Chaos and Radical Acceptance

Leeana Tankersley

The new rug under the couch smells like dog pee. I replaced the former rug — that is now in my garage — because it smelled like dog pee. Why does everything SMELL LIKE PEE? There’s a long white extension cord that hangs from the back of my one-ton TV — which is mounted on the wall — down