Having spent a life time seeking acceptance from others, I’d always viewed the accomplishment of acceptance as a positive thing.
Indeed, having reached internal acceptance of myself as “different” as an Autistic Woman, a late comer to the Neurodiverse community, I have felt great liberation in accepting myself.
I guess one of my major life lessons from living in a global pandemic is that acceptance of things external to you is actually pretty tough and can feel like a battle!
Acceptance does not mean giving up!
I was really struck by this post by threefiftyeightam I love the mix of wise words, poetry and art on these posts, I find they create a natural pause in my mind, provoke thought and bring peace. I am lucky enough to know the wonderful woman who creates them. (I urge you, go check out threefiftyeightam )
What struck me most about this post, is in all my Covid weariness, I was using up valuable energy furiously battling against things that are completely out of my control.
Recognising where you really are….. and remembering WHO you really are!
Often, in times of great stress, our values get trampled on and that is extremely uncomfortable. It can make you feel hopeless.
Hand’s up, the end of 2021 has taken me to some dark places. I have been feeling hopeless. The cumulative effect of enduring things outside of our control has been like a form of extreme endurance!
Our exhaustion, we the Covid weary human race, is collective, we feel it, the world over. Two years of uncertainty, fear and isolation, that is tough!
The threefiftyeightam post stayed with me for a couple of weeks and finally in December I mustered enough enthusiasm to take a look at where I really was.
I picked up my pen and paper, listened to some inspiring podcasts and took prompts from wise women and took time to write and recognise where me and my battle weary soul really are!
Feel how you Feel
Prompted by the Emotional Check in part of the book, I firstly spent time listing simple pleasures. It was wonderful to reflect with gratitude on the joy I do experience every day, ruffling my kids hair, singing, listening to music, growing things, plants, doodling….. it was a longer list than I thought it would be!
It’s an annual tradition of mine to create a family photo book at the end of every year. I normally take great pleasure in looking back at the year and selecting photos of our family adventures, of noticing how my boys have grown in the last year and taking time to reflect on the changes in our family.
Bloody hell, looking back at 2021 was not much fun at all! It seems all we did as a family was go for walks, the same four or five walks, stuck on repeat!
And, this is what I most acknowledged in feeling how I feel; Sadness, disappointment, resentment, loss of fun and spontaneity. I miss travel, adventure, I miss new experiences. I miss gathering with large groups of people (yes, me, Autistic woman, I miss large gatherings!!!)….. I really, really miss dancing! (it’s not the same on your own in the kitchen or in your office!)
The next part of recognising where I really am, was the most illuminating.
FEAR! Maybe a Victim Saboteur ….. maybe a story that I am still carrying about being a Good Girl. The duty I am bound with, in societal expectation and the expectation from my parents, that I as a woman, that I must look after those who are unwell and hold the responsibility and emotions of others pain.
WHAAAAT?! This is not mine, the emotion is coming from external stories and convenient expectations of others.
Just by writing this down I started to feel a shift happening in me gently. I can choose not be engulfed or swallowed by this.
I noted some actions to take:
1) Look at my values (Connection, Truth, Learning, Creativity, Freedom) and work out what activities I can take to honour them
2) Find Creative Collectives to join in 2022
3) Book myself onto the writing retreat in the highlands of Scotland, that got my heart fluttering when I read about it.
4) Letting Go Meditation…. I do this for the participants of BOLDER learning programme I have a recording of it, so I can do it myself – If you’d like to hear this for yourself send me a message and I shall send it to you
The strange thing about living through two years of a global pandemic is that it’s difficult to place what happened in 2020 and what happened in 2021!
Part of my Acceptance was to take time to note the Highs and Lows of 2021.
I’d learned from Active Hope that both gratitude and pain need to be honoured. I’d got the pain bit covered in abundance!
Taking time to look back at each month in my calendar of 2021 I was delighted that there were so many more high’s than there was low’s.
I also realised how little selfcare or adjustments I had made to my work during a life altering family health trauma, I’d just kept on trucking!
Foolishly, I often pride myself on a perceived ability to be resilient to high levels of stress or challenge. I believe this is foolish for any of us. We are not robots and should not pride our self on any kind of mental “toughness”
In part, my perception that I have some kind of resilience to stress is due to the fact that as an Autistic Woman I struggle to pinpoint how I feel. This is called Alexithymia.
The reality is, I am just not connecting with how I feel and often after the period of stress or challenge has subsided it will all finally come crashing down, I will realise how terrible I am feeling and it can lead to an Autistic meltdown or complete burnout.
I had a pretty epic burnout in the summer and it gave me quite a fright. Normally after a rest for a few weeks, taking time off or a change of scene, I recover.
I really struggled to recover this summer and I became really frightened that I would not recover. I couldn’t get a “grip” I couldn’t stop crying, I struggled to sleep. I was exhausted.
COVID Life Lessons
In the beginning of COVID in March 2020 it felt easier to surrender to the things out of our control. We were all in it together.
I have loved life slowing down and having time to tune into what’s around me.
As time went on, and particularly in 2021, I have found this stop, start motion frustrating.
I’ve had to adapt to ways of living that are not my choice. I’ve had to face up to the fact that our health is not something to take for granted and when someone is seriously ill, you need to make more changes than you might initially think. That takes quite a while for them and you to accept.
I’ve learned that I need to extend my resourcefulness to looking after myself. I’ve finally learned how to feed myself the right food, learned how amazingly you sleep when you cut the booze out, and found the right hormones to help get me through the perimenopause. (that sorted the unstoppable crying out!)
I’ve learned that even though I love the work I do as a Coach, life needs attention first. Work to live not live to work! No matter how much you love what you do, we all only have a certain amount of energy and that needs to be balanced out across all areas of life.
I’ve learned to put my own oxygen mask on first, so that I can keep on taking care of others.
As we look to 2022, I know what I’d love to create and to put out into the world. And, I will carry these wise words of threefiftyeightam into 2022
“Acceptance does not mean giving up,
Acceptance means recognising where you really are,
so that you can decide where you need to go next”
I might not get all the things I want out into the world in 2022’….. there’s always 23’!
What do you want to do in 2022?
Alongside reflecting on your values and spending time thinking about how you can take simple action to honour what matters most to you, will you take time for you to reflect and write about the following?