To cut a long story short, 19-year-old sis and I bought Birthday Sis a pair of sparkly platform trainers for her birthday, which is coming up at the end of the month. We agreed to wait until the day of the birthday before giving her the present, even though they had arrived in the post a few days ago. We planned to give the trainers together, and with the other presents arriving this week.
However, today on my way home from DBT Skills Group, I received a message on the Family Whatsapp group from Birthday Sis, with a photo of her sparkly new trainers.
“Thank you so much for the trainers, I love them!!”, it said.
I immediately felt full of rage towards 19-year-old sis as I knew she must have given Birthday Sis the present out of the blue, without me, without asking me, and weeks before we had agreed. I had all sorts of assumptions and judgments and urges to call and scream at her for being so thoughtless and selfish –
“How dare you give her the present without me”, “How dare you take credit for something of joint effort”, “How dare you assume that my opinion doesn’t matter, I clearly am worthless to you”, “How dare you break our agreement”, “How dare you be so selfish”, “How dare you always neglect my needs and feelings, always putting yourself first”, etc etc etc.
I started calling her, ready to give her an earful, when something made me stop.
We had just covered Radical Acceptance in the DBT session, and there I was, in a situation that I essentially had no control over and could not go back in time to change. What was there to do but radically accept the reality for what is was?
First Willfulness crept in, and I had a little debate with myself about other possible solutions. I thought that maybe I could take the trainers back from Birthday Sis, hide them, wrap them, and give them back to her again on her birthday, in the way we had originally planned. Then, I noticed thinking about how unnecessary and ridiculous that option was, so moved away from that possibility! I thought for a while and realised that it really wasn’t such a huge deal after all about the trainers; it was more about what 19-year-old sister’s behaviour represented to me. I took a step back and considered if I really wanted to blow this one up, making it into something it wasn’t. The answer was no, fortunately… And I knew I could still communicate my feelings and needs to 19-year-old sis effectively, later on when all was calm.
I realised at some point that there was not much else to be done, except laugh at the fact we had such spent an hour talking about Radical Acceptance, and there I was, needing to practice just that. Accepting the situation would not change anything in objective reality, I knew that. It would mean only one thing: that I would not have to perpetuate the suffering that comes with such anger and non-acceptance. I said to myself “It is what it is”, refrained from lashing out or hitting anyone over the head, and somehow managed to let go of that anger remarkably quickly, so that I could get on with the rest of my day.