Day 101

Acceptance

What is acceptance? What does it mean to accept oneself or others? Does it mean that are okay with every aspect of yourself and others? Does it mean that you do not expect or want yourself and them to change? Do you need to have positive emotions about people and things you accept or do you remain neutral? Can you accept something and still not like it? These are the questions that go through my mind when I think about acceptance. For the next couple of days, or until I feel that I have a good sense of what acceptance is, I’m going to focus on this very important state of mind.

Day 100

Destination Unknown: It’s All Good

I keep a gratitude journal in which every day I write at least three things for which I am grateful. Today as I wrote about my family and all the people in my life for whom I am grateful, I realized something. It gave me an aha moment, and I felt silly at the same time. It became clear to me that I have everything I have been claiming not to have; I have just been unaware of it, or blind to it because it was in a form that I did not imagine. Now that I am aware of this I feel really foolish for having written so much about wanting a circle of friends and community, and not having support, when that clearly is not the case. So where do I go from here?

My life as it is with a few exceptions is pretty good. I have all the creature comforts every human needs; I have a loving and supportive spouse, two beautiful children, and a support network of neighbors, friends, and colleagues that help our family with any difficulties that arise in our lives as expats. I love my job and I am paid well enough to support my family of four on a single income. My children’s health care is paid for by tax dollars, and my family has great insurance. Japan is relatively safe and if you keep your wits about you, have a good lawyer in your corner and stay alert you can avoid getting into too much trouble. The challenges I face here with the exception of the language barrier, would be the same regardless of where I lived, so I am now examining my reasons for wanting to leave Japan in the first place.

As I have discussed in previous posts, there is the fact that I want my children to know their extended family and to have close relationships with them. With Skype and occasional visits home that can still be possible while we live in Japan. If I continue to make as much as I am making now and we stay in our current living situation and we don’t face any major changes, we could afford a trip back to the States every two years, so we could still maintain our ties to family. The more I think about it and now that I am no longer blind to what I have, I no longer see a reason to leave Japan. So what now?

Whether I stay or go does not have to be set in stone. Rather than be certain that I will leave or stay, I will remain open to possibilities of staying or possibilities of leaving. I will continue working to reintegrate my shadows and explore other avenues in my life as I have been doing. I will not make a decision about staying or going, but rather I will make a decision to be open to whatever comes my way. Keeping an open mind, listening to my higher self, I will continue this journey with no destination in mind. It’s liberating to take on this stance and to let myself off the hook. I no longer feel like a flake flip flopping from one extreme to the other. It’s a new feeling; one I am hoping to get used to.

Day 98

Two Steps Forward and Three Steps Back?

I’m trying to stay positive and learn something from what I am going through, but I can’t help feeling really lost and really awful. Last Thursday was the last day of my Zumba class. Several weeks prior, the class had stopped being fun for me. I was beginning to wonder why I should continue going.

The only reason I can think of was my reluctance to disappoint a small group of classmates that seemed to care whether I showed up or not. One of them was an expat like me and we had talked a few times before and after class; we had even talked about meeting outside of class but whenever we tried to get together, one or both of us would be too busy or unable to meet. I was beginning to think that although she seemed to care about being friends, she didn’t seem interested in meeting outside of class, and with the class being cancelled I probably would not see her again.

She was also part of a tight knit circle of friends to whom she referred as her Japanese family. They were also very friendly and welcoming, but I always felt like a third wheel or tag along, and it was hard to find a place among her circle of friends. So my reason for going to Zumba was beginning to lose its power over my decision to go. Two weeks ago, I left the class feeling really down, so I decided that I would not return despite the fact that it would be the last class. I knew it would disappoint the others, but it was no longer a good enough reason to do something I no longer enjoyed.

That day I sent an email to the expat to explain my decision not to go to the last class and to extend an invitation to stay in touch despite the loss of our Zumba class. We were both teachers and we seemed to have more than Zumba in common, so I still wanted to keep in touch. I was happy with my decision because I made it not based on my perception of what others would think and how others would feel but on what I thought and how I felt. I also asked the question, “What would someone who loved themselves do,” and the answer was a resounding, “Stay home and do something fun with your family. Do not spend another minute doing something you do not enjoy doing.” So, that’s what I did. I stayed at home.

I was able to have dinner with my husband and daughter. We played a word game to help my daughter learn how to read, and I did my own cardio to replace the activity I missed by not going to Zumba. I felt like dancing, so my daughter and I danced in our living room, and I was able to tuck my daughter in and spend some time with my husband before going to bed. It was a wonderful evening and I was happy that I missed Zumba. It meant that I had put myself first, and it was a good feeling.

That was until today when I received my friend’s reply to my email. It turns out that she and her friends had prepared gifts for me. By not going to Zumba, I was not there to receive those gifts, and I feel that I may have offended them by not being there as I said I would the week before. Now I am beginning to doubt the purity of my motivation to stay home.

I knew that my friend and her close knit circle of friends would be disappointed if I did not go, and yet I decided not to go. This is ironic because I have wanted a circle of friends, and I made a decision that denied me the chance to feel like I was part of one. It was painful to read about how they had felt sad that I wasn’t there. My friend had even made me cupcakes. If I had gone, I would have been able to receive those gifts and show my sincere appreciation and seen how much they cared about me. I would have been able to say good bye and our parting would have been pleasant. Instead, I have to live with the regret of not showing up and leaving them hanging.

I feel confused. On the one hand, I made a decision based on how I felt and I honored my desire not to go by staying home. On the other hand, by staying home, I missed the chance to say goodbye to my friend and her Japanese family. I missed an opportunity to thank them for their kindness. A part of me did not want to say home. I dismissed this as my ego afraid of how my not being there would damage my reputation. I realize now that it was more than that. I should have acknowledged that part of myself and gotten to the bottom of my desire to go. I deeper look at the motivation behind the desire and the conflict between staying home and going to Zumba might have lead to a better decision.

I can’t rewind the clock and do Thursday over again, but I will learn from this. I don’t think I made the wrong decision. It was the decision I needed to make to make it perfectly clear that I still need to do shadow work when I feel upset. It probably wasn’t my adult self that was reacting to that situation. It was an inner child in need of attention. By choosing not to go, I was protecting that inner child from an unpleasant situation, but in doing so, I may have damaged any chances I would have had to deepen my relationship with my friend and her group of friends. Regardless, this situation has shown me the importance of continuing shadow work. So that’s what I am going to do now and whenever I feel upset or any strong emotions.

Now, it feels like I’m regressing, but that is not the case. I am getting closer to change and with change there is often resistance. As I unravel more and more layers of my psyche and get closer to aspects of myself that lie deep in the shadows, my tendency to resist the change strengthens. This is a sign that I am on the right path; I just need to trust the process and move through despite the fear.