Category Archives: acceptance

P is for Pain. Or maybe Perfect, What’s Next. Or both. Yes, both.

I would guess that a fair few people will choose “pain” for their A to Z blog challenge p word. I’m using it because it’s one of those times when the phrase “Perfect, What’s Next.” is just the perfect thing to say.

As I write about acceptance this month, I have noticed that often the times I am being asked to be accepting of something is when I experience some sort of pain. The pain that comes from tons of different challenges opportunities.

If, at the point of pain, I accept the situation as being perfect, and simply move on toward what’s next, I free my creativity to kick into gear.

I can’t find an important paper? “Perfect, what’s next” allows me to expend little to no energy fussing about fact of the lostness of the paper, and instead focus on what I’m going to do about it.

I’m running late for an appointment? “Perfect, what’s next” keeps me in the present, remembering to drive safely, and figure out instead what to do about being late. Call someone? Relax? Cry? A and B, but not C?

Someone misunderstands me? “Perfect, what’s next?” allows me to accept the fact of being misunderstood and then think creatively about how to try again to communicate what I am saying.

It’s a simple, but pretty brilliant phrase that I find to be quite the powerful little pattern interrupt. My favorite iteration of it in the movies was Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) in “Say Anything.” His philosophy: Acknowledge, and move on. (I looked for a clip on YouTube, but one was not readily apparent. To that, I say “Perfect, What’s Next?”) Well, you could just watch the film.

Ownership

What I first learned was that I was a steward. A steward of the money God had entrusted to me, a steward of the things and time and body that all belonged to God.

The concept was illustrated by the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. I’m so sorry that anyone would ever have to grow up being taught the things I was taught in the churches I was in as a young child. If you don’t know the parable, some guys were entrusted with some things and they were supposed to invest them. Two of the guys did. One did not, and he was cast into outer darkness by a very angry master (representing God, presumably). You may have a different story about that parable. All I can do is tell you what I learned as a child.

So, yeah, I was taught that I was simply a steward, that everything I had and was belonged to God, not to me. Eventually, that story no longer worked for me.

I still believe I am a steward of the earth, in the sense that all of us are. We do not own the earth. It is something to be respected and cared for. The difference in how I see things now is that I get to take responsibility for my own decisions and reactions, the story I tell and my choices. I own them by taking responsibility for them.

I accept this responsibility. As a matter of fact, I embrace it. I am able to see myself as able to find solutions, ask good questions, explore different possibilities, apply creative thinking, and learn from it all without thinking that there’s some type of puppet master up there pulling strings to “test” me or “teach” me things. Life gives me lots and lots of opportunities to learn. I call it the School of Life. Life is my teacher and I get many lessons presented to me to either learn, or try again to learn.

When Kepler (age 9, born with Down syndrome) was born, we heard a lot of “God talk.” “God only gives special children to special parents.” “God will never take you somewhere where he cannot sustain you.” “God has a plan for you by giving you this child at this time in your life.” What finally ended up making sense to me is that Kepler is a gift, just as our other four children are a gift, but his particular makeup has taught me more than I would have ever expected.

Some might want to attribute those lessons to God. I know that it’s been through a lot of hard work and surrendering to what is. I simply choose to own my choices, decisions, reactions, and growth.

N is for NOT Taken Down by Depression (BONUS POST!)

****ing depression.

It nags at me. Gnaws at me. Nips at my heels. It’s a rock in my shoe. Fingernails on the chalkboard of my soul. An Excedrin-sized headache. Depression is a backpack full of rocks that I do not wish to wear.

My posts this month are about acceptance. So I suppose there is something to be said for being accepting of the lessons I have the opportunity to learn through dealing with depression. But, depression is not my friend, and I hesitate to allow it to have more than the slightest attention as the thoughts that go along with depression pull me down, down, down.

Until I have a solution to the challenge of depression, I intend to stand against allowing it to overtake me more than it already does for short, although always way too long, periods of time.

