Change is a product of acceptance.

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Dear Bee,

I reread this quote at least three times while going through my assigned reading for a trauma and grief class. It absolutely amazes me. Rogers, first of all, is a brilliant genius in the realm of psychotherapy. His person-centered model of therapy has truly changed the way therapists interact with their clients. Second of all, just let this quote soak in.

Radical acceptance is something I frequently talk about on this blog, simply because the concept has helped me IMMENSELY. Before recovery (and many times during recovery), I have RESISTED myself, my urges, and my behaviors. I would look at myself and see only the things I needed to change, remove, or hide. The idea of accepting myself? No, that was unfathomable. I always thought I was traveling on the fast-moving train towards bettering myself, when, in reality, I was trekking on some unachievable mission to reach the point of utter perfection, because I assumed that place was the same meeting ground as the point of utter happiness. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the greatest version of yourself. There is, however, something deeply distorted when you do not believe you have any baseline of greatness to start with.

Change is hard. Incredibly hard. Even when we think we want it or know we need it more than anything. The initial steps may be easy, but once the novelty wears thin, we often regress right back to our homeostatic states. Why do we seek change? Because we feel stagnant or insecure. Because we know we deserve better. Because we want to improve some area in our life. Rarely does change come naturally or passively. Change is a product of our environment and our actions, our decisions and our influences. We must trust ourselves in order to change ourselves. We must stay by our own sides. If not, we engage in war with ourselves. We will resist, fight, and try and stop the changing, even if it’s good for us, even if it’s what we think we want or need. We have to be tolerant of the mismatched emotions and accept distress…at least temporarily. We have to become comfortable with living beyond the comfort zone. Comfort with discomfort. Because all change, lasting change, requires a period of discomfort.

In April, I wrote a letter to myself where I forgave myself for every single thing I had ever done (http://loveletterstobee.com/2013/04/02/forgiving-myself-for-every-single-thing-i-have-ever-done/). I did not post the actual letter here. It is folded and next to my bed. I occasionally read it when I need a pick-me-up, when I need to hear my own self tell me how far I’ve come and how wonderful of a person I am. I just find it amazing that I could claim I had no regrets, and yet, I held so many grudges against myself. That letter was eight pages long. I forgave myself for my insecurities, for relationships, for my eating disorder, for my fears and vulnerabilities, for everything I had ever been ashamed or embarrassed about. It was highly therapeutic, and I recommend it for anyone.

I still have to consciously decide to accept myself. All of myself. Because I’m not just parts of a personality. I’m not just the “good things” or the traits that shine on paper or ingredients to a recipe. I’m a whole person: a flawed perfectly imperfect human. I am easily distracted, klutzy, occasionally shy, and unbelievably sarcastic. I don’t own the nicest clothes, my car is always a littered mess of papers, books, and trash, and I cannot draw a straight line or circle to save my life. I still count on my fingers for basic math and recite the alphabet in my head when I need to place things in order. I will never win a beauty pageant nor be mistaken for a model. But I love the life I have been given, and I accept all the adversities and pain that have come and will come with it.

I accept that I am in recovery for an eating disorder. I accept that I don’t always like recovery and don’t always want to work recovery. I accept that I have carried years of shame and self-loathing. I accept that I have eaten entire pizzas and boxes of pop-tarts and bags of cookies and cartons of ice cream and cried over them. I accept that I have stolen food, eaten secretly in dark cars and bathrooms, and lied about eating. I accept that I have exercised to the point of nausea and muscle deterioration. I accept that I have worked out at two in the morning in the middle of the dark…just because I “needed to.” I accept that I have canceled plans because my eating disorder was too strong at that moment. I accept that I have chain-chewed packs of gum to avoid eating and binge-drank coffee or tea to excessively urinate (and therefore, weigh less). I accept that I have chosen intoxication of alcohol over intoxication of food. I accept that I have zoned out during entire conversations because I was too preoccupied with thinking about eating. I accept that, in high school, I was secretly excited the first time I lost my period, because I thought it meant I was finally on the track to anorexia. I accept that I hated what I looked like, what I weighed, and what I thought of myself for years.

I accept that I still have these urges, even though I do not like them. I even accept that I still occasionally use these behaviors, even though I do not like them.

Acceptance is not synonymous with enjoyment. Acceptance is synonymous with forgiveness, with saying, it’s okay, with saying, I’m human, and I am enough UNCONDITIONALLY. Imagine how much easier change can be when you are supporting, rather than completely fighting, yourself.

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Embrace the Delicious Energy of Life

Seize the day; just don’t let the day seize you.

