Craving Radical Acceptance

I’m obsessed with the idea of “Radical Acceptance” as the key to emotion regulation.

But I’m pretty sure that one of the hidden goals of radical acceptance is not to make you beat yourself up when you can’t achieve it. Especially in the midst of a harried moment.

For the big and small things in life. Big like marriage, when I try to change Kevin instead of accepting him for who he is. Small like parking, though it feels big sometimes, like today, when I’m already so tired from this week of rain and fitful sleep.

I keep telling myself not to get mad over and over again about the same thing because it’s so futile and a waste of emotional energy. And yet…

On our way back from the science museum today, the boys konked out as I’d expected. I wore #2 and strolled #1 in our cheapie stroller that he can hardly fit into. I also had to carry two bags because the image of cleaning out congealed milk later tonight grossed me out.

I could hardly stroll Micah because he was so heavy and the circulation in my hands were cut off from carrying the bags. Ellis was heavy and sweaty on my chest, no longer a baby at 20 months. It was too hot to close up the Ergo nap-flap to support his head so every few seconds, I would hold his head up and blow some air into his bangs.

Just then a woman driving pulls up right next to us, window all the way down, just to exclaim, “WOW!”

Two blocks later, I finally started down our courtyard when I saw a home aide, pointing at us and laughing, so excited to be able to show her bored and weary charge, a senior citizen, the comical sight of a short pack mule mama inching her way home with her two sleeping children. I smiled back at her because I know she meant no harm and I was actually glad if the sight of me could make a frail old man smile.

I’ve tried to practice radical acceptance by saying, “For now, this is our life. Parking out yonder in whatever kind of weather and schlepping these precious morsels who are very cute but still unhelpful.”

But in the heat of the moment, especially with my hormones out of wack this week, mental health tools fly out the window.

I start going down the dark path of unhelpful, harmful thoughts, almost like they are beckoning me; thoughts ranging from envy of those who have it easier than me to even ‘Shut the f*ck up’ thoughts towards those who have it easier but don’t seem to know it.

This is the way it goes down sometimes…Lashing out against one thing I can’t change in my life then the emotions evolve – snowballing – beyond the initial response to the one thing.

AND THEN I beat myself up by thinking, “B*tch, you also in that category, as the object of envy, with your husband as supportive and helpful as he is, unlike some husbands. And think about those who have it much much worse, wishing they had your problems. Remember how you used to pray for even a far away parking space!? How soon we forget, Israelite in the wilderness!”

But these thoughts don’t help either. In fact, the “others have it worse” ideology serves to only make me feel guilty.

When I think about how This Too Shall Pass, it doesn’t help in the moment because I realized, “Hold up, wait right there. When we do move on up, Lord willing, and we finally able to park right in front of our place, my kids won’t even need to be strolled or worn by then!”

Ironically, these past four years was the exact time we needed door-to-door service. I know I’ll look back fondly at these schlepping memories of the early years but it’s tough in the moment.

Why is it so hard to just say, “Sometimes, it’s hard. PERIOD.” Because I believe it’s all so relative so therefore, I need to shut it.

I’m trying to equip myself with better ways to handle daily stressors, through the Word, safe communities, books and other emotional health resources, but it’s slow going on days like these.

Watch the Road, Warren G(hee)!: Combating Envy and Its Cousins

I didn’t think I was going to sweat a year-end post because I just don’t have the time or mental capacity to do it in the next few days. Reflect? What’s that? I used to do a lot of that but reflecting and processing seem like a real luxury these days.

I don’t know how I ended up posting a few casual pics of my family on Facebook for Christmas. They weren’t LIES per se as those were moments from my family’s holidays, but emotionally speaking, uh, yeah, they were lies.

I wanted to be part of Social Media’s Christmas, y’all. Even as a believer who believes that Jesus is truly the Reason for the Season, I wanted to throw up a few cute pics and be part of that other merriment that YOU PEOPLE seem to be partaking in. Sure, we also partook but oh, there was some pain, some deep, eviscerating pain.

I didn’t want to write about the pain because I’m still in the thick of it, and maybe I’ve been in the thick of it most of 2013.

So after throwing up some pics and scrolling through my Newsfeed instead of processing what is going on inside me these days, I saw an irate status update from a new acquaintance, someone I would like to go sit down for tea with. It caught my eye in the midst of many junk posts (mostly dominated by Huffington Post articles). It was one of the rarer raw updates I’ve seen, especially during this season of Merry-Merry-Happy-Happy-Shiny-Ornaments-Look-at-My-Family.

She was venting about her relative who was comparing her to her cousins and using each relative as a standard for who she should become.

What a way to build up someone at a Christmas gathering.

And boom, after I wrote to her, I had to grab my laptop and start writing this.

Why do folks feel free to size up someone so easily based on all the drivel on paper? To compare someone to someone else who is making a fat salary or has a spouse and a few kids? So what? You don’t know the full arc of someone’s life. How dare you make someone feel Less Than? Have you ever truly wanted to become someone’s friend based on things On Paper?

