Our minivan was stolen from the school parking lot at the beginning of October.
At the end of a long day of teaching, as I frantically retraced the area where I had left it, I was hopeful that my fuzzy, exhausted mind was playing tricks on me.
“Maybe I am just too tired to recognize it”
“Maybe it was towed”
“Maybe someone is playing a prank on me”
“Maybe I didn’t even park it here this morning”
Watching the surveillance video a short while later slammed me into a painful reality: A stranger had walked up to my Honda Odyssey, opened the door, started it up, and drove off with ease and with my purse.
In the weeks since, my mind frequently replays that moment of our beloved family vehicle pulling away into a sea of unknowns with a reckless stranger at the wheel.
Each time, my heart sinks into the pit of my stomach.
Shame, anger, and sadness seize my thoughts in waves.
“If only I had remembered to grab my purse!”
“There are so many things that we will never get back!”
“Why would somebody do this to us?!”
“This situation is too much for me to handle.”
“I will never forgive myself for being so irresponsible.”
Enter: Radical Acceptance
As we navigate the inevitable uncertainties of this year, it can be challenging to protect our self-worth from being negatively affected by situations that are out of our control. When so much of our energy is dedicated to holding it all together, the big emotions that rise to the surface can feel like they are getting the best of us.
Lately, radical acceptance has been the one coping tool that has kept my anxious and self-loathing thoughts from spinning out of control.
Here are some key points that I keep coming back to…
- When we acknowledge our discomforts and embrace them as a part of our reality, we lessen the power they have over our lives. Our minivan being stolen created massive obstacles that we are still unraveling weeks later. At first, I forced myself to only think positively about the situation. While that line of thinking has its place, I was also intentionally stuffing down my anger, sadness, and frustration for fear that if I felt them, it would only hinder me. Giving space to my uncomfortable feelings freed me from fighting against them and allowed me to be honest with myself and others.
- Radically accepting our reality validates our experience. When we put words to what we are carrying, we shed light on our existence. Feeling seen leads to feeling worthy, empowered and understood.
- Taking note of what we can actually control allows us to let go of the things that we can’t. The only way that I could turn off my shaming internal dialogue was to continually ask myself, “How could things have gone differently?” This question forced me to see that while I had control over certain elements of my vehicle being stolen, ultimately, things happened as they did despite what I “should” have done. Releasing the expectation of what “should have been” frees us from a mountain of disappointment and frustration.
- It’s okay to keep coming back to this practice as a guide for moving forward. While some situations are easy to radically accept, there are just as many that are not. This coping skill isn’t about giving up or approving of the bad things that have happened to us. More so, it’s a tool for how to keep going “in spite of”; it’s a form of self-care. When you notice that you are fighting reality or putting unnecessary expectations on yourself, shift your focus towards a full acceptance and full acknowledgement of your emotions. This is the path towards freedom and peace.
Our minivan was ultimately found. Despite the fact that so many items were stolen and there was a good amount of damage, radical acceptance has aided me in keeping my head above water. In the face of a holiday season unlike any other, may these reminders help you to protect your self-worth and make peace with the unexpected. We are all doing the best that we can and that is all that matters.