My friend Linda always has something to say that simply and deeply speaks to my heart, so I was thrilled when she agreed to guest post on Imperfect Happiness this week. I hope you find her words as powerful as I do. If you do, please let her know in the comments.
My husband and I married when we were both in our forties, and as we say in Texas, it wasn’t our first rodeo. We invited our families to participate, and when the minister asked: “Who gives this man?” we laughed out loud when Rad’s family loudly—and in unison—proclaimed: “We do. As is. No returns.”
I’m a Virgo, born under a new moon when Mercury was in retrograde. (I have no idea what any of that means.) I’m left-handed and an introvert. I have a strong family history of heart disease. I’m 5 feet 8 inches tall and have green eyes and used to be a brunette. I tend to be anxious and sometimes suffer from agoraphobia and panic disorder. I was labeled “too sensitive” as a child because I cared and felt deeply. I used to think I had to be perfect to be loved. I’m often in physical pain. I’m a decent, kind and caring person. I have a good sense of humor, and have always had a strong sense of justice. And I have an endless list of likes and dislikes.
I did not make myself up. I am a product of genetics, culture, society, my family, and every single experience I’ve ever had, including my interactions with all of you. I am an extraordinarily ordinary human, always changing, evolving.
Here I am: as is.
This isn’t a theological reflection but it is a deeply spiritual one for me. After participating in a mindfulness program a few years ago, I began the practice of moment-to-moment awareness – well, at least some of the time.
As I practiced this present moment awareness, I noticed there was a constant litany going on in my head. “Why did you say that?” “You should be ashamed for thinking THAT.” “I can’t believe you’re so clumsy.” “You forgot again?” “Yikes, look at that jiggly belly!”
A few months ago I was invited to add the practice of accepting myself as is to my daily meditation. “May I accept myself as I am,” I say silently to myself. In the beginning I would often sit with tears running down my face; I sometimes still do.
I can stop trying so hard. I can stop worrying about what other people think. I can relax. I can try new things and not be perfect. I can say: “no, that’s not for me.” I can be happy now, not when.
The wonderful thing about this practice is that it’s about possibility and intention. I might not always accept myself as is, but I want to; it’s difficult when I’m feeling shame or fear or anger or pain. I love the story from the mindfulness teacher, Sylvia Boorstein, who tells of a woman, who when asked how she’s doing always answers: I couldn’t be better. Isn’t it true, Sylvia says, if we could be better, wouldn’t we?
When I accept myself as is, I’m better able to discern those things that I might be able to change. For example, I might still feel angry with the driver who just scared me to death when he turned left in front of me, but I don’t have to simultaneously honk, shout obscenities, and make obscene gestures. And I can also notice those things that I want to change, and try as I might, I will never change. I will likely always be prone to anxiety and startle easily. I flush beet red with shame when I make a mistake and hate admitting that I’m wrong. I will likely always have back pain.
A fortuitous by-product of this practice of self-compassion is that I find myself being even more compassionate and accepting of others just as they are, right here and right now.
So this is what I believe: I am an extraordinarily ordinary human, always changing, always evolving, and by practicing self-compassion, I am better able to love and accept myself and others.
Here I am: as is.
May we all accept ourselves as is, no returns.