First, Self-Accepting


forest in France — photo by Luca Montanari


Go for long walks.
Indulge in hot baths.
Question your assumptions,
Be kind to yourself,
Live for the moment,
Loosen up, scream,
Curse the world,
Count your blessings,
Just let go. Just be.

— Carol Shields


For more than eight years now this blog has chronicled my discovery of, and attempts to articulate, how the world really works, and how we might find ways to live better. It’s mainly been written as a public diary of my personal journey of learning and self-discovery, and my search for what I’m meant to do, and how I’m meant to be of use to the world.

When I retired from paid work a year ago, I thought I knew what I would do with my time. I was wrong. Instead of giving back to the world, and working on the projects (like stopping the Alberta Tar Sands, and ending factory farming) I had intended to work on, I have spent most of the past year doing nothing, and wondering why. It is likely a combination of exhaustion, anxiety, inability to handle the sudden freedom, and bewilderment at having too many choices, and not enough.

So for the past six months I’ve been trying to follow a set of principles of personal awareness and behaviour. My hope is that, if I can learn to be truly myself, in the moment, aware and relaxed, I will best be able to see what is, and hence know what I should do, both in the moment, every moment, and intentionally over the longer term.

Those principles are:

  • [In relationship to self]: To self-accept and self-manage, and let go of stories. I have been trying to understand myself better, and not try to change or “improve” myself. I now accept that I am most “myself” in warm, beautiful places, and when I am in love. I accept that I handle stress badly, and that I cannot hope to avoid stress in my life, so I need to be aware of it, and of whatever I’m feeling and thinking, and assess and cope with it appropriately. And I have been working to let go of the stories I’ve come to believe about Gaia’s dying, about (what I perceive as) people’s cruel and stupid behaviours and beliefs and unreasonable expectations, about what I imagine will happen if my worst fears are realized, and about my own perceived “failings”.
  • [In relationship to others]: To be generous and appreciative. I have been trying to help others, to give, to share, to be open, to see the best in people and situations, to be thankful, and to help radically imagine and generate new things and ideas and possibilities.
  • [In relationship to Earth]: To live naturally and presently. I have been trying to reconnect with my senses, my emotions, and with all-life-on-Earth, to trust my instincts, to value my time and enjoy its passage, to live sufficiently and sustainably and resiliently and not fearfully, and to learn to be more present in the moment.

I am told I have been modestly successful in doing these things recently, largely, I suspect, because they don’t require me to be anything other than who I am or do anything I am not inclined to do anyway.

Yet I have a long way to go. I’m not a patient person. I keep making the same mistakes, of unawareness and insensitivity, of inarticulateness, of inattention, of inappropriate reaction, of mismanagement of my time. I’m behind in my blogging and in my project work, and haven’t allowed enough time for reflection and creative writing. I have tried and pretended to be somebody else for so long it’s infuriatingly difficult to just be myself, to just be. I can’t “just be” until I have a good sense of who I really am, under all the “not-me” gunk that has become, over the years, attached to me.

So now I’m forgiving myself. I’m doing the best that I can. The work of saving the world, or my tiny portion of it at least, will inevitably go better when I’m present and ready for it, and when I know at least a bit better what “it” is.

What might “it” be? Damned if I know. I’ve decided to let go of presupposing to know what I’m intended to do to be of use to the world. I have some thoughts, but my sense is that if these things were really my intended purpose I would already be pursuing them, relentlessly. Here are a few things that might be my intended purpose, and why they might not:

  • Writing a collection of poetry and songs, or a film. But isn’t this just a self-indulgence? What are the chances my work will be good enough, and sufficiently recognized as such, to make a real difference?
  • Developing a series of games that are collaborative instead of competitive, consensual instead of violent, clever instead of derivative, experiential and immersive instead of pedagogical, that could improve how we learn about ecological, social and other complex systems. Such games could allow us to learn more powerfully and enjoyably about transition, about effective facilitation, about living in community, or even about ourselves (I’ll be writing soon about a project I’m working on to create a metaphoric “letting go” experience in Second Life.) Such games might even enable us to shift our perception in important ways that traditional learning tools (courses, books) can’t do. Imagine for example if we could, by entering into a simulated world that has no “clock time” but operates in the “Now time” of wild creatures, completely change our sense of time and free ourselves from its control over our lives, and its constraints? All interesting ideas, but would our dumbed-down, incurious, complexity-loathing culture ever accept such an innovation? And can we really be radical and bold enough in what we imagine to deliver on such a promise anyway?

I believe that my ability to write and to imagine possibilities are my gifts to the world, the things I do uniquely well. Perhaps my way of being of use to the world involves applying both gifts in ways that no one has ever done quite the same way before. Perhaps instead of writing words I’m meant to write musical notes, or images, or scripts of one sort or another, or some new construct for communicating meaning and for imagining that hasn’t even been invented yet.

I believe the key to resilience in the coming decades will be our ability, in the moment, to imagine ways around the crises we cannot prevent, predict or plan for. Maybe I can help with that.

I am hopeful enough these days to believe I could yet become the existential creature I once aspired to be: just “the space through which stuff passes, touching the right stuff in just the right way as it passes through.”

But I think I must start with the work of self-knowledge and self-acceptance, generosity and appreciation and imagination, living naturally and presently. That’s the road I am, at last, falteringly, taking.


