I do a LOT of this. I shouldn’t be a single mom of three. I didn’t plan this. I didn’t want this. I was supposed to have a loving husband and a beautiful home. I was supposed to be able to be a stay-at-home mom. I was supposed to be able to be able to pick them up straight after school and sit lovingly at the table while I helped them with homework and then make homemade meals every night. Instead it’s spaghetti or a $5 pizza after I pick them up just before after-care closes, and then dragging all three of them wherever we need to go. Homework? Try to do it in the car, kids.
But ruminating on how unfair and awful this was didn’t do a damn thing to change it. It just made me bitter.
As Eckhardt Tolle says in a quote that has made a huge difference in my life: “Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”
I was “resisting what is so”: The fact that I AM a single mom to three kids. I DO have to work full-time. I DON’T get to make dinner for them every night. I DON’T live in a big, beautiful colonial that was custom-designed to suit my every whim and preference. And of course there was the smaller, everyday resistance, too: “He isn’t supposed to ignore me when I ask him to pick up his toys. Six-year-olds aren’t supposed to be this whiny. It isn’t supposed to take this long for a kid this age to do his homework. Grocery shopping shouldn’t be this hard.” (I can actually hear myself whining in my head when I type those sentences.)
Robert Jackson, the producer of the “Quiet Mind” podcast, suggests: Stop. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself, “Are you at odds with what is going on? Are you feeling out of control?” Notice what it is you are resisting. And accept what the situation is, and that you cannot control it.
At the heart of it, I think it’s really alllll about control. We want everything to go the way we’ve envisioned, or to be easy and pleasant for us, and and when we don’t get our way, we brood and let that resentment fester inside of us. We would rather hang on to that illusion of a world where things DO go our way, and our unhappiness that they didn’t, rather than admit this isn’t what we would have picked, but here we are anyway, because we don’t get to determine the outcome.
In “Sailing Home,” Norman Fischer addresses renouncing our resistance to what is so:
“Renunciation isn’t a moral imperative or a form of self-denial. It’s simply cooperation with the way things are: for moments do pass away, one after the other. Resisting this natural unfolding doesn’t change it; resistance only makes it painful. So we renounce our resistance, our noncooperation, our stubborn refusal to enter life as it is. We renounce our fantasy of a beautiful past and an exciting future we can cherish and hold on to. Life just isn’t like this. Life, time, is letting go, moment after moment. Life and time redeem themselves constantly, heal themselves constantly, only we don’t know this, and much as we long to be healed and redeemed, we refuse to recognize this truth. This is why the sirens’ songs are so attractive and so deadly. They propose a world of indulgence and wishful thinking, an unreal world that is seductive and destructive.”
Of course, acceptance doesn’t mean being passive about things we CAN change — maybe your job, your location, etc. But you can’t change if your spouse wants to stay married or not. You can’t change the climate of your state or country. You can’t change the fact that kids frequently don’t do exactly as they’re told. So it is useless to brood endlessly over the fact that you’re divorced, Michigan is cold as hell in winter, and kids don’t listen 100 percent of the time. You can be seduced by the “siren song” and be miserable that reality doesn’t live up to it, or you can realize that you don’t control the weather/your spouse/your kids and be OK with that.
I think the concept of releasing that resentment and accepting reality goes hand-in-hand with two more ideas: non-judgment and acceptance of uncertainty. I’m hoping to write about both of those soon.