December 31, 2009

Embracing My Own Shadow

Grace. I have heard the word a lot lately. I have always struggled to understand this concept. Though I have read the word in countless religious texts, heard it spoken in churches and temples, and said it myself countless times, I still can't wrap my head quite around it. Maybe, like most spiritual concepts, it is not something that translates into vernacular articulations, but is something that we feel in the inner-depths of ourselves. Perhaps, it is something that brings us peace in the acknowledgement that though we are imperfect, unconditional love exists.

At the crossroads of last year's dusk and this year's dawn, I seek to embrace grace. My News Years Resolution therefore consists of writing down the traits I want to accept in myself, as opposed to writing down all those I want to change. No more cliched last-for-a-month self-expectations that will, like last year, unsuprisingly cease upon the realization that not only do I lack self-discipline, but that I am never good enough. Instead, I am starting the new year by acknowledging that OF COURSE I am not good enough and starting from there.

I must admit, it was much more easy for me to acknowledge what I already am than trying to figure out who I want to be. In order to practice radical acceptance, I first needed to identify those traits that I needed to accept. For example, this year, I'd like to accept that I am not a details person. Accept that I always end up being my own worst enemy. Accept that I am not a revolutionary. Accept that while I am organized, I am not super clean. Accept that after college sports, I have retired from all competitive activities. Accept that I don't have all (if not most) of the answers. Accept that the stupidest things drive me crazy like someone chewing popcorn next to me in the movie. Accept that I don't like pets. Accept that while I adore community, I'd rather spend most nights home alone. Accept that my eyes squint when I smile and my right eye squints more than my left. Accept that I like going shopping. Accept that I become an ashen-pale gray color in the winter. Accept that my annoying bangs are too short and my muscles are undefined. Accept that I never have the latest styles and prefer to dress in black and brown. Accept that I am a list-maker. Accept that I am hypocritical and judgmental (especially of myself). Accept that my hypoglycemia makes me cranky when I don't eat every few hours. Accept my tendency to diagnose myself with "conditions" like hypoglycemia even when there is no medical evidence in support of it. Accept that the performer in me likes to receive attention. Accept that every emotion I experience-anger, sadness or joy-results in tears. Accept that I don't like bars, despite still being in the prime of social youth. Accept my uncomfortableness with conflict and brutal honesty. Accept my love of comfort. Accept my poor short-term memory and inability to communicate ideas on the spot. Accept that my optimism can convey a sense of naivete. Accept my sadistic joy in pranking people and torturing my siblings. Accept that I am neither enlightened or dogmatically religious. Accept my unhealthy tendency to protect my sister. Accept my inability to speak my mind when I know it will hurt someone. Accept the fact that I am broken and flawed and searching. Accept the fact that I am not only human, but lacking in humanity. Accept the fact that this is okay.

My resolution this year is to find resolution in my imperfections, knowing that while they do not define me, they are a part of me, and so I must come to terms with them. Through grace, I seek to accept them knowing that while I should aim to transcend my humanity, I also must accept my own humaness as reality.

In accepting and acknowledging my naggingly persistent flaws, and not repressing them, I hope to create space from them. By being mindful of them, I hope to observe them before they take action, thus allowing them to be mere tendencies as opposed to patterns of behaviors. But, even when these flaws creep to the surface (as they always do), I hope to learn "to embrace my own shadow" and find "gratitude for the grace within my paradoxes and imperfections." (Richard Rohr). Here's to a year of radical acceptance...

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