Radical Acceptance

“Let me think about the people who I care about the most… and how when they fail, or disappoint me, I still love them, I still give them chances, and I still see the best in them. Let me extend that generosity to myself.”
zefrank, “An Invocation for Beginnings”

I do a lot of things wrong. I’ve been thinking about/trying to quit smoking for three years. Yes I have. I’m an ethical vegetarian but sometimes I eat chicken wings… because I like them. And ham. Ham. Also food related, I’ve gained about 15 pounds since last summer and can barely fit into any of my clothes. If we’re being completely honest, some of my pants won’t even slide over my thighs. Sometimes I yell at my kid and sometimes I would rather troll Facebook than tinker with Legos. Sometimes I gossip and sometimes I dislike people for no really good reason other than that they’re easy to dislike.

So there’s that.

I get stuck on the bad from time to time. It’s not conscious. I don’t recognize it, and I don’t feel particularly sadder or hateful, and I don’t wallow in self-loathing. It’s more that… I just forget. I neglect to be mindful and to stay right here, in this moment. This can go on for weeks, sometimes months. It’s insidious and it’s quiet, the way this beating-up myself starts to change my thinking and my actions. But every so often, as I’ve slipped into the vicious habit (or, more accurately, neglect) that eats into my contentment, I wake up. I shake it off. And I remember:

I also do a lot of shit right. I’m a good mother, and I go out of my way to treat my child and Matthew’s children with compassion and respect. I have an amazing relationship with one of the best human beings I’ve ever met. I am really good at a job I love more days than I don’t. I’d do just about anything to help and friend and I’m fiercely loyal. I am honest and I am sometimes funny. I’ve cultivated cool-ass, cooperative friendship with the Kaiser’s father, and it’s one that I’d not trade for anything. And I’m sober.

How much do I talk about compassion? All the damn time. And how often do I have to remind myself to cut myself a break? All the damn time. I’m not talking about self-esteem; this is a very different thing. Being kind to yourself has nothing at all to do with being (or feelin’) special or with being (or feelin’) above-average. Rather, I’m talking about looking at our experiences mindfully, without over-exaggerating our own pain. Self-compassion isn’t dependent on day-to-day experience.

Randy Taran wrote an article about this in the Huffington Post. She says, “On an airplane, you are asked to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, so that you can help other people. Self-compassion is like that too. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be fully equipped to help others.”

How can you give something to someone else that you refuse to offer to yourself? It’s not laziness. It’s not indulgent. It’s a necessity.




Filed under Buddhism, compassion

4 responses to “Radical Acceptance

  1. One of my therapists told me I needed reminders to breathe and be gentle with myself. I made bracelets for both, and I wear them daily, but sometimes I still forget. I like the dog. 🙂

  2. Karen [Hayden's Mom]

    I like the bracelet reminders. I like this post Mama. I’m too often so dammed one sided about things and you are always there, even if it’s the last thing I want to hear, to remind me to be good and do good …. to ME first. I’m I happy I call you my best.

  3. Dan

    I learn something everytime I read one of your blogs. Thank you!

  4. jedfraser

    This reminds me of something I wrote to someone who was going through an identity crisis. (I’m not inferring in anyway you are going through one btw).
    Here is what I wrote:
    The key to life is compassion. I, like you, spent many years not knowing where my life was going. I was afraid of what was around the corner, I saw other people that were happy and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t be too. I felt for a long time that I needed someone to show my how to live and if I didn’t find that person then my life would continue to be a void.
    As the years passed and my experiences grew I came to realize that the answer wasn’t in another person but within me.
    I had to make the changes in myself in order to find fullness. No other person could accompany me along this path. For everyone is on their own journey. Everyone is suffering, Some hide it better than others but the truth is everyone is searching and everyone suffers. Some have the intellect to express their pain or express their anxieties and some don’t. Some people go through life not realizing the journey they are on and miss the point of being.
    To find yourself you must possess an intellectual curiosity for your fellow man. Indeed, know that every man suffers and embrace this knowledge. This will lead you to the conclusion that you are no different than others.
    This brings me to my first sentence; The key to life is compassion. When you have compassion for your fellow man and understand that everyone has their cross to bear or their pain to endure then you can look at each person you ever meet and think to yourself “How can I help to lessen your burden, or make you happy”. For it is through altruism that we find our own strength and this enables us to find purpose.
    Happiness is not rocket science, it is a willingness to give of yourself. This does not mean that you have to be charitable, it just means you need to be aware of your fellow man on this wonderful journey we are all partaking in.
    You are what you believe you are. This sounds like an obvious statement but it is not so. Curiosity for life and your fellow man is what is needed. If you go through your life only concerned with your own well being you will be missing your opportunities. For your only point of reference will be you and what you are feeling. With curiosity comes empathy and with empathy comes compassion. When you posses compassion you are no longer the central concern and your well-being will increase exponentially. When you believe you can and want to help others on their journey through life you automatically increase your own self worth and therefore understand what your purpose is.
    I hope this helps in a little way.

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