We stood together in her tiny office, which needed another light bulb or two. I watched her closely as she babbled about my work. Her voice held a cheery, upbeat sort of tone at the same time her message was abrasive. She tried to ease the blow of her words by pulling back her round cheeks and forming a forced half-smile in between each of her sentences.
“That was rough, I almost fell asleep I was so bored! You let her talk about her dogs too long. The use of distraction as a coping mechanism needs to be addressed.” And on it went…
What was she saying really? I listened to the syllables slipping out of her mouth and into the room, blah, blah, blah. Every molecule of my body wanted to stay open to her. I wanted to take in whatever it was she was trying to communicate but my muscles started to contract. My chest filled up with air and tightened. My thoughts moved quickly. My weight went from one leg to the other. I felt criticized.
As I stepped toward the door, I repeated “Okay, well thank you. I’ll give it some thought.”
I barely knew her and now I found myself not wanting to know her at all! However, the Universe had other plans for me…I had just met my new supervisor.
Fast forward through a years worth of images with her and I having awkward encounters and bristled feathers. Each new experience brought me an opportunity to process what the heck just happened. I committed and re-committed to moving through the mud often starting in a place of irritation, shifting to reflection, then on to problem solving. I had to make it work. We were two different ingredients stuck in the same soup pot together, forced to bump around in the heat, and eventually make a tasty meal.
Weeks passed into months and my upset continued returning like a tulip does each Spring. These were itty-bitty adult temper tantrums I was having; moments when I fought for change. I worked myself up into quite a bluster, huffing and puffing. These mini-outbursts were neatly justified in my mind. I held onto thoughts about what she was doing wrong or poorly and how it needed to S-T-O-P. I screamed out to those who would listen, “It’s not working!” Ugh.
My resistance made the situation worse. It created a tug of war between what I wanted and what was really happening. The main side effect to this whole kerfuffle was more and more self-righteous discontent. The clash between the two sides brought me to cross roads. I needed to decide how I wanted this to go: continue the struggle or accept and adjust to the circumstances.
I realized as unpleasant as I found this situation, as much as it disturbed me, as much as I DIDN’T WANT her to be my supervisor, I had to accept it. It was the truth and it was not changing.
I chose acceptance and the peace of mind that follows.
Almost as soon as I shifted my attention toward cooperating with the facts of my position, I noticed a change. Similar to when you have been working inside all day and finally open the door to step outside. Your world goes from a small task oriented state to a “Holy-cow-look-at-all -this-out-here” state. In an instant, the sun fills you with awe and the warm air welcomes you back to life.
Did you ever have one of those times?
Acceptance brought me a release, some space from the problem. At the same time, there was a heavy ball of sadness in my gut and a rock stuck in my throat. The pain I had been protecting myself from showed up right on cue with vigor. Tears pooled in my eyes. I did my best to feel into the sensation rather than think about it. After all, this is what truly needed to be seen. The emotion needed exposure to the light of day so it could evaporate. I noticed for a few minutes how the emotion pushed and swirled around my torso from my Adam’s apple to my uterus and back again. Pretty quickly, my body settled into stillness.
I had found the ignitor, the fuel for the fire that kept cropping up and…I kept trying to unsuccessfully put out. I wasn’t addressing my loss and pain so, of course, these two remained faithfully by my side.
I had to actively slowww down and open up to this difficulty for my battle to end. I replayed this process each time I found myself complaining about my supervisor’s latest infraction. Little by little the medicine sunk into my core and worked it’s magic until the process was simply a choice to shift my attention, acknowledge my fears or loss, and decide how I wanted to proceed.
You may be thinking, “Wait, how can you let go? What about the criticism? This is passive. It’s wrong and we need to stand up to wrong!!”
Ironically, the gift of acceptance is empowerment. Being with the truth of any situation, from finding all the milk is gone when you already put Wheaties in your bowl…all the way up to something as important as, hold on, who gets elected President of the United States, allows us to take action from a place of power; a place of choices and awareness rather than old conditioning and reaction.
Unless you consciously choose a different future, your past will decide it for you.
— Rod Stryker
It’s not that we “give up” or “don’t care”, it’s that we care enough to face what’s difficult. We care enough to take actionable change rather than simply fight and resist. There is a difference.
We naturally recoil from the unpleasant. It’s the norm. It’s how we are built. We automatically create a distraction by focusing on the external. In my case, I was myopically focused on my supervisor’s short comings rather than connecting to my own bruised ego and huge loss.
But if the goal is to shake this monkey off our backs, then we can’t do it by ignoring the monkey. Once we truly see and feel the weight of the burden, we can discover what is within our control to break free from it.
Can you smell the difference between sheer resistance and empowered choice?
Acceptance delivers us the option of deciding from solid ground. We no longer drift in a round yellow life raft at the mercy of the currents. We find our oars and row.
Row, baby, row.