Considering my posts so far this month, I acknowledge and accept that I am probably all wrong, mostly mistaken and somewhat short-sighted when it comes to how I think about depression. Which is to say, there are no doubt new and improved ways to think about this experience. I acknowledge and accept that the compassion I have developed as a result of having children is the exact kind of compassion I want to extend toward myself always, especially when depression is getting me down.

In my post The Discipline of Determination, I am reminded that it is not the fact of having depression and working on it, but being aware of what the experience is doing to me, to my character. I suspect the piece of Enlightenment that is relevant here is to begin to intentionally listen to my own intuition about depression and my experience of it. For Feast or Famine, I daresay it’s time to embrace both the ups and downs of depression and allow the natural ebb and flow to be part of the experience of having it, and hopefully overcoming it.

Along the same lines as I wrote in Giving Advice, it’s time to get quiet and look inside to see what I might be thinking about being depressed, and allow me to give myself some advice about next steps. In Humanism, I ask the question of what might be possible if I am willing to see the good in others. Is there an application for me regarding depression, I wonder.

Thinking about Randolph Junuh from The Legend of Bagger Vance, how might the burden of depression be part of me stepping into what I am here to do?

As I walked this morning, I noticed an Annie Lennox song running through my brain. Aha, I said, take note and see how this relates to what I am thinking about here. Sometimes it’s a whole lot more important to live with the questions for awhile than to rush toward an answer. At least for now, I accept this part of my life and I look forward to seeing what comes of these juicy musings.

“Dark Road”

It’s a dark road
And a dark way that leads to my house
And the word says
You’re never gonna find me there oh no
I’ve got an open door
It didn’t get there by itself
It didn’t get there by itself

There’s a feelin
But you’re not feelin’ it at all
There’s a meaning
But you’re not listening any more
I look at that open road
I’m gonna walk there by myself

And if you catch me
I might try to run away
You know I can’t be here too long
And if you let me
I might try to make you stay
Seems you never realise a good thing
Till it’s gone..
Maybe im still searchin
But I dont know what it means
All the fires of destruction are still
Burnin’ in my dreams
There’s no water that can wash away
This longin’ to come clean
Hey yea yea….

I cant find the joy within my soul
It’s just sadness takin hold
I wanna come in from the cold
And make myself renewed again
It takes strength to live this way
The same old madness every day
I wanna kick these blues away
I wanna learn to live again…

It’s a dark road
And a dark way that leads to my house
And the word says
You’re never gonna find me there oh no
I’ve got an open door
It didn’t get there by itself
It didn’t get there by itself

N is for Narrative – The Stories that we Tell

Stories speak to me.

When I watched Before Midnight (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) with Greg last spring, I knew exactly what they meant about how relationships change with the addition of children, aging, and the general difficulties of life.

When I watched The Big Chill years ago, I knew exactly what they meant by each of us needing and finding hope in something.

When I read David Foster Wallace, I am touched in the deepest part of me by his descriptions of depression, watching Roger Federer, being with people, the pain and banality of the extremes of rote work.

Each of us tells a story about our lives, carrying this unwritten autobiography in our hearts and mind, often unaware of the overarching themes we are living out.

Author Jim Loehr has written a book called, The Power of Story: Change Your Story, Change Your Destiny. This book is on my to-read list, but the title is enough for this post, as it explains my beliefs about the story we tell ourselves about our lives.

What I have come to accept about my story is that I get to tell it however I would like to tell it. Take for instance the fact of the story that I broke my leg when I was two years old. That is indisputable, although you would be hard-pressed to find any hospital records from that long-ago time. I was on the neighbor’s slide, climbing up and sliding down again and again. That slide was missing a step, so you had to step up really big to the next step. When my father came home from work and came around the side of the house to the backyard where we all were, I saw him and was so excited he was home. I forgot at that moment that I needed to step up really big, so I stepped into thin air, fell, and ended up with a broken bone.

