Saturday, January 13, 2018

Radically Accepting Life As It Is

Radical acceptance means looking at yourself and the situation and seeing it as it is, accepting it completely and without judgement.

Happy Anniversary Sweetheart
My husband and I recently hit the 20 years of marriage mark. It has never been our practice to make a big deal of celebrating and to be honest, we have each taken a turn at forgetting about it. But because this was a ‘milestone’ anniversary, we contemplated doing something special. A brain storming session led us to decide on a weekend in NYC. We’d take the train, stay in Times Square, maybe see a show, have a nice dinner, you know the works.

As our departure day approached, the East Coast was bracing it’s self for a serious winter storm with high winds and bone chilling temps. Thoughts of canceling our plans entered our heads and were dismissed just as quickly. We knew weather could be a factor but we had visited the Big Apple in the throes of winter before, we felt confident we could handle ourselves.

When It’s Snowing, Let It Snow
Thursday morning, we watched the snow pile up and felt the temperature drop. The wind was fierce! Tension mounted as we played a game of ‘should we go or shouldn’t we?’ We worked on clearing the driveway but the wind blew back most of the snow we had removed. Still, my husband was able drive me to and from a doctor’s appointment without incident (information we used to solidify the case for keeping our plans.)

Later in the day, reality kicked in when we ventured out for a last minute errand. It had gotten so cold, the wind was still whipping, and our tires were spinning as we attempted to climb our hill of a drive way. Canceling was back on the table.

Cue Self-Destruction
We were looking forward to the time away but our excitement and anticipation had become tainted by everything that could go wrong. What was to be a relaxing weekend of celebration had morphed into a frustrating and super stressful mess!

What if we can’t get out of our development? What if we miss our train? Will the trains be running on time? Will we even be able to walk around Times Square without getting frostbite? Would we lose money if we cancel?

A year or two ago I might (most definitely would) have had a meltdown. “Argh, my anniversary is ruined! This sucks! I can’t believe we lost money! Why the hell did we get married in January? And while we’re at it, why the hell did we get married?!”

Where Am I?
Instead of reacting in anger, I took a moment to refocus. It was not worth my time to continue agonizing and suffering over past decisions and a mythical chain of future events. This time I asked myself, “What can I do now, in this moment?”
I decided to call the hotel and ask if they might waive or lessen their cancellation fee. Surely we cannot be the only people whose travel plans have been stymied by a storm. The hotel staff person I spoke with informed me they do not charge their cancellation fee when the reason is weather related. “Are you sure you want to cancel this reservation?” “Yes, oh god yes!”

My husband had purchased the tickets a few months ago, he wasn’t sure if we would lose money or not. We decided our safety and sanity was worth as much. Good fortune struck again, he was able to cancel the tickets and received an e-voucher we can put toward future train travel.

Creating Opportunity
By radically accepting our situation my husband and I created an opportunity to respond in a new and less painful way. We decided to cancel our trip and were willing to lose some cash if need be. We let go of what we thought a 20th anniversary celebration should be. As a result, our snowbound weekend was wonderful. We built a fire, drank a toast, and counted our blessings. I don’t think we could have planned anything finer.

The weather outside was frightful

Here's to us!

Author's note:
At first glance, this post may seem to be a departure from my usual writings about my struggles with chronic illness -I thought she wrote about Crohn’s? This has nothing to do with Crohn’s! but life often takes some unexpected twists. It was chronic illness that led me to depression, prompting me to seek out a therapist, who introduced me to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and the concept of Radical Acceptance. As I’ve been working on radically accepting my adventures with chronic illness, I can’t help but watch radical acceptance spill over into other areas of my life and it has been wonderful.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Reflect, Appreciate, and Prepare

Winter is a most mystical season! Just take a look at the natural world around us. During the frost of winter, plants submerge their essence into their roots, animals thicken their hides, and ponds harden into ice. This is a time of apparent inactivity yet beneath the stillness there is a hubbub of hidden happenings. Gestation and incubation are bubbling away in preparation for the renewal of spring.

What’s happening in nature is echoed in us. Like it is for the plants and animals, winter is a crucial time for humans to slow down, take stock, and accumulate reserves so we can be at our finest when it's time to spring forward! The short days and the long nights afford us time to look deeply into ourselves and reflect on the past year, appreciate our present, and prepare for the coming year.

But alas, the magic of winter is often over-shadowed by the frenzied bustle of the holidays, jam-packed schedules, and the flu; all poised to deplete our energies. So what to do? I would like to offer a short list of practices I have found to be supportive and restoring.

Thoughtful Activities:
Techniques such as, meditation, prayer, journaling, and counseling can help move awareness of our deeper desires into our conscious mind. These tools have the ability to calm our emotions, relax the mind, and raise our spirit; just the thing for a cold winter’s night.

Phone A Friend:
The winter months can be isolating for many. This is a great time to reach out and reconnect. Write a letter, send a text. Hold a door, share a smile. Ask for help!

Nourish Your Roots (Gather With Family):
Try and keep gatherings simple and light. Your presence is your present; no additional gifts necessary!

Seek Inner Warmth:
Maybe it’s time to reconsider that breakfast smoothie habit (just for the season) and opt for warmer sustenance. When cold weather strikes a chilling blow, warming and concentrated foods such as soups, stews, and porridges should take center stage.

One of my favorite go-to recipes for winter is Commonweal’s Most Nourishing and Healing Tea from Rebecca Katz, a delicious concoction reminiscent of a chai tea. Rebecca affectionately calls it, “… a backrub in a cup” and I agree!
Express Gratitude:
Be thankful for every day, every moment! Let me start by saying “thank you” to each and every one of you that has read my blog and offered your encouragement. It means more to me than you might ever know. My hope is you will welcome the arrival of winter and rejoice in this beautiful season of reflection, appreciation, and preparation!

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home." --Edith Sitwell (British Poet)