Friday, February 24, 2012

Surrender leads to Acceptance

Months ago, I chose the wording of my kind promise #3: "to surrender patiently." I have been pondering the difference between acceptance and surrender. Surrender is the process; acceptance is the result.

A week ago, I made my annual visit to my neurologist. The doctor was not surprised to hear that my disability has increased. He asked me to move my legs and watched as my mental command to my lower body caused no visible results. He took my word for it that my left hand has gotten weaker.  (My right hand is already mostly decorative.) He predicted that a newly available medication would do nothing for me, scoffed at my questions about vitamin D, renewed my prescriptions and sent me on my way.

I took it badly.

I came away feeling that he has given up on me. It's not too surprising, really. My version of MS is incurable and progressive. What can he do?

I watch again as the drop hits the water, digging deeply, creating a splash.
A smaller drop is thrown into the air and splashes down again, creating more subtle ripples. Each time the drop shrinks, the ripples decrease. Eventually the water is smooth.

That has been my week: finding my calm after the splash.

I remind myself: Nothing. Has. Changed.

In fact, a quingigillion things have changed in the last week, but my commitment to being alive, to living richly, need not change.

Surrender is the process of feeling the disruption – the stab of pain, of loss, of judgment, deep into the flesh of the World As I Had Imagined It. The pain gets smaller each time it hits, but it hits again and again,

By promising "to surrender patiently, I invite myself to be patient with the multiple woundings, to let the soothing waters roll over me, leading me to acceptance – returning me to my Sacred Source.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Surrender: Lessons from Water

I have been learning about surrender by watching water.

Watch this:

Smooth, unruffled water
drop comes from above
Surface caves in...
Surface shoots into air...
Hills and valleys of reaction
travel outward

Underneath all is disruption
bits forming
being absorbed

Drop, diminished
lands again...

My life imagined water
My troubles imagined drops

After all the stories
here we are:

 (Image courtesy

Friday, February 10, 2012

Surrendering to the emotional and physical mess; defining patience

When I was in grad school, I learned the word "somaticize:" to convert anxiety (or other psychological distress) into physical symptoms.
I suspect I am a somaticizer.  I've had a stressful week and I feel pretty awful, physically. I don't work my day job on Fridays and I slept until 1 PM today after not having slept during the night.
This month I am living with the promise "I will surrender patiently."
Surrender to what? For now:  EVERYTHING.

There is, I suppose, a danger of being a doormat if I surrender to everything. It certainly wouldn't be a reasonable exercise in some people's lives. For me, for this month, I thought I would try it.
Sometimes it's useful to take my tangled mess of physical and emotional symptoms and tease them apart to see what's what. On the other hand, that's an easy way for me to get what a friend of mine calls "the paralysis of analysis." There is so much "wrong" that I end up (A) not knowing where to start or (B) with an overwhelming list of ways to "fix things."
Yesterday I was feeling overworked and judging myself to be handling it badly. Last night and today I am tired and headachy. That is the emotional and physical reality to which I need to surrender.
Sleeping in was a surrender. Shaving my to do list for today to almost nothing is a surrender. My job, for now, is to give in.
Yesterday I was on the bus fuming about having too much work to do in too little time. "This is not surrendering patiently," I thought. Then I started wondering what I mean by patience.
Does patience mean I don't complain? Does patience mean I don't feel distressed? (I check the dictionary.) Well, shoot, that IS what patience means: "the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like."
Honestly, that doesn't sound like me. I am tempted to wiggle out of it… To choose another word. I have chosen these promises to expand, rather than continue, who I am.
What is the kate-ish road to patience?

When I am feeling as I did yesterday, I need to take time for a break… For breathing… Maybe even put the work aside and go out of the office for a talk with myself. I carry my wise self within me, but my prideful-monster-mind is louder and faster.

Like the old advice to count to 10 before saying something unfortunate, I need to leave myself space to recognize and process the emotions moving through me.
I go forward into the next week with two assignments:
  •  Continue to surrender to everything.
  •  Take a 10 breath* break whenever I feel the monsters rising.
* I fear that 10 breaths will take too long. I fear that if I cut it to four, I will rush. Even aiming for 10 will be helpful.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What do I want to learn about patients surrender?

My kind promise for February is to "surrender patiently."

I've written elsewhere about surrender and the difference between  giving in and giving up. Why did this promise call to me? What more do I want to learn about surrender?

I'm sure this is a response to my increasing difficulty with my hands. It is harder, these days, to accomplish the things I want to do. It doesn't take long for me to find myself in snarling frustration.

I want to practice surrender more frequently as a first instinct rather than a last resort. Too often, I try and try and try to get it done and, when something proves too difficult for me or the universe seems to rally against my effort, I surrender.

I had an interesting conversation last night with Sam Jasmin, radio host of Disabled and Proud. We talked about stubbornness and it's pros and cons. She's right that I accomplish more because of my stubborn streak. Unfortunately, I am not as nice to be around because of my stubborn streak.

I want to keep my determination and persistence but lose the short tempered meanness that seems to come with it. How would this be possible?

Off-the-top-of-my-head ideas:

  1. Take a calming breath between each effort."
    I seem to have spent the last six months retraining myself to breathe. Such a simple thing, yet I have been unconscious of it for most of my life. Now I am consciously trying to build a breath-calm-joy connection.
  2. Try three times and then (A) ask for help or (B) take a break or (C) reconsider.
    Maybe putting limits on my effort will also put limits on the escalation of my upset. This is definitely an experiment.
  3. Use "the next moment may also be a surprise."
    I discovered, during "forgiveness month" that my expectations do not serve me well. Maybe the same thing is happening here. My poor nerves are having trouble carrying signals. Why should I expect my hands to be adept? Acknowledging uncertainty may be a help.
  4. Try "everything belongs."
    In my philosophy/theology the universe is a stunning harmony, a whole. What we see as imperfect is part of that harmony. Everything belongs. This allows me, my increasingly dysfunctional hands, the ways I am clumsy and even my snarling frustration to belong. I need to remember that and be compassionate.

Oldie that I am, I can't help thinking of this song when I am thinking about surrender. Maybe singing a chorus or two will soften the brittleness.