As a child, my family called me Busy Beth as I was always into something. They shortened the nickname to Biz, and the name still fits. I am not content to just sit and am easily bored. The only time I am truly sedentary is when I am reading or writing. Even in that state of stillness, my mind is active and buzzing.
Now, I have to slow down. My body can’t keep up with my usual pace. So, how does Busy Beth learn to slow down? That is the question with which I am wrestling.
Slowing down via meditation seems to be working. I am meditating to practice staying in the present. There is a wonderful application called Insight Timer. My favorite teacher on that application is Bethany Auriel-Hagan. She has a meditation called “Welcoming Acceptance.” I enjoy her soothing voice and her visualization techniques. In this meditation, she asks her students to imagine holding a bubble on their laps and putting the issue which they need to accept inside the bubble. While examining this issue/situation within the bubble, she explains, “acceptance is being with what is. Not liking it. Not fixing it. Just noticing and recognizing.”
Not fixing it? Just noticing? Sounds too pedestrian to me.
I recognize that acceptance is hard for me. I am a natural fixer. If something is not right, I will research to find solutions or will consult experts in the field. I teach a class called “Writing/Research in the Disciplines”. In that course, students work throughout the semester on a local problem they identify and create ideas for solution. I explain to them, “problems are nothing without solutions. Talking about problems without providing some ideas for solutions is just whining.” Yes. I do say that. And, I wholeheartedly believed it. Until Rheumatoid Arthritis.
After my RA diagnosis, I am learning the tough lesson that there are problems without immediate solutions. I cannot just fix myself right now, in my time. Enter acceptance…
My sister hates to see me struggle, so she sent me a book, Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, Ph.D. Brach writes that one aspect of Radical Acceptance is compassion. “Instead of resisting our feelings of fear or grief, we embrace our pain with the kindness of a mother holding her child. Compassion honors our experience; it allows us to be intimate with the life of this moment as it is” (Brach 28).
Are you sensing a pattern here? It seems as though acceptance is the only item on my menu, day and night. The word is all around me. Perhaps these constant reminders are providing some sort of guidance. In sewing, patterns guide someone to turn a piece of fabric into a work of art. A creation.
There are times when I feel that I am creating a new self. One that is more aware, patient and understanding. Patience is an inside job these days, for sure. I am having to rely on help, and that reliance is uncomfortable to me. The other night, I fell asleep at 7:30pm, before the kids even went to bed. My husband noticed I did not put on my wrist braces before I went to sleep. Wrist braces help my hands and wrists feel better in the morning by mobilizing my joints while I sleep. He gently took my hands and put my braces on. My usual pattern is to chastise myself for not remembering to put on my braces. I should have been able to do this myself! Instead, I shut that voice up inside my head and leaned into accepting the assistance without the usual resistance. I resigned myself to the fact of it is what it is.
I am recognizing I need to be with what is. So, what is this?
It’s feeling like an odyssey – a physical and surprisingly emotional trip I did not choose to take. There are lessons, but I am not always sure what they are teaching me. Pain is an excellent teacher because it demands your attention and fatigue is relentless. The old patterns of response do not work. Pushing through and just getting over it are no longer the solution. The drive now is to look for a new approach.
As Joan Didion said about having to reinvent her work before finishing a book:
“Sometimes you can get away with things in the middle of a book… I wanted a dense texture, and so I kept throwing stuff into it, making promises. For example, I promised a revolution. Finally, when I got within twenty pages of the end, I realized I still hadn’t delivered this revolution. I had a lot of threads, and I’d overlooked this one. So then I had to go back and lay in the preparation for the revolution. Putting in that revolution was like setting in a sleeve. Do you know what I mean? Do you sew? I mean I had to work that revolution in on the bias, had to ease out the wrinkles with my fingers.”
It could be that pain is the pattern that guides my own revolution.