I #LoveMnWinter. Today, I love radical acceptance.
By Scout Fleckenstein
Let go of fighting reality and accept what is.
When I moved to Minnesota in 2013, I was scared of winter. I was scared of the cold and the snow and the ice and the wind. I was scared to winter bike. To cope with my fear that first year, I focused on the positive — the sun glinting off glittery snow, a patch of dry pavement, or the fact that my toes stayed warm for my entire commute. It turned into a game. Distracting myself from the discomfort and anxiety that come with learning a new skill allowed me to see how winter biking could be fun. I learned to appreciate my body and my bike for getting me to my destination. I started feeling like a badass as I survived and then thrived as a winter cyclist.
Radically accepting the humidity and giant tropical plants at Como Conservatory
Over the next few years, my positivity game turned into an anxiety game. I pushed myself to focus on the exciting parts of cold-weather biking and ignored my gut in dangerous riding conditions. My mindset became more and more rigid and the “shoulds” started to creep in. “I should bike instead of take the bus. I should only need one extra layer. My commute should always make me feel awesome.”
Even though exercise and being outside usually make me happy, biking because I thought I should made me feel sad and tired and ashamed. I felt like I had no choice but to grit my teeth and enjoy riding through anything. I was ashamed to admit that winter biking was really hard and sometimes, I didn’t like it.
Last year, the combination of a stressful home environment, a brand-new job and a long commute made that winter the worst of my life. Anxiety ruled as I pressured myself to do all the things I thought I should do to be healthy—bike to work every day, practice gratitude and meditate. As it turns out, those things don’t work when you ignore that you are also exhausted and incredibly stressed. I needed a reality check.
Exactly one year ago, I had my first appointment with my new therapist. We have done a LOT of work since then. Over the past 12 months, I’ve learned that I have choices. I can accept the reality of super duper cold days and take the bus. I accept that my body needs fuel and carry extra snacks and hot tea in my pannier. I bring TWO extra layers if I want! Accepting the facts and acting accordingly is not shameful—it is healthy.
So this winter, I radically accept reality. Bad days are a fact of life. I am allowed to feel cold and lonely and wonder if the snow will ever melt. Because those feelings are just as real as the exhilaration of arriving at work after a commute I was ready and excited for. Winter is beautiful. Winter is also hard. And I love winter the most when I accept all of its realities.
Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and sign up to share a post in 2018 here. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.