July 30, 2019
So, I’m a little mad. Make that angry. Frustrated. Almost, dare I say, another f-word? Furious. Okay-that feels better.
And I’m not even going to touch on my fury about our current political and ecological climates (too overwhelming for just one blog post).
I do internal anger very well (or rather, I have a lot of it). I’ve just never been able to let it out in an effective or freeing sort of way. My external self shows anger with a quavery voice and tears, and some spectacular red splotches across my pale cheeks. I have a feeling that putting my anger out in public through this post isn’t going to end well either, or be perfect, so this is quite a boundary-pushing, out-of-my-comfort-zone kind of exercise. I’d much prefer to be smiling and self-deprecating, and make everyone happy. Care to join me and “lean in” to some messy emotions and unpleasant truths instead?
I’m effing furious at how unfair life is. How hard things are. How no matter what I do or say or think or eat I can’t control what happens to my children, my family, the people I love. It’s completely unacceptable that Ollie has to navigate life with a triple-threat-burden of mental health issues, a genetic condition with no cure, and a body that didn’t match his gender identity.
I thought I gave up worshipping the false idol of control when we finally acknowledged that Ollie needed more help than we could give him at home. Sending your kid away is a radical, unnatural act. But that was only the beginning. It’s been two years of learning and unlearning, grieving and gaining– only to have to wake up the next day and start all over again. The bits of hard-earned wisdom I’ve gained still feel hard, even after the price I paid to acquire them. Shouldn’t it be easier to wake up every day and stay in balance and be hopeful? I mean, yes, it’s easier now than it was at the beginning but it’s nowhere near easy. And I’m tired. It is hard work, making a deliberate choice to re-set and re-center. It is relentless– this choice presents itself every second of every day. And it’s still not as automatic as I thought it would be by now. All this while my middle-aged body gives gravity a free reign and my hormones rage like the plaid-wearing grunge rockers I loved back in the ’90s. No, this is absolutely NOT Nirvana. . . .
There’s a quote that keeps floating up in my mind: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” According to thisdayinquotes.com, this quote is often mistakenly attributed to both Irish lawyer John Philpott Curran and US President Thomas Jefferson. The most famous use of this sentence was from a speech made by Wendell Phillips, an American Abolitionist and liberal activist, in January 1852. However, it was novelist Aldous Huxley who said in 1956, “The price of liberty, and even of common humanity, is eternal vigilance.”
Why is it so hard to remember our common humanity? Why can’t it be the “factory preset” so that we don’t have to work so ridiculously, insanely hard? Oh, okay, whoops, I’ve diverged into (political) climate talk, so I’ll redirect. . . .
“Radical acceptance” is a concept in Dialectical Behavior Theory and in some Buddhist teachings (and it’s the title of a book by American psychologist Tara Brach). I’ve bumped up against it both in my own therapeutic work and in our work as a family. To me, it means that if I can accept things as they are, truly and with every fiber of my being, then I will be free– then I can step on to the path to enlightenment. To contentment. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Oh, to be content. After two years of rolling my own boulder uphill every single day, I say, “F$%@ that S*&#!” I don’t think I’m anywhere close to radical acceptance– my current status is more like “resigned acceptance.” Life is hard, and it sucks. And I don’t think that’s okay, or at least I haven’t yet found a way to be okay with that. . . but I have learned that I have the strength to choose freedom, freedom from my old, distorted ways of thinking. (Some days, anyway. Other days, I stay in bed.) It’s so deliciously tempting to fall into the comforts of ruminating about the past or freaking out about the future. It’s still so miserably hard to stay eternally vigilant and planted firmly in the present, open and terrifyingly exposed to the unknown. It’s fucking exhausting to be a battle-ready, peace-loving, lotus blossom warrior fighting to face the sunlight and stay upright in the mud and muck of human experience. It sucks. It’s too high a price to pay. And? What other choice do we have?
I want to use this space to acknowledge all the messy, unpleasant emotions that we all share– if we don’t own them then they will own us. I’m tired of being polite and contained and performing to what I think are other people’s expectations of me– none of this has actually helped my kids, or my family, or the people I love, avoid the pain of their own humanity. Nor, in fact, has it ultimately helped me.
Resigned acceptance sounds like a reasonable place to start. Today at least. If you’d like some company I’ll be right here, rolling my own rock up my own hill. There’s plenty of room. As long as you don’t mind a few curse words in between meditations and water breaks.