Dear Bee,

I was blessed to share this gorgeous afternoon with a close friend studying over lunch and coffee and then stumbling upon a random outdoor festival. And over dessert (yes, because in recovery, I can eat dessert without deprivation, overdoing, or remorse), we were talking about total acceptance and the willingness to truly believe that what’s meant to be will happen. I admire this girl. We met in school and became fast friends. We share the same free-spirited energy and positive spirit. 

 She’s currently in a limbo state regarding an old boyfriend who keeps reappearing into her life, and this is hard for her. Of course, it is. She doesn’t know what she wants to do. But, one thing that she said that struck me as beautiful was: I’m keeping my heart open. I’m always keeping my heart open. 

And this just made me realize, why do we close ourselves to opportunity? Why do we stunt our growth or sabotage our strength? We fear the change, of course. We fear the potential consequences. We want to protect ourselves? But, from what? Pain? Suffering? When it comes down to it, Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when she famously quoted, nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. We dread this ambiguous unknown, because we grossly believe it will be much worse than whatever state of existence we are living in now. And so we put up walls; we play games with ourselves and others; we resort to deceit and lying; we use excuses; we try our best to stay “safe.” I can sum it up in a way that makes the sense to me: we fear losing control.

My friend cannot control whether she and her ex will rekindle. She cannot control the feelings he may or may not have for her. She cannot control if and when she either decides to either hold on or move on. She’s never had this control. Why do we believe it’s ours? We think we can outsmart life? Why do we exert so much exhaustive energy trying to manipulate, contort, and shape life into this predictable storyline with a clear-cut beginning, middle, and end?

I embrace the delicious energy of life. Life is indulgence. Life is nurturance. Life is a fabulous  ride if we are willing to let go of what comes up ahead. If we are willing to embrace the soul. If we are ready to accept whatever comes our way, knowing that breath can restore us to calmness, faith can bring us to lightness, and peace can bring us to happiness. 

Of all the changes I have made over the year, mindfulness has been the most important one. Mindfulness, for what it does to my energy. Mindfulness, for what it does to my emotions. Mindfulness, for what it does to the interactions I share. Mindfulness drives the naturalistic personality of a child. As the ego takes over with its dictating logic and alleged common sense, we lose the ability to relish the present. It is a conscious choice to take that moment back. It is a habit that must be practiced. It is a desire that must be wanted.

 

I am the master of none…and I love myself for it.

Dear Bee,

There is a saying often expressed in the martial arts discipline, I believe the world is one big family and we need to help each other. Upon receiving my black belt, one of my requirements involved apprenticing with my sensei and mentoring young children starting out with their training. In martial arts, one is never a master; we are always “in training,” always to be humbled and willing to grow. To this day, I still consider the opportunity to teach preschool students how to properly form their first stances one of my most valuable experiences. I recall one boy, the smallest child in his class, staring at my belt and asking how long it would take him to be that good. I replied, As long as you practice often, do more of what works and less of what doesn’t, you’ll always be making yourself better. 

I like knowing that I will never be the master. Yesterday, on my random day date, my gorgeous stranger sitting next to me asked me what I liked to do and I blabbed my laundry list of leisurely activities and so forth. I told him that I consider myself a jack of all trades, to which he naturally added, and a master of none. 

And that’s absolutely true. I enjoy many things. And to be honest, I’m good at many things.

 But a master? Nope. That title, I cannot claim.

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I know that this idea of “mastering” recovery, therefore, must be a fallacy. How can it not be? We are constantly learning and growing; making mistakes, coping to them, finding new solutions, stretching ourselves, finding ourselves. This is what keeps life evolving. This is what keeps us from merely existing and motivates into really living.

Since I learned how to criticize and pass judgment, I have spent my whole life being hard on myself. This drive for perfectionism has served purpose, and I can see the positivity in this trait: I would never be where I am today had it not been for such compulsory self-motivation. But, it’s also driven me to excessive levels of stress, compromised self-esteem, and a host of other mental health imbalances. Learning to let go of that is so freeing and so healing…these feelings of being “light” and “carefree” are so foreign to me, but I am chasing them, because they feel so good.

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Unconditional self-love is radical; while this is an innate trait found among children, somewhere along the blurred lines of our socially-constructed youth, we learn to dissociate ourselves from the pleasure we retain from just liking ourselves. We learn how to focus on our flaws; we spend lifetimes obsessing to fix the parts about ourselves we cannot change; we often only see our limitations, rather than our potentials. When people hurt others, we may stick up for them. When people hurt us, what do we do? We justify and internalize it, believing what they said must be true. We take it absolutely personally.

Radical self-love. Radical self-acceptance. If we don’t give it to ourselves, who will?

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Bee, I perceive you as a sad child now, someone who just needs love and affection, but does not know how to appropriately give it. I also see you as a parasitic host who feeds off my vulnerabilities and anxiety. But when I love myself, when I’m really able to just let that happen and revel in the glory that is my own awesomeness, you’re nowhere to be find.