The beauty of acceptance.

I get so excited and giddy when it’s time to have my hair colored and cut you’d think I was headed for a month in Hawaii.

My hair appointments are two hours of freedom to simply Enjoy. I get to enjoy conversation with my stylist who has made sense of my hair when it went from straight to curly-ish, and who has fought bravely to tame my difficult grays. It’s a problem I don’t have to solve–I can trust her and RELAX.

There are few times when I’m this good and non-neurotic about letting myself breathe slowly and melt into acceptance of the exact place I find myself in at the moment, whether physical, mental, or emotional. Less pleasurable things are of course harder to accept–think dentist appointments. There I am forced to concentrate on breathing, also on releasing the death-grip I have on the chair arms. Pain of any sort takes more work.

There’s a gift to be appreciated in this place of Accepting and Allowing life to be exactly whatever it is at the moment. My second-guessing goes away, and the judgmental voices in my head are quieted when I’m present in the moment. Balance lives in this space where I’m simply observing my life, not obsessing over the past or the future.

I’m fortunate to have an amazing therapist who has helped me find my way out of the minefield scattered with all the Lies in my bones, and here are some articles I’ve found while wandering through Psychology Today online that speak to the ways we can change our brains and learn to be present:

  • How to develop “Zen Presence”  This is the type of mindfulness that helps us to be aware and observant of our thoughts and emotions as we move through our days.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy I don’t know if my Favorite Mental Health Professional (my therapist) calls it this, but it certainly describes much of what she’s been teaching me. Basically, what good does it do us to avoid/judge/deny our emotions? If there’s trauma or depression or chronic pain etc., denying our feelings will only cause more distress. Better we should learn to accept how we feel, learn from those feelings and find ways of moving forward and being productive.
  • Meditation: Ancient Practice With 21st Century Application In the third sentence the guy uses the word “fart.” Of course he’s my favorite. ANYway, this article does a great job of explaining how meditation and mindfulness practice work together to quiet the mind, ease stress and so much more, all by actually changing our brain chemistry! How cool is that? I’ve seen more self-acceptance and less judgment as I’ve learned these techniques.

I’ve been using the Headspace app on my phone, and it’s been helpful in teaching me different aspects of meditation. The app has a variety of topics like Anxiety, Focus, Pain Management, and even some sport related ones to explore once you’ve completed the basic 30 day introduction meditation sessions. I was relieved to find there’s even a way to look at the inevitable thoughts that start darting about while trying to focus on your breath.

Calm is another app suggested by both my doctor and the therapist teaching the pain management class I’m currently taking. I’ve been playing around with it the past few days, and it has quite a few ways to help you get a better night’s sleep–music, nature sounds, stories read quietly, meditations. Other topics include resiliency to stress, relationships, anxiety, even commuting.

There are others out there, have a look around and find what suits your needs. Both of the apps I’ve tried have some initial parts you can use for free with a cost after that. But if you keep looking I know there are some freebies out there too.

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation: What is a space or activity where you are in the moment and happily accepting of the circumstance? Are you willing to do some work to gain that same acceptance and lack of judging in other areas?

Remember–all of life is a process, and the good stuff tends to take practice!

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Tell me I’m fat.

Yesterday when being shuttled home from the dealership where my car was being serviced, the talkative driver referenced my weight with a look and a comment while telling a story about an eating contest. He said, “And we were like you and me,” nodding toward my lap, “him a big guy who drives big ol’ Buicks, and me,” he said, nodding down toward himself.

I was raised to be polite, so I didn’t ask, “What exactly are you saying?” Plus, I was thinking, well, he’s right…I AM big. Bigger.

Recently a friend brought my attention to the This American Life episode called Tell Me I’m Fat. One of the things I treasure about our friendship is the trust that allows us to talk about the No-Nos of life, like our honest feelings about the bodies we inhabit.

I reacted to the title, Tell Me I’m Fat, with shame and horror–more judgment! Do I not judge myself enough when I eat anything outside the realm of leafy greens?