So far, those are all facts. But it’s what I tell about that story that has such an important impact on my understanding of who I am. What if I conclude that I am clumsy or dumb because I missed that step? What if I conclude that my father intentionally distracted me? What if my story is that I loved my father so much that I was beside myself with joy when he got home? What if I decide that I should never have been on that slide anyway at such a young age?

Add those little interpretive details to story after story after story and eventually we have a big repository of stories that confirm our beliefs about ourselves.

I can’t possibly overemphasize how much there is that we do not know. And because we do not know, we make decisions based on trust. I remember, like it was yesterday, the sight of my dad appearing in the back yard at the end of his work day, and I can remember my excitement at seeing him! Dad was home! My fun dad was home and I knew I’d be laughing and giggling and playing with him that evening.

For awhile in my life, my story was that it’s dangerous to be excited to see someone! (Children are really great at perceiving, but really not great at interpreting.) Little me knew I had experienced some intense pain almost instantly after some intense joy, and concluded that loving someone means I’m going to get hurt really badly.

How has that interpretation influenced me over the course of my life? And how does a new interpretation of that experience change how I see myself and my experience of life in the world?

What about you? What stories are you telling about your life that you would like to revise?

 

 

 

M is for Maintenance

 

Maintenance

 

My A to Z blog post theme this year is Acceptance. I am exploring topics which I have come to accept over the course of my life. Thus far, I have written about being wrong, compassion and children, determination, enlightenment, feast or famine, giving advice, humanism, intuition, karma, and literal thinking.

I’ve just finished reading a book called Romancing Opiates, by Theodore Dalrymple. In part, his book is about problems of addiction that arise because

“… [users] do not have actions toward which they might actually work in a constructive fashion, but daydreams, in which everything is solved at once in a magical way, daydreams from which the emergence into reality is always painful.”

The vast majority of humans have mundane tasks of a maintenance nature, toward which we “might actually work in a constructive fashion.” Think of laundry, paperwork, parenting, cleaning, vehicles, taxes. We wash and dry and fold the same clothes, week in and week out. Some of us probably have servants to do the laundry for us, but I do not.

I spent a fair bit of time telling the story that I’m just not good at maintenance, to explain why the clothes tend to wait a skosh longer than they otherwise might to get washed, dried, folded, and put away.

Tony Robbins taught me that there are six basic human needs:

The Six Human Needs

1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure

2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli

3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed

4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something

5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding

6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others

For a long time, I overemphasized my need for variety and allowed myself to abandon tasks and projects that required a great deal of maintenance. Finally, I accepted that taking care of myself and my things in a routine, sometimes mundane, manner is part of life, and can be just as satisfying as anything else, depending on my attitude. As a matter of fact, accepting and even embracing maintenance leads to quiet satisfaction in a job well done. 

The Buddha Doodles illustration at the top is by the wonderful artist Molly Hahn. Molly creates a beautiful, life-affirming gift every day with her doodles.  

Literal Thinking and Lateral Thinking

Early in April, I posted a poem about how I welcome being wrong and mistaken after starting out thinking I had to be and always was right.

I don’t know if it’s just a brain-wiring thing or a temperament or a habit, but I tend to think VERY literally, taking things at face value. I have to work pretty hard to remember that taking things too literally is one of the ways I end up misunderstanding someone.

Just as I have realized my strong tendency toward literal thinking, I have also begun to learn to practice lateral thinking. Wikipedia tells me . . .

Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic.

Seems like Albert Einstein was onto this idea way before Mr. Edward deBono coined the term lateral thinking, when he said, ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Just today, I had a disappointing experience of literal thinking going awry. Someone I love is headed to jail tomorrow for a five-day stay. I had googled “how to prepare for jail.” One site said inmates are not permitted to take books into the jail, as they can be a place to hide drugs, but that books can be shipped from Amazon. With that, I spent quite a bit of time looking for books that he might like, and then I reserved like 87 books at the library, toted them home, and he went through them and chose five that I was going to buy and ship to the jail. Once I had them in my Amazon cart, I decided to double check the website for the rules and regs. Well. This particular jail does not allow books to be sent to inmates.

