This week daysofhilda turns a year old. Yay! And like most one year olds, daysofhilda is teetering about clinging to its family, the furniture, its fave foods and discovering new things daily.
I kicked-off daysofhilda with three posts. One about Screens and my kids, one about my coffee machine, and one about how devastated I was that my kids were going back to school.
A year on and I’m still fretting/not fretting about my sons’ computer usage, I’m still in love with my coffee machine, (his display has gone but that’s okay, me and Mario, we don’t need words), and tomorrow I get to lose my boys to their schooling. The more things change the more they stink up the joint being the same.
I have to say though, I am doing better than last year.
I haven’t spent the last couple of weeks beside myself at the idea of lunchboxes, and newsletters, and homework. I’m engaged. I’m squeezing out cuddles, snatching kisses, and having interesting conversations about cats, and Godzilla, the Russians during World War One and when the Zombies come (I’m told we’ll be fine because we have a big shopping centre up the road).
Last week I got the best hug out my eldest son. He’s fifteen, he’s spent most of his holidays in his room, reading, Skyping, and gaming. I used to know everything about Biggie, now he’s an iceberg. I understand what I can see but there this complexity underneath that I don’t have access to. He’s big, his body feels heavy, muscular, we’re no longer eye to eye, he’d be eye to eyebrow. He’ll have to start shaving soon. How did this happen? I held him and rested my head on his shoulder and we both squeezed. It was gold.
This holidays I’ve only once said to myself, ‘Relax, they are not dying, they are going to school.’ Pretty good, huh?
Maybe it’s the medication, perhaps it’s my cool new haircut, maybe as much as I look about and things don’t seem changed, they have.
I’ve been reading The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. It’s not the biggest book in the world but it has been a slow read. I guess you’re not meant to zoom through non-fiction, make-yourself-a-better person, stuff. The Happiness Trap discusses ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – you say it, ‘act’. My grief counselor has been using it on me (with me?).
Acceptance is about not turning yourself inside out trying to remake your less than generous thoughts into something new. It isn’t cognitive behaviour therapy. You don’t have to try and turn a thought like, ‘I’m always going to get things wrong’ into an argument with yourself. You let the thought come, give it space, Russ suggests meeting it with, ‘I’m having the thought that I’m always going to get things wrong.’ Distance.
I used to reject ‘negative’ thoughts, distract myself from them, or look at them for too long. This is a life-long thing. It’s what plenty of people do. ACT is about not assigning a judgment to the thoughts in the first place, thoughts are not good or bad they are simply thoughts, and understanding that you are not your thoughts. Also, that thoughts come and go and you have no control over what pops into your head. So I let a thought pop in, and if I have to, I verbalize, ‘I’m thinking the thought that I’m sad about Libby,’ and what happens is I acknowledge the thought but I don’t spend an hour suppressing tears or anger or bewilderment.
I know I’ve simplified the shit out of capital-A acceptance in this post, I’m not a professional, I’m just a dude having a try.
There is much more to ACT, there’s something about emotions and our thinking, there’s Expansion, which allows more room, using visualization, for pain (I used it for a headache the other day and it freaking worked!), and there is Commitment. We’ve touched on Commitment in my grief sessions, it’s about what values you hold and how to live to them.
Why am I talking about ACT?
daysofhilda had a big year last year, a terrible and incredible, learning year. In the last twelve months I invested much into getting something more out of life. Somebody real obvious once said, ‘Life is too short.’ When Libby died, if there was something I wanted to get out of it, it was to pay attention. Don’t let life go by. Be there.
These holidays, I’ve been here. Swimming, pancakes, movies, sleep-ins, books, bbq’s, sunscreen. I accept my sons are going to school, accept it in the way that I’ve got a tonne of books and clothes and stationary to label tonight, and I accept it emotionally, too. I’m here.
no school shoes!