Several women were interviewed on the show, sharing their views about their own bodies and struggles. Some, like Lindy West, author of Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman, felt that words like “overweight” suggest a lack of acceptance. That overweight means there’s one Right weight, and her weight is simply Wrong.  She’s accepted that the body she inhabits is Fat–let’s just embrace it, and move on and enjoy our lives.

Another, Elna Baker, talked about the journey that began with wondering if her inability to get a boyfriend or a job was due to her weight. On losing the weight she realized that, yes, it had all been about her weight. That her current boyfriend would not have been attracted to her before. That people treated her differently, other thin people she encountered in public looked her up and down and then nodded, leaving her to wonder, was there some sort of thin people code she’d previously been oblivious to?

The subject of obesity as a moral issue is also discussed–are we weak or stupid or sinful because of our poundage? Another interviewee, Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist, says in her book,

Sometimes a bold, sort of callous person will ask me how I got so fat. They want to know the why. “You’re so smart,” they say, as if stupidity is the only explanation for obesity. And of course, there’s that bit about having such a pretty face, what a shame it is to waste it. I never know what to tell these people.

Yesterday I wondered with my shuttle driver, how would he react if I said something along the lines of, “And it was like you and me–yunno, an idiot… then, me.”

But I don’t. I don’t want someone else to feel the way I have at the words of others. Once in a Starbucks a stranger approached me to say how he’d lost a lot of weight because he’d had diabetes, and I should do the same–all while he looked me up and down.

I want to be as kind to myself as I am to these misguided souls. I don’t beat THEM up, so why should I beat up myself?

What I will do for myself today: I will live out of the joy of the person I am, reminding myself that I’m so much more than my packaging. The gift of who I am is inside.

The BringYourOwnBeverage conversation: What do you judge the hardest about yourself? 

 

The waambulance is on the way

I remember the first time I made a decision to do something for myself and my Fibromyalgia. “Self-care” my therapist called it. Giddily I took a nap with my new body pillow, a great way to be able to lay on my side but avoid the pain of pressure caused by my knees being one on top of the other, and the ache that came with no support for my upper arm and shoulder.

It sounds so simple, this kindness to myself. Somehow gravity had joined in the efforts of my Fibro to make even resting more painful, and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

Getting a pedicure had been my biggest idea previously for Self-Care, or buying higher quality dark chocolate. But doing something that would directly influence my constant companion in a positive way? This was a new thought! When Invisible even to yourself, it doesn’t come naturally to pay attention to your body enough to think that far. Especially if the main thing you’re feeling toward yourself comes with a big boo-boo lip.

I refuse to admit how many years I lived this way–ignoring my frailties (except for pouting), rather than working toward a nice cushy pillow between our knees. (Okay, decades. Close enough.) It turns out that when I started to See myself I realized how many areas need Self-Care besides  my toes. To name a few:

My Mental/Emotional self,

My Physical self,

My Spiritual self.

I tend to hang out in the Mental/Emotional party room, trying to pick up pointers on how to stay out of the way of oncoming trains, or to accept and love myself flaws and all, yet I need to work on the rest.

While I was perusing the interweb, I found a simple yet profound explanation of these areas on the University of Texas at Dallas student counseling site. I may not know the Texas Two Step, but at 62 I find I’m still a student at this whole life thing.

Here’s their introduction:

Self-care is a necessary and vital part of maintaining emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. It’s more than an occasional manicure or special treat. Self-care is a way of living each day incorporating behaviors that help you feel refreshed, replenish your motivation and help you grow as a person. Building reliable self-care habits now can affect your quality of life now and in the future.

A good way to start is to take an honest look at what you’re doing to manage every day stress. Are your close relationships and daily activities adding to your sense of overall stress? If so, take small, realistic steps toward change to help make a significant difference in your quality of life.

 

Like anything else it takes practice. Here’s the rest of the article listing ideas.

I will do this for myself today: while doing chores I don’t particularly want to do I’ll listen to an audiobook. (I love to read, so I’m thinking this will make the time pass more quickly and pleasantly. Then I won’t be super grumpy after. I hope. I’ll let you know.)

The BringYourOwnBeverage conversation: what area of your own life is the most difficult to practice self-care? What’s one small thing you could introduce to your day to deal with the stress of this area?