Coming to accept my natural way of thinking as being quite literal has allowed me to move beyond it into new methods of solving problems, asking questions, finding solutions, and communicating. That is, as long as I catch the fact of the literal thinking in time! I don’t criticize myself anymore for this; I just understand it’s the way my brain works. And if there’s one thing I’m all about, it’s being creative in my life.

Are you more of a literal thinker or a lateral thinker? Or something else?

J is for Junuh

I’ve been a fan of Steven Pressfield (The War of Art) for quite awhile, but only recently learned that he had based his book The Legend of Bagger Vance on the Hindu text The Bhagavad Vita. When I originally saw the movie, I interpreted Bagger’s character to be representative of the Holy Spirit.  However you interpret the character, he’s full of wisdom and I love this scene where Junuh accepts his fear and uncertainty about how to move past the horrors he experienced in the war.
Each of us carries around burdens, no matter how charmed our life has been. This clip from the film is a powerful representation of what happens when we accept that we each are here for a unique purpose and we step into that purpose. Now is the time.
Bagger Vance: What I’m talkin about is a game… A game that can’t be won only played…
Rannulph Junuh: You don’t understand…
Bagger Vance: I don’t need to understand… Ain’t a soul on this entire earth ain’t got a burden to carry he don’t understand, you ain’t alone in that… But you been carryin’ this one long enough… Time to go on… lay it down…
Rannulph Junuh: I don’t know how…
Bagger Vance: You got a choice… You can stop… Or you can start…
Bagger Vance: Walkin…
Bagger Vance: Right back to wehre you always been… and then stand there… Still… real still… And remember…
Rannulph Junuh: It’s too long ago…
Bagger Vance: Oh no sir it was just a moment ago… Time for you to come on out the shadows Junuh… Time for you to choose…
Rannulph Junuh: I can’t…
Bagger Vance: Yes you can… but you ain’t alone… I”m right here with ya… I’ve been here all along… Now play the game… Your game… The one that only you was meant to play… Then one that was given to you when you come into this world… You ready?… Stike that ball Junuh don’t hold nothin back give it everything… Now’s the time… Let yourself remember… Remember YOUR swing… That’s right Junuh, settle yourself… Let’s go… Now is the time, Junuh…

Giving Advice

How do I?

I find myself in the position this morning of not knowing where to begin on a project, and the project today is cleaning my house. I’ve never really had “cleaning days” or any systemic cleaning practices that have become second nature. The cleaning I do is more of the “lick and a promise” sort. I thought about asking others who are great housecleaners where I should begin, but I decided before I do that, I would write a blog post to a certain someone who wants to know how to clean their home.

Should I use the internet? 

The internet is filled to the brim with “how-to” websites. The search words “how to clean your home” yield 268,000,000 results. So, there’s no shortage out there of advice. The best advice I can possibly get, however, comes from my inner wise self. No one else has my home’s layout, my particular clutter challenges, my preferences, my tools, my temperament. Looking to my inner wise self will give me a fantastic place to start. Maybe I’ll be left with a question or two that I genuinely don’t know the answer to. Then I can find out the answer to that specific question.

In the meantime, I have actually noticed quite often that when I give advice to others (either solicited or unsolicited), it is almost always advice to applies to one or more situations in my own life as well. Like the saying, we do not see the world as it is, we see the world as we are. Same thing with advice: we give advice that we believe will be helpful to another, but we can’t help it being helpful to ourselves as well.

What do I accept about giving advice?

The acceptance piece of giving advice is that I’m really the best person to give myself advice. I think this becomes more true the healthier we are, but I believe that we each have the best solutions within us. Sometimes we just need a good coach to help us access them.

Try it. Think of something you feel stuck about. Look inside and ask your inner wise self how you might proceed. Trust yourself. It’s a process of learning to listen to ourselves, to act on our gut instinct, and to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” We must also apply critical thinking to this process. Thoughts come and go, and they’re not all from our inner wisdom!

