Acceptance in three simple steps.

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It’s hard to wake up when the alarm goes off.

 

Daylight saving time means that I’m back to getting dressed and taking the dogs out for their morning walk with a flashlight.

 

It’s still dark as we return to the house and I continue with my morning routine.

 

I start Jane’s coffee, then prep lunches: sandwiches (PB&J for my 8th grader, various meats for my 10th). And a salad each for Jane and me—cilantro dressing on the side, in upcycled spice bottles.

 

I feed the dogs and make my morning smoothie: 1.5 frozen banana, assorted other frozen fruits, two pitted dates, a mix of chia/flax/hemp seeds, and some of whatever milk alternative was the least expensive at the store,

 

I do the same tasks every day.

 

Consistency gives me comfort.

Fewer things to think about.

 

But, today, I do one thing differently—I say yes when Jane asks me if I want some coffee.

 

I find it odd that we adults who don’t drink Portland’s morning/afternoon drink (beer is for later), feel the need to justify why we don’t. Like something is wrong with us, and a rational explanation is socially required.

 

Caffeine amps my usual effervescence into a little too jittery to handle.

 

But today, I’m opting to have some, hoping it will jump start my slogging engine.

 

I set the white “I ♥️ NY” mug next to my laptop, start editing the “About Love” section of my upcoming book, and then, OOPS, knock the drink onto my laptop.

 

Spill.

 

The screen shuts off.

 

Shit.

 

 

•••

 

 

The section of the book I was working on was about how some people consider their thoughts to be shameful.

 

I was arguing that thoughts can’t be shameful as I can’t imagine that things over which we have no control ought to be held against us.

 

Thinking isn’t optional.

Believing you ought to feel bad about yourself for having the thoughts is.

 

I hold the machine over the table and watch as caramel-colored drops fall.

 

 

•••

 

 

With my 1.2mm P5, pentalobe screwdriver, I open the machine.

 

I disconnect the battery, spray away with canned air, and tell myself that the two best things I can do are (1) wait 48 hours for it to dry out and (2) maintain hope.

 

I feel remarkably calm.

I don’t feel the need to get upset.

 

I’ve no shame in getting upset.

Getting upset can help flush the frustration—like if you imagine a bird having knocked into a glass pane shaking itself out.

 

However, I’m no fool.

I know shock and denial are pretty awesome, automatic responses to catastrophe.

So, I wonder if my nonchalance is masking some hidden outrage.

 

A scan of my body and I believe my present presence to be the actual serenity of an adult who has spent years consciously practicing acceptance.

 

 

•••

 

 

A three-step plan toward increased acceptance

 

 

Step one

Decide you want to become better at having patience.

 

I didn’t use to include this step of the process, but now I do.

Because unless you want to become better at having composure, you probably won’t.

 

You: “Well, of course I want more calm.”

Me: “Really? Can you tell me that last time you actively worked at mastering it?”

 

(N.B.: I am intentionally using synonyms for acceptance to point to the fact we are talking about an idea—something bigger than any singular word.)

 

Step one: Admit you want to move from your current level of accepting the world as it is.

 

And, seriously, <name>, unless you think you can improve—unless you want to improve your current ability to deal with reality as it is—you need not read on. No offense taken.

 

 

Step two

Know where you are and where you want to go.

 

Let’s score your current commitment to serenity on the following scale—not where you’d like to be, but where you truly are.

 

(f) I promise I will be more patient

(e) I plan to be more patient

(d) I want to be more patient

(c) I would like to be more patient

(b) I might be more patient

(a) I should be more patient

 

Note: Picking (f) requires you to make a $500 donation to the most odious politician you know of if you slip even once from being perfectly accepting of the world for the next 48 hours.

 

Step two: Make a commitment to move from your current patience commitment level to the very next level of commitment.

 

 

 

Step three

Practice.

 

The best way to get better at having patience is by practicing having patience.

 

So, in the next 48 hours, notice all the things that afflict, affront, aggravate, annoy, bother, burden, discomfort, inconvenience, irk, and irritate—and see if you can avoid reacting in your habitual, regular way.

 

Step three: consciously work at it.

 

 

•••

 

 

As we gain mastery over a tool, it becomes neurologically ingrained in our minds as an extension of ourselves.

 

You know this from your ability to use a kitchen knife or drive a car without really having to think about what you are doing.

 

Two thoughts about this:

  1. All day, with my laptop out of commission, I feel like my arm is in a sling—like a part of me is broken
  2. As you gain more mastery in acceptance, things become easier and easier.

 

 

•••

 

 

I hope that everything goes smoothly for you in the next 48 hours.

And I have some good news. After 48 hours of not using it, my laptop is back to functional.

 

 

 

 

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With love,
Rabbi Brian

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