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  • TRUE STORIES: I walk the line

  • On Tuesday of last week I concluded that there’s a very fine line between the psychological concepts of ‘acceptance’ and ‘screw it all.’

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  • On Tuesday of last week I concluded that there’s a very fine line between the psychological concepts of ‘acceptance’ and ‘screw it all.’
    Acceptance is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable one) without attempting to change it, protest, or exit. It’s central to most all the Eastern spiritual practices I’m drawn to.
    ‘Screw it all’ is more an expression of intense desperation or frustration — with the world in general, or some specific area of one’s life. Like saying “I’m done!” — as when Rhett Butler tells Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With The Wind, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
    My friend Y.J. posed the question to an 80-year-old guy at 7 o’clock in the morning who was listening to KKOW AM on his porch. He told him ‘acceptance’ implies at least a glimmer of hope. ‘Screw it all’ is based in frustration, emotion, and having lost sight of hope. Take a moment or a day or week ... hope comes back.
    Friend Alverius Plum emailed me, “I think there be little difference between ‘acceptance’ and ‘screw it all’ ... cept for the degree of frusternation and insipid anger connoted thereof ... The f-bomb is good for the soul ... no matter what they says in school.”
    Yes, Alverius, you are correct. There are times when a little ardent profanity is called for to propel one out of the doldrums by releasing nihilistic annoyance and aggravation — not to mention boiling anger at the pointlessness of existence. Stop struggling. Give up. Screw it all!
    Truth is, even when I’m in ‘acceptance’ somewhere inside me, there’s a ‘screw it all’ guy waiting to be unleashed. And vice versa. It’s certainly not a new dilemma for me. Thirty years ago I memorized a piece by Stephen Dunn that begins, “Give me some good advice today. I need an excuse to be rude. I want to kick-butt and act bored — are you listening? — I want all the luxuries an eccentric has, starting with deviance, and I want to be loved in spite of it all, but not by you.”
    I recited the whole poem — and shared my fine line between ‘acceptance’ and ‘screw it all’ observation — at a weekly group meeting of college students I advise on Tuesday afternoon. This brought nods, smiles and looks of appreciation — as well as opened the door for some much-need honest sharing of tears and laughter around the table as they talked about the stress and anxiety in their lives arising from school projects, money shortages, car repairs, work problems, sick parents, and feeling generally overwhelmed.
    Another observation I made throughout the week is that ‘acceptance’ takes a lot more work than ‘screw it all’. Which is to say, it requires things like self-talk, deep breathing and mental imaging.
    Page 2 of 2 - ‘Screw it all,’ on the other hand, requires little, if any, self-reflection. It’s more like, “I don’t care if I’m wrong, if anyone likes it, if it’s reasonable, or if it’s likely to be productive. Screw it all!”
    Another thing that ‘acceptance’ implies is hope. Trust in the future. All things shall pass. Hang in there. Truth is, hope can be a lot of work too; a real pain in the rear. As John Cleese says in the movie Clockwise, “It’s not the despair. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.”
    ‘Screw it all,’ on the other hand, gives room for despair. I’m not talking a simple lack of hope, but something more intricate — an emotional mechanism that opens the door to realistic thinking. When we despair in a certain way, we give up particular expectations as unrealistic. We let go … and feel some relief.
    Of course, ‘letting go’ is also a central principal of ‘acceptance.’ The saying, “Let go and let God” speaks to the spiritual value of letting go of fixed ideas, clutter, knowing, hurry and worry, and control. Especially control.
    Surrender, which literally means to stop fighting, is a concept that comes to mind as well. Could it be that that’s what’s written on that fine line I’m walking between ‘screw it all’ and ‘acceptance’?
    That just could be it. This week maybe I’ll give it a try — picture myself in an old black and white cowboy movie in which I ‘accept’ the reality that I’m out of ammunition, murmur ‘screw it all’ to myself, walk out from behind a boulder with my hands held high, drop my six shooter on the ground, and call out, “I surrender.”
    Or better yet, see myself, back in 1967, from the balcony of the old Tower Ballroom, gliding around the hardwood with Linda, in total surrender to the dance.
    J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net

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