Can I see an example?

Here is my letter to my certain someone about the issue facing her today:

Dear Friend,

You’ve gotten to the place where it’s time to clean and you don’t know where to begin? Well, anywhere you start is a fine place, since it means you are actually taking the first step. However, there are a few cleaning principles that may come in handy as you go about your work.

Do clean from top to bottom. There is a reason why that is an actual phrase. As you clean the top, there are items and detritus that waft downward, so you work your way down so as to keep clean the part you have already done.

As you look at the room you are cleaning, think of it in layers. The first layer is the items that do not belong in that room, and the items that are misplaced. Get your laundry baskets and identify them with kitchen, daughter’s room, basement and son’s room. As you come across things that go in those places, put them into the correct basket. After you finish this step, empty the baskets by putting the items in their proper places.

Set the Time Timer for 15 minutes. Allow yourself to clean for just 15 minutes, but feel free to continue on for another 15 and another, as long as you want. Just get started.

Do a first layer sweep of the room first thing. Have a trash bag attached to your apron so you can throw away trash right away. Have a second trash bag where you can put recyclables.

Express gratitude for each item you pick up or clean. You are tremendously blessed in so many ways. Allow your cleaning to be a reflection of that truth.

Clean your rooms in a counter-clockwise manner by starting with your living room, then master bedroom, bathroom, hall, kepler’s room, office, kitchen, family room.

Second layer of the process is cleaning flat surfaces. You will want to have along your cleaning supplies and tools for this step. Purple cleaning cloths, Windex multi-surface spray, Miracle 2 spray, bucket of soapy water, baking soda dispenser as well as barkeeper’s friend, drying cloths, furniture oil and cloth, clorox wipes.

Flat surfaces include windowsills, tops of the lower windows, windows, tables, mirrors, hearth and mantel, the piano, countertops, tub, wooden furniture, etc. These will be evident. Having already done the first layer of putting away all the things that do not belong, this layer will go quickly.

Third layer is to clean the floors. Use the rainbow vacuum to vacuum the rooms, again in compass order, and add the basement steps in at the end. After vacuuming and putting the vacuum away and emptying the water basin, clean the ceramic floor in the bathroom and the wood floor in the kitchen.

Completing these three layers will give you a completely different feel in your home. When you think of your mother’s home, which is the standard you tend to think of, you will remember that not only is her home actually clean, but it also is beautiful. Allow yourself to focus on the cleanliness portion right now, and once it is clean and you are breathing in the freshness and enjoyment of that, you can look at how you would like to add, subtract or multiply to bring more beauty into your own home.

Next time we’ll look at the layers and steps for cleaning the basement storage, bathroom, and living areas.

Love,
Siouxsie

Feast or Famine

Feasting

I’ve never been in a famine. But I’ve been to plenty of feasts. I come from a large extended family, and for many years there were 60 or so of us who gathered in my grandmother’s large home at Thanksgiving. Ah, those were the days. Eventually, all the cousins started having their own children and then grandchildren, and the different branches of the family divided the gatherings into smaller groups. Many of the people who gathered in those rooms are no longer alive, but the memories will never fade.

Feast or Fast

“Feast or famine” is a phrase that actually started out as “feast or fast.” Those two phrases strike me as remarkably different. “Feast or fast” sounds like two contrasting actions, where “feast or famine” sounds like two contrasting conditions. With my focus on the concept of acceptance this month, I will be looking at “feast or famine” as two conditions we find ourselves in quite often.

I have alluded to my previous all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking. Therefore, feast or famine to me meant either-or. Either I have more than I need, or I don’t have enough. Either I have too much to do, or I don’t have anything to do. That has to do with my perception of what a famine actually is. Again with the b/w thinking, I always think of a famine as a time where there is no, not any, none at all, food. But a famine actually happens in a drought, or when a crop fails, and causes a scarcity of food.

