Letting it Go- An Unspoken Survival Skill

Sorry about the very late and frankly short blog post this week. For a number of reasons, this weekend got away from me.

This post WAS supposed to be a review of a new restaurant in town that I’ve been enjoying very much. I wanted to have one more meal there, and Emily and I made reservations for their Valentines Day brunch. A fun night out with the wifey AND fodder for a new blog post? That’s a win-win right there.

Then it decided to snow. A lot. Portland is famous for Not Handling Snow Very Well, given the fact that it’s fairly rare and all the hills and steep roads make driving treacherous with even a light dusting on the ground. Heavy snow, nearly wrecking while trying to drive the car for groceries, and finally an ice storm last night meant that those reservations were cancelled.

We were both bummed, of course, but we wound up sharing dinner and a bottle of wine at home along with a cake I had made as a surprise. Making the right decision doesn’t always feel good, but it’s not as bad as making the wrong decision.

You can’t control the weather, but you can control how you’ll weather it- once you stop wishing it was something it wasn’t.

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There are lots of ways to track personal progress. You might keep a tally of books read in a month, or completed projects in a year, or days in a row you’ve eaten breakfast, showered, and made your bed before 9am. You might also look at habits you have dropped or adopted. “Huh… when did I start reading books at night rather than fiddling with my iPad?”

For me, a particularly weird but telling metric has been “Which guided meditations am I turning to more lately?” More than just an indicator of success in a new habit, it’s also made me realize that some personal demons are settling down but that I need to work on others.

When I decided to start my habit of meditating for 20 minutes every day, I found a handy app called “Insight Timer.” Besides being a handy meditation timer and soothing noise generator, the app also features thousands of guided meditation recordings that you can filter through based on a number of qualities including duration, voice, spiritual discipline, and most importantly, benefit.

In my case, starting out I looked for the tracks dedicated to handling Anxiety and Depression. The meditations were quite helpful and soothing, but over the last year- possibly because of COVID- I’ve been listening to a different segment more: the ones dedicated to Acceptance and Letting Go.

For therapists, “acceptance” usually refers to the practice of personal acceptance– understanding and learning to love yourself for who and what you are. When it comes to “letting go,” that usually refers to grief or obsessive/compulsive thoughts and learning to stop letting past events and regrets dictate your behavior. Taken together, however, psychotherapy uses the term “radical acceptance“- learning to accept the world as it is, and let go of trying to master things that aren’t in your control.

Radical acceptance is not defeatism or submission- it is deciding where to dedicate your energy. Once you start to accept the way things are right now, you stop fretting and wishing they were different and instead work to make the changes you wish to see. It doesn’t mean you can’t feel upset or should feel stupid for being disappointed- that’s perfectly natural. What it means is you feel your feelings, you honor them… and then you GET ON WITH IT.

In other words, you embrace the suck.

I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the foot of snow and inch-thick layer of ice cancelling our dinner plans- but it would have been worse if we’d attempted the drive anyway and gotten hurt. Instead, we accepted that the weather was shitty, and figured out an alternative– in this case, having dinner ourselves last night and the restaurant very kindly giving us a reservation for the same time next week.

What can you do right now, with the way things are, to make your life better?

Stay Classy,

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