There Are No Mistakes: Becoming Comfortable with Life As It Is, Not As It “Should” Be – Eleanor Wiley
“This is an invitation to you—to trust yourself and your way of walking through the world, to notice your discomfort and shift to comfort. It is an invitation to acceptance.” – From the book

For many years, Eleanor Wiley appeared to be comfortable with the life as it is. However, she worked hard to make it look like she had it all together, often covering up mistakes, making up answers when she didn’t know them, and struggling with the question “Am I doing the right thing?”

At the age of 54, she recognized that she was an alcoholic and discovered Alcoholics Anonymous. AA and her version of the Serenity Prayer forced Ms. Wiley to confront her choices and the truth of her life. In the process, she discovered how to be comfortable with life as it is, instead of making up stories of how her life “ought” to be.

One of the stories that she had to confront involved the death of her 3-year-old daughter who died unexpectedly one night from an asthma attack. Through the power of owning her story—and then telling it to others—she entered a place of accepting life as it is.

In the book There Are No Mistakes, the author explains that there are no mistakes in life—only choices—and that beautiful, live-giving gifts can come from what we deem as “mistakes”.

AA helped the author realize how the tyranny of “shoulds” held her hostage and helped her release these imagined expectations.  Through her subsequent travels as a spiritual teacher and maker of prayer beads, she soon realized that those who are comfortable with life had eleven attributes in common. Filled with candid personal anecdotes and poignant stories from others, this book intends to help readers cultivate those attributes:

• Know where you came from
• Know your story
• Accept yourself
• Own your pain, hurt, and vulnerability
• Laugh at yourself
• Find community
• Take care of yourself
• Give yourself permission to change your mind
• Be willing to fall apart and put yourself back together again
• Create a tool box
• Go with the flow

Ms. Wiley also addresses the mistaken notion that acceptance is another way of saying “I give up”, noting that surrender takes great courage and is quite different from “giving up”. In fact, discomfort and suffering accompany the refusal to accept what is. By accepting life as it is—and making peace with change, the only constant in life—we become comfortable, peaceful, and content. These feelings are connected to spirit, and have nothing to do with soundness of mind and body, nor any particular physical state. On this subject, she writes:

“The plain truth is, Yes, I am aging, and saying it out loud helps me to accept it. If I can’t accept the fact of my aging and be prepared for it, I’ll just be miserable as my body continues to undergo change. I don’t want to be a miserable old person, and I don’t want people to be afraid of my age. I want to be present with age and all that age brings with it. That’s what becoming comfortable with life is all about. No matter how many facelifts and dye jobs we have, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re getting older. In fact, the way I see it, all these efforts to keep ourselves ‘looking young’ often mask not just the truth but our own discomfort with the truth.”

There Are No Mistakes also includes practical exercises for practicing each of the beneficial attributes, helping individuals become comfortable with life as it is with grace and ease. Filled with common sense advice borne from hardship, this book shows readers how to recognize their own limits, ask for help when necessary, find a place to “nest” with others, work with our own unique “starter kits”, and much more. One of my favorite passages from this book deals with balance:

“I am sure you have watched people destroy their knees because, in the name of cardio fitness, they ignored pain that came from running on hard surfaces in the wrong shoes, or from forcing their legs into the Lotus position for meditation in the name of spirituality. It’s so easy to get caught up in striving for a goal and forgetting that we are whole people, with bodies, minds, and spirits that need to be cared for equally.”

You can visit Ms. Wiley’s website at Her unique prayer beads have been worn by Ram Dass, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and others.

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