It had been ages since I had last visited a thrift store when we went last Thursday. I didn't end up getting much, but one book pretty much jumped off the shelf at me.
About a month ago, we went and looked at a couple of potential homesteads in a part of the province we would consider moving to. It was a little bit dire, what's available in our price range. The whole experience caused my to question the whole concept, and I came back to town with a renewed appreciation for all the wonderful people and things in Guelph. I began to wonder, how much energy should I put into engineering my life to be a certain way and how much should I put into living the life I have, right now? I suspect better results may come from leaning towards the latter.
Anyways, this is the Big Question I've been pondering for the last few weeks. And that book's title, Radical Acceptance, really spoke to me, especially in the low moment that brought me to the thrift store.
So I bought it. And it's good. 100 pages in, here are some of the passages I want to remember and ponder.
"The rest of the world is merely a backdrop as we struggle to get somewhere, to be a better person, to accomplish, to avoid making mistakes. As in a dream, we take our stories to be the truth -- a compelling reality -- and they consume most of our attention. While we eat lunch or drive home from work, while we talk to our partners or read to our chidden at night, we continue to replay our worries and plans. Inherent in the trance is the belief that no matter how hard we try, we are always, in some way, falling short." p.6
"Our imperfect parents had imperfect parents of their own. Fears, insecurities and desires get passed along for generations. Parents want to see t heir offspring make it in ways that are important to them. Or they want their children to be special, which in our competitive culture means more intelligent, accomplished and attractive than other people. They see their children through filters of fear (they might not get into a good college and be successful) and filters of desire (will they reflect well on us?)." p.14
"…creating an enemy imparts a sense of control -- we feel superior, we feel right, we believe we are doing something about the problem. Directing anger at an enemy temporarily reduces our feelings of fear and vulnerability." p.18
The author tells the story of Mohini, a tiger who was kept in a small, concrete-floored enclosure of a zoo for many years. All she did was pace back and forth on a 12-foot-long path. Eventually, her keepers created a proper habitat, with acres of grass, trees and a pond. But when they let her into it, she just found a dark corner and paced a 12-foot-path back and forth, until the area was worn free of grass.
"Perhaps the biggest tragedy in our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns. Entangled in the trance of unworthiness, we grow accustomed to caging ourselves in with self-judgment and anxiety, with restlessness and dissatisfaction. […] we grow incapable of accessing the freedom and peace that are our birthright. We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small. Even if we were to win millions of dollars in the lottery or marry the perfect person, as long as we feel not good enough, we won't be able to enjoy the possibilities before us." p.25
"As happens in any addiction, the behaviours we use to keep us from pain only fuel our suffering. Not only do our escape strategies amplify the feeling that something is wrong with us, they stop us from attending to the very parts of ourselves that most need our attention to heal." p.57
She also includes some really great quotes.
"Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt -- marvellous error! --
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures"
~ Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly
"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change."
Carl Rogers (who, incidentally, wrote a book called Freedom to Learn in 1969. I haven't read it yet, but my husband did, and I think Rogers influenced proponents of unschooling like John Holt and Peter Gray. My husband definitely recommends it.
This one really struck me. Hard.
"Poet Rainer Maria Rilke expresses a deep understanding of the dragons all of us face: 'How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races -- the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are only princesses waiting for us to act, just once, with beautify and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.'"