If I’m trying to reach anyone in that paragraph, I’m actually yelling at myself. I had to face a lot of demons in 2013. Still trying to exorcise them.

In many ways, it was a disgusting year for me. I dunno how to describe it because I’m still going through it but here’s an attempt: I think my soul became septic from comparing, or envy or something akin to it. I’ve been hard on myself ever since I was a little girl, maybe even a toddler, but it got worse this year.

First, I noticed I started to rebel against gratitude here and there. It was too in my face. Too preachy. So trendy. Too easy. Too Live Your Best Life.

“Count your blessings!” Yeah, I already do, thank you, but May I Please Just Feel? Something other than constant, unwavering gratitude?

Of course I can be grateful…until I couldn’t. And when I took pause on practicing gratitude actively and regularly, I began to choke.

When I was stressing about my Ellis’ Doljanchi (Korean First Birthday Feast), one of my most supportive friends tried to get me to see the big picture as I worried about details that only a mama can tend to. She said something about how I shouldn’t forget that my birthday boy is so healthy and blessed, not sick like so many other kids, and I have this privilege of planning his first birthday, not some somber event. Trying to get me to see the forest, not the trees and leaves that needed raking.

Of course I knew in my head that this was just some minor event planning for such a celebratory occasion but I tend to get overwhelmed because I can’t slow down my mind and I snowball with a dozen other lists I have to check off while wrangling the kids.

I confessed, I was Warren Motherf*cking G(hee) in that moment because I seen plenty of peers just as blessed as me with their own healthy kids…plus amenities…LOTS of amenities.

I want it all; money, healthy kee-ids
Diamond rings, big houses and parking spaces
Shit, every damn thing
I want it all; houses, expenses
My own cleaning lady, a sitter, hmm, and a couple o’ Benz’s
I want it all; brand new socks and drawls
And I’m ballin everytime I stop and talk to y’all
I want it all, all, all, all
I want it all, all, all, all, all

So this year was ugly for me. This whole comparing business – something I’ve always struggled with, but 2013 brought on a bad flare-up. Whether it was in real life or on my Facebook Newsfeed, I started feeling sorry for myself and becoming really bitter that I didn’t have what others took for granted. Not just material things but yes, some material things, too. Major house envy. Major date night envy. Craving beauty and luxury. Wanting a long break from the day-to-day drudgery of raising young ‘uns.

And envy makes you downright ugly. Ain’t no one lookin’ beautiful when eyerolling. A lotta, “I bet she wouldn’t even know what to do if she had to watch her kids on her own all the time,” or, “MUST BE NICE! Free date night every freaking week! Y’all must have a way better marriage than us sad sacks.” Isolating myself because I was judging like a fiend and didn’t feel safe sharing my thoughts even with my closest friends. Only allowing those who have more to deal with than me to speak on being tired or overwhelmed. No one wants to be known as a Debbie Downer.

And I keep feeling like I have to couch everything with, “I KNOW I AM BLESSED with my little family of four, aight!?” I want permission to feel. Without explaining myself.

Back to my acquaintance on Facebook. What is up with this tendency to compare? It was so hurtful to me when my parents did it but I’m already doing it to my kids. “Why don’t you eat well like your brother? You want people to think Ellis is the big brother because he eats so well and will grow so big?” “You don’t see the other kids in the shopping cart trying to jump around!?”

I have someone in my life, by way of marriage, who is especially hurtful to me. She likes to tell me innocent stories of women who get paid, women who are not stay-at-home moms and burdens to their husbands, of relatives who get paid, of relatives who share what they get paid with her. She judges people according to zip codes and salaries and I am always feeling Less Than for my choices.

And it makes me livid.

Like Teresa Giudice Livid where I have to take deep, cleansing breaths.

When my Micah started scootin’ around on his little scooter, he would always look back at me, to see if I’m watching. I would shout, “Watch the road, Micah! Watch the road or else you will fall!”

I have to watch the road in 2014.

Easier said than done. But I have to watch MY road and not look at others’ seemingly better paved roads. And I’m not going to pressure myself to not notice others’ lives at all because I am part of society and I live amongst y’all but I don’t want to allow something evil to take root while I’m gazing at others’ roads.

Kevin also challenged me with a nugget. When this relative struck recently over the holidays and I was reeling from anger, he asked me what I was feeling. He wants me to practice Naming My Feelings. I found out recently that for such a self-aware and emotional person, I don’t know how I actually FEEL beyond the surface emotion of Anger.

I kept saying that I was so hurt and so angry. But why? How does someone else have such influence over my feelings of worth? Hmmm….

So as we start off anew in 2014, I would like to Watch The Road more and better Name That Feeling. And read some more Bible and meaty, smart books about my worth not being dictated by others.

And lay off that Facebook Newsfeed. (But ummmm, feel free to hollaaa if you gots comments on this post, ‘nah mean?)