: you are grateful for where his/her entire life brought him/her because it brought him/her to you.
You do not dwell: you practice acceptance on the things that are far from perfect in your life and then you move on. Outside forces are outside forces and the only way to strip them of their power is to accept them for what they are.
You make room for true progress: because if you can accept things that you cannot change, you suddenly make room to change the things that you can.
Which leads me to another saying that sums up how to accept – The Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Once you know you must walk through the fire and shift your inner dialogue, The Serenity Prayer will help deconstruct the fire and show you the specific aspects that you can change and the specific aspects you must simply accept. It helps divide your life into two categories: acceptance and action. If you can approach your life with these two methods, you will move through the fire with a clear understanding and with no setbacks.
Let’s take an anecdote.
You got laid off of your job. You are currently basking in anger, frustration, and a touch of financial fear for your future. You are obsessing over your old boss, directing all of your anger at him. You think you are doomed because of your boss’ decision to let you go and you resent him for putting you in a compromising situation. After a few weeks without a job, you have no career prospect on the horizon.
What you can’t change: You cannot change your boss’ decisions to fire you. He fired you and that fact remains solidified in the past. You cannot change the fact that you were laid off, yet you continue to harbor intense emotions against this fact.
What you can change: Your next move. Reflect on your past job and use this as an opportunity to apply to positions you are overly passionate about. The only thing you can change is what you do with your future now – so focus on what you want that to look like. Step out and seek it with a determination instead of with a wound.
Most of us focus on what we can’t change which leads our future into further despair and frustration. By focusing on what you can change, you create the future you want instead of sitting in the fire.
I have been working on walking through the fire because I know the faster and stronger I do it, the faster I will be on the other side, holding the thing that I wanted all along.
Acceptance is cultivating a level of strength that allows the outside forces of your life to no longer hold great power. The only thing that holds great power is you.
How well do you walk through the fire?
Photos by Arielle Levy.