Last month, I embarked on a memorable trip to Austria, filled with fishing adventures and cherished moments with friends. The culinary delights transported me back to my days in Germany during the late '80s and early '90s. The trip was nearly perfect, but a major setback awaited me: my luggage was lost on the way to Austria, separating me from my clothes, waders, boots, my beloved Lucky fishing hat, landing net, one of my rods, and my fly tying kit. While some airlines are usually reliable in reuniting travelers with their lost luggage, British Airways let me down completely. As you can imagine, this created immense stress and frustration.
Today, we are going to explore the concept of "acceptance" as a practice in life. Accepting may initially sound like giving up, but it's quite the opposite. In a society that often encourages us to "fight on" and "never give up," we often overlook the peace and power that accepting our circumstances can bring. Accepting doesn't mean quitting; it means acknowledging and maybe surrendering a little to what actually is in front of us. It allows us to transition from struggling to stay afloat to calmly navigating our situation and eventually finding solid ground and even finding strength.
When we accept a situation, we acknowledge our position relative to that moment and stop resisting it. This shift enables us to flow with the current, maintaining a calm disposition that allows us to make informed decisions.
I must emphasize that I had to intentionally practiced acceptance throughout each day as I inquired with the airline about my missing luggage. It is a very intentional action. Even as frustration mounted each evening, I remained polite, calm, and patient when speaking with customer service representatives. Unfortunately each time I was also, in essence, lied to with promises it would arrive "by tomorrow night"
When the fourth night came and I still had no luggage, I made a conscious decision to also accept my growing frustration and anger. I allowed myself to feel these emotions, but because I was in control of my actions, I expressed my anger in a (mostly) controlled manner when speaking to the customer service representative on the phone. It's essential to remember that emotions are part of being human, and it's advisable to opt for a kind and gentle approach first. When that fails, it's acceptable to express anger, but we must also remain in control of that anger. We are the ones in control and not our anger.
I explained that if the airline couldn't do their job, I had every right to express my frustration. As the matter had been presented three times "nicely" without results I was forced to express my feelings much more strongly to be sure I was being heard and not ignored. "Your company has my property and has the job of getting it to me, and your company is failing to do that"
After delivering my frank and semi-controlled feedback laced with some very potent vernaculars, I could tell that he was taken aback. At one point he even asked me to not yell at him. Which I reminded him that this was not about him but the company and that my anger was definitely not for him to take personally but to take action about and as a representative of the company to listen to and act upon. (Fair point I think you can agree.)
At this point he attempted to offer a scripted apology. I stopped him there and I refused to accept it because it was the same canned statement I had heard over and over already. Corporations really need to work on this element of communication. So I then shifted into my role as a communications educator, instructing him on the components of a meaningful apology: heartfelt emotion followed by a sincere empathy statement with specific emotions named. After some effort, he managed to provide a more heartfelt apology, and I could sense, like many of the students I train, that he was beginning to understand the importance of genuine empathy in an apology.
I did finally accept his apology. I also maintained control of the conversation. I encouraged him to approach every customer as if he knew them personally, to consider the nature of his job, which was not merely to placate customers but to help them solve their problems. I gave him permission to show actual empathy and compassion, as that's what customers expected and need. In the end, I asked him to imagine how I felt and why.
While the airline tried once more to locate my bags, they could only trace them to Heathrow, London, instead of Munich as promised. It was more than halfway through my trip so I requested that once found they just be shipped back to my home. They would arrive two days after I returned.
Choosing acceptance is not a sign of weakness. We can accept our situation while acknowledging our emotions. We don't have to suppress or immediately express our feelings; instead, we can channel them in a controlled, purposeful manner, devoid of frenzy or violence.
Now, turning to the subject of tenkara and this application of acceptance, it's worth considering how acceptance can be a valuable practice in angling. Fishing situations can sometimes feel like they're slipping out of our control, whether we're missing hook sets, not getting rises at all, getting tangled in trees, or snagged on underwater obstacles. In these moments, we can accept them temporarily, stepping back to "stop fighting" and regain our focus. Once we've centered ourselves, we can address the situation with clarity and purpose.
Acceptance isn't exclusive to negative experiences; we can also accept moments of joy. When everything is going well in our fishing endeavors, we can get caught up in the excitement. However, it's equally important to pause, accept, and savor these moments deeply. Take the time to appreciate each fish, the experience, and the emotions that accompany our successful angling days.
So, I encourage you to practice acceptance in both the good and challenging moments of life and fishing. It's a powerful tool that can help you navigate through life's uncertainties and make the most of every experience.
TENKARA AS PRACTICE
In this space I will continue to share my own musings, experiences and insights to tenkara as a practice that can help us live our best lives. Topics will range from minimalism, meditation and finding peace and lessons through tenkara.