What does it mean?

So, how does acceptance work with this phrase, feast or famine?

I know I prefer to have more than enough, than not enough. Isn’t it interesting to consider, though, when I have more than enough of something, I often have less than enough of something else?

Too much time on my hands? Not enough social interactions with people.
Too many social engagements on my calendar? Not enough downtime.
Too much food to eat? Not enough ability to utilize the food as fuel.

Perception and Acceptance

Therefore, the feast and the famine are often simply my perception. There are people in the world who clearly are dealing with famine of the food kind, and it’s not their perception. For the rest of us, it’s rare that we utter feast or famine in regard to food.

I can imagine a mindset where I welcome the feasts as well as the famines, recognizing that neither of them can possibly last forever because of, if I may, the laws of thermodynamics, as applied to physical conditions. A mindset where I lean into the fullness of the feast and the leanness of the famine.

Application

Currently, I’m in a feast of resources, opportunities, books, and inspiration; certainly a type of freedom that many do not have. I’m also in a famine of another type of freedom that many do have. In understanding that feast or famine is a simplified way of saying that we have both feast and famine rolling past us all the time, I accept the areas of feasting and the areas of famine. As soon as I accept them, I can begin to notice if I want any less of the feast, or any more of the famine.

What feasts and famines are present in your life that are asking for acceptance?

Compassion and Children

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Bob and Ina were a middle-aged childless couple living in our small Kentucky town after being missionaries in a land across a sea. They were building a home where they would spend their retirement. On the day we were to go over to ooh and ahh about the place, before we left, Bob grumpily told me to make sure I kept the kids’ grimy hands off their freshly painted walls.

Oh, I was indignant. AS IF. Anxious as I was back then about any signs of imperfection, I spent the entire walk-through tensely replacing curious childlike arms at sides lest they mar the precious walls.

Still striding purposefully forth as a young mum, I’d take walks with a baby strapped in the Bjorn carrier on my front, a toddler in the Tough Traveler backpack on my back, and a slightly larger toddler in the umbrella stroller. With all my energy consumed by carrying the weight of their world on my body, we walked and I taught them everything I could think of, everything we saw.

When my baby number four came along, I shifted from carrying the physical weight to carrying the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual weight. We had sent Valerie to kindergarten that fall because baby was due in late October and even I knew it might be a bit much to homeschool three (ages 5,4,and 3) with a baby on my hip.

Once kindergarten had concluded, I had my vim and vigor back and embarked on the formal process of educating our kids. Thinking that my kids were uniquely unique in their uniqueness and pretty much the top kids ever born on this small blue dot of God’s green earth, we spelled and sang and memorized and walked and drew and added and read our way through the years.

The bombshell of our later-in-life baby who brought Down syndrome into our world threw me for the looped-de-est loop that ever sideswiped a mama bear. And I reeled for years, trying to continue to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Finally, finally, I learned to embrace the whole kit and kaboodle, the mess and inefficiency and snail-like pace of these bright, quick, beautiful, sentient beings.

Last night, as I set out to floss my teeth (take note, dentist person!), my special floss threaders for my lingual bar retainer were not where I had left them. Immediately, I suspected knew that Kepler was responsible for this reorganization, but he was asleep so no asky keppie tilly morning.

Years ago, I would have raged, furious that I couldn’t leave a small item out on the counter and know it would be there next time I needed it. By now, though, I simply put my Kepler thinking cap on, and remembered that he likes to put miscellaneous items down the laundry chute.

I checked. No flosser threaders, but I found two barrettes that had been next to the f.t.’s and grew suspicious. Little Keppie has occasionally flushed a thing or two before.

Throughout, I was calm, open to what lesson I might be having the chance to learn, and accepting the change in plans that is part and parcel of children in our lives. The compassion section of my heart has had room to grow as the controlling section has faded.

Although not everyone gets to or wants to say yes to the chaos of children, ours have been part of my journey to acceptance, which, by the way, I’m still on.

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