I’ve heard the same guy give a chair twice in meetings this week. I didn’t mind listening twice, because he’s a good guy with a simple but important message of acceptance. Yesterday’s chair was even more focused on this topic than the first one I heard, as he talked about a holiday that he’d had to cancel for frustrating reasons that he didn’t go into. I couldn’t relate to having to cancel a holiday, but I could relate to the feeling of not being in control, of knowing there’s nothing you can do and wishing there was another way. It got me thinking about the recent growth of acceptance in my own life – I think I can safely say now that I’ve got better at it in the last few years. When I meditate in the morning I’m constantly trying to step back from the stream of thoughts in my head, and during the day when I’m not meditating, I seem to be able to do the same thing more and more. As promised, practise has made it easier. For example, I was about to do some washing this morning when I realised I’d run out of the vanish powder that I like to use to keep my whites white. Without it the colours tend to run, and I’ve seen that happen too many times in the past to bear it again. I’d have to go out to the shop and get some, which I wasn’t thrilled by at that point. I could have fallen into a bad mood, but didn’t.
When I got to the shop I was surprised to find they were out of the vanish powder. I’d have to walk back down the road, past where I live to the other supermarket in the area, the only other place that was likely to have it. It would be a long walk, keeping me out in the rain for much longer than originally intended, and the other supermarket was bound to be busy with long queues at the till. I didn’t want to go, and therefore I had another opportunity to fall into a stinking mood, but I didn’t. I just started walking and got through it. I highlight these opportunities because in the past they would definitely have swung my mood. Today I’ve acquired the skill of stepping back from the oncoming mood, carrying on with my day without thought or analysis. When I first started trying to do this it wasn’t easy at all; for years I assumed it would be impossible not to suffer at the whim of negative emotional waves. Today it has got easier, and you’d be tempted to celebrate – only the oddest thing about it is that life hasn’t stopped being difficult sometimes, as my tribulations last week prove. I still get into emotional difficulties at work – especially at work – so clearly there’s work to do. Outside of work is where my serenity seems to be based these days.
In years gone by Sundays were the most depressing day of the week. It wasn’t until the last few years that that ‘night before school’ feeling left me. This afternoon as I made my way to my weekly swim I noticed some of that old feeling starting to return, as it was cold and wet outside and the world seemed morose and downbeat. Quickly I did that ‘stepping back’ thing in my head and it passed; since then it hasn’t returned. So I know that the negative stream is always there, ready to spring into life if I let it. I can exercise the choice not to now, that’s the difference.
By Friday I was in a state of panic over my counselling essay. It was finished and ready to hand in, but I still hadn’t heard from the classmate who was supposed to be peer reviewing it. I sent a plea out on the whatsapp group we’ve all joined, asking if someone else could step in. Fortunately the handsome C was willing to save the day, offering to review my essay that night even though he’d just done someone else’s and it would mean extra work for him. He returned my essay a few hours later with a glowing review, and I could hand everything in before the deadline, and I could breathe again. On Saturday I didn’t expect to see H, my original peer review partner, as her radio silence during the week suggested illness and incapacitation. Yet there she was, looking bright and chipper, and a new awkwardness could develop and flourish between me and a classmate, because her only communication with me during the day was an apologetic look, which wasn’t enough to make up for the stress she had caused. Through the day I was tempted several times to go over to her, to try and clear the air and find out what had happened, since I was curious. But the longer I left it the harder it got, as it always does in these situations, and every time I was getting ready to approach her I kept thinking, well why can’t she approach me?
Now that the time to bridge the gap between us has passed I need to accept that we may not clear the air. It may always be too hard to say something to her; to convince myself that it would be worth taking the risk, that it’s all just in my head and she had a valid reason for ignoring my emails all week. I’ve got another essay to start, a presentation to plan for April, and a full time job to manage. In short, I’ve got too much on to keep worrying about this.