Acceptance: A Tough Lesson to Learn

  • I absolutely hate the concept of “good enough.”

    Growing up, I learned several things: take care and pride in the things that you do, pay attention to details, follow established or recommended procedures, but be creative and flexible enough to find more efficient and effective ways of accomplishing tasks. In other words, don’t expect things to just happen on their own and be willing to improve upon past efforts.

    Each of us have responsibilities and must take an active role in the world around us. No matter what that role is, it’s nice when everybody is able to do their best and helps to make things work well together. But sometimes, aiming for “your best” can lead to a distraction called perfectionism.

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    I have to admit that I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, in an all or nothing sort of way. It’s always been difficult for me to accept something as being satisfactory, good enough, or almost right. And when I do make a conscious decision to simply do what needs to be done, and no more, I find it challenging when others around me may want to go back to the planning stages and do the work over again. Argh, once I’ve let something go, physically and emotionally, I don’t want to revisit it.

    But one thing which I’ve had a really hard time learning to accept is the concept of good enough. When living with chronic disease, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of spending tons of energy perfecting every little detail. Sometimes you just have to simply ensure that things are okay, safe, or clean.

    In my previous life, when I used to live alone, I was entirely responsible for everything that happened at home. If the floor needed to be vacuumed, I did it. I even moved light furniture so that I could run the vacuum wand along the floorboards to remove the cat-fur dust bunnies before they grew to adulthood. A bit of prevention helped to keep things from getting out of control.

    If the dishes needed to be washed, I did them by hand and scrubbed every metal surface till it shined. If the cat became unsatisfied with the condition of his litter box, he was not shy about letting me know by doing his business on the floor of the bathroom. In that case, I needed to focus more on the prevention stage. Although I was swamped with graduate classes, working two library jobs, and performing in at least four ensembles, I was able to stay on top of routine household chores most of the time.

    Now that there are three of us in the house, in addition to our three loving fur babies, and I do not need to do everything all on my own, it seems that nothing is quite as clean as it used to be. Items are often not where I left them and there’s always a pile of dishes to be cleaned.

    Face it, I no longer live alone, nor do I have complete control over my surroundings which I’ve come to accept. But that’s not all, I also don’t live alone in more ways than one. My roommates now include multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

    These roommates, MS and RA, are messy slobs. They don’t do their own laundry, nor do they sleep when I’m tired or get out of the way when I’m busy working. But these roommates are doing their darndest to teach me patience, to teach me how to accept “good enough” when it really is enough, and to learn how to appreciate imperfections. It makes me appreciate a freshly washed countertop, or a pile of clean laundry which I didn’t have to fold myself, all the more.


  • What types of things have you learned, or are learning, to accept after living with chronic illness for any period of time? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

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    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: October 13, 2014