Sunday, November 30, 2014

Appreciation & Acceptance

Over the last two months, I have learned two very great lessons: both acceptance and appreciation must be a daily practice.

I have been saying the serenity prayer for many years. Every time I wake up, several times throughout the day and before I go to sleep and hell, just whenever I need it. (Serenity to accept, courage to change, wisdom to understand) And while it has helped me get through some tough times, I never truly understood its implications until recently.

After my "soul sucking summer from hell" whereby I was left destitute, depressed and battling weekly nervous breakdowns and persistant suicidal thoughts I decided to seek professional help for the second time in my life. I had seen a therapist once before after the Jan 2012 miscarriage, and while she helped me talk things out I never really felt like I had any "aha" moments with her. My new guy is quite good however, and one of my first epiphanies came during our third session when I was, once again, crying and complaining about my chronic health issues and how I was just feeling like a failure. I told him that I was trying to accept my condition and my life circumstances but it was hard. It was hard to accept chronic pain and chronic illness. And it seemed like the minute I accepted one aspect of my illness...BOOM...there was suddenly something ELSE I had to learn to deal with.

In the midst of my sniveling and crying, my therapist took a moment to interject. And what he said, changed my perspective completely. "Acceptance isn't something to get to. It's an ongoing, daily practice. A body builder doesn't work out just one day and says 'I'm done, I'm fit.' He/she has to workout every day. A musician practices every day. You have to practice acceptance every day. You have to make a conscious effort to accept, on a daily basis, maybe sometimes even on an hourly or minute by minute basis. It's a journey, a daily practice."

In that moment, I finally felt relieved. The pressure of "coming to acceptance" fell completely off my shoulders. I no longer felt like a failure for being angry or depressed about my condition. Feeling acceptance wasn't an end goal, but rather a choice. And I realized that some days I just wouldn't be as accepting as others, and ultimately that was ok.

Before this moment, I used to say the serenity prayer hoping it would lead me somewhere- lead me to peace and acceptance. (That, I now realize, was wrong). I now say the serenity prayer as a reminder to myself that acceptance is a daily practice, a daily struggle, a daily choice. Just like I take my pills on a daily basis to stay physically healthy, I need to accept my condition, my illness and my life on a daily basis in order to stay mentally and emotionally healthy.

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. That is the major life lesson I learned while at my Gratitude Yoga Retreat at Retreat in the Pines earlier this month. (I highly recommend doing something like this for yourself at least once in your life)

I went on this retreat with a friend, in order to treat myself for the crazy and emotionally draining summer I had, and because, well I love yoga, needed to make more friends and wanted to spend some time out in nature. I definitely got out of it what I wanted and even more.
Check out more yoga retreat pics HERE!! 

Not only did I make friends and lots of memories, I was reminded that the battle I am fighting is a hard one, and that everything I have done and am doing is ENOUGH. I was asked to feel grateful for the challenges I have faced because they have made me who I am (and as those of you who have kept up with my blog all these years know, I do try to be grateful for all scleroderma, and lupus and everything else has taught me), but like acceptance, appreciation is also a daily practice.

It won't always be easy to be grateful for the bad shit that happens to me and that's ok too. But I know that if I can change my perspective on a situation, person, circumstance or experience even just a little and find something to be thankful for, it could ultimately change the outcome and provide me with just a little more peace.

Like the quote above says, gratitude can turn denial into acceptance, but for that to happen, I need to practice it on a daily basis. The more I can be grateful for, the more I can accept the things I cannot change.

Since the retreat and my ongoing therapy sessions I can say that I have a lot to be thankful for as the blessings in my life continue to abound - we just bought a house, my energy levels are high, I am excited about all the possibilities with my second memoir and all that 2015 will bring.(I'm sure many of the blessings were always there, I was just allowing my ONE problem- my health- to cloud all the great things that were already present). So, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holidays and to honor all that I came away with during that awesome retreat, here are a few things I accept and appreciate:

1. I accept my family for who they are and the choices they make. I am grateful that they love me, are alive and well, and are willing to make huge sacrifices to try and help me. (Special thanks to my mom and dad)
2. I accept and appreciate my husband for his patience, love and understanding. I owe him my life.
3. I accept and appreciate the homebuying process. I am grateful my hubs and I were able to buy a new home even though it was stressful because we will truly appreciate this great blessing that so many can only dream of.
4. I accept and appreciate my friends for being in my life despite my flakiness and for always finding ways to help and support me in my time of need.
5. I accept and appreciate my chronic illnesses for teaching me how to live in the moment, find beauty in all things, and for helping me understand that life is fragile, life is short, and that we should take nothing for granted.

Right now, life is good. Not because I deserve it (as I once believed) but simply because that is how I choose to look at it and because their is an order and a balance to all things.

I will continue to practice acceptance and appreciation on a daily basis because I have to, because I choose to, and with that, I anticipate more awesomeness and "alegria" in my life.

What do you accept and appreciate in your own life? Be sure to make it a daily practice.

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