PS: Last month my friend Joe Bageant died. I had the privilege of visiting Joe in his tiny writing studio in Hopkins Village, Belize. Joe taught me the importance of understanding why things (and people) are the way they are, before we begin any work to try to change them. And he taught me that community is born of necessity, so, while we might imagine it, we cannot hope to build a sustainable community-based society until the fall of our globalized industrial society is well-advanced. Damn. We will miss you, Joe.

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14 Responses to First, Self-Accepting

  1. Artikel yang informative gan. Kl blh tau, di mana juragan mendapatkan tema themenya? Themenya sangat bagus, sepertinya itu yang dirancang secara profesional,thanks.

  2. Lane says:

    Hi Dave,

    I love your blog. I think it is the only one I read deeply. Most others I skim. Your struggles feel so familiar to me. I sold my business two years ago and have had an extremely difficult time manifesting what I thought was my destiny. I agree we must, absolutely, treat ourselves gently and compassionately.

    Sincerely, Lane

  3. Gena says:

    Yes. Doing the best we can with what we have to work with; ourselves. Speaking truth to power is never a waste of time or a self-indulgence if you come from an authentic place.

    Stories, poems and videos can be a means to resonate with long distance hearts in need. When you are ready.

    No rush.

  4. Salam kenal juragan Dave Pollard , Begitu banyak untuk memberikan setiap orang kesempatan yang sangat mempesona untuk membaca artikel dan posting posting dari blog ini, Terima kasih. Posting posting anda sangat menarik, saya menyempatkan waktu untuk mengunjungi situs web Anda tidak kurang dari 3 kali per minggu untuk melihat rahasia rahasia terbaru Anda. Dan tentu saja, aku selalu terkejut dengan pikiran yang luar biasa Anda berikan.

  5. Susan Hales says:

    Dave, the best words I can hope to hear from you are that you are hopeful. That is all we have time for anyway.

  6. Jan says:

    Dropped my ‘life’ in the corporate world a year ago after carefully engineering through the opportunity that was presented to just escape it all. So here I am, rather worried that I have made no real progress towards a new, happy life. Along comes Dave and shares his feelings and I see some hope again. Indeed, to rid yourself of the struggles and the emotions of an intense corporate life and its trimmings is not easy, although it may be simple enough to understand on the face of it.
    Thanks Dave, just keep at it and keep sharing. It is appreciated greatly.

  7. Dave,
    This is the best ‘news’ I’ve heard in a long, long while.

    I look forward to the products of your being ‘fallow’; even if they do not materialize I am moved gently forward by knowing that you are resting out there in the world somewhere, resting, dreaming and waiting for that urge–the one that makes the seed sprout almost overnight after years of dormancy and seed-sleep.

    You give me permission to be dormant and gestative my self.

    I miss Joe’s writing already–and I know that he’s right about community (necessity being the mother of invention, so to speak). So we dream.

    Thank you.

  8. Grant says:

    Thanks for this. I know you took a journey down here to Australia and journeys are a time for reflection and discovery for me. Recently I fell through the floor of my thinking when my ego generated behavior got me into quite a bit of trouble. All of a sudden I saw how judging, resentment, sense of right, and general discernment is all preferential judging mind stuff. Then came questions like ‘how do I decide?’, ‘what is it to be a man without power and control?’ and ‘who and what am I now?’. I ended up with just being. Of course my mind then asks for a position to react from. In a sense just being I suppose is how I am before all the thinking and judging starts. Its a bit uneasy, like everything is backward. But its pretty calm and peaceful. I am still unsure how to decide anything other than try to feel and infer a gut response. My friend told me a ‘should’ in a rationalization is the mind and its not coming from the heart. That a decision that is from the heart will not cause any reaction in the body. I hope that helps.

  9. Rita says:

    Sounds good. I also “retired” last year and wondered why I do so little. I think I am resting. Maybe you need a long rest, too. Instead of working to change the world, now I tend the patch of ground I live on. It is enough to look after the beings here. Anyone who is aware of what is going on must realize that it is traumatic. We are in a war zone. I really appreciate the others who write about what they do on their own plot of ground that counteracts the damage of industrialism. Maybe what you are currently doing is not only enough, it is preferable. Maybe it is your version of non-growth. Don’t “should” all over yourself. It seems that you are on a path with heart.

  10. Pingback: Who are you? | reflections on the transition

  11. Theresa says:

    Pollard’s Law was one of the best things I’ve read in these pages. I often refer to it to explain my own actions or inactions. It always seems to work for me.

  12. Brian says:

    name one school greater than society
    or test greater than anxiety.
    suggest the criterion
    of love for a centurion
    or how to jostle the etherious
    that strengthens the serious
    reducing the eeriness
    hiding in our weariness.

    suggest how to clear steaminess
    in the silk clouds of dreaminess
    or how to find the esteemable
    in the scrap and redeemable
    that hides our omniety
    in drapes of plebiety.

    name one journey greater than heart
    or one diplomacy greater than art.
    suggest reminding the peerless
    to remember the cheerless
    or to balance the peaceable
    with the hungry unceasable
    that make so many anesthesian
    in our land so artesian.

    name motives more worthy
    or struggles more earthy.

  13. Arch says:

    Hi, Dave…..I still very much enjoy your writings and refer others to your blog as a source of well thought out seeking….May I suggest an update to your “About the Author” section as something I would enjoy reading….Thanks, Arch

  14. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of personal responses I’ve received to this post. I appreciate hearing your stories, and your counsel.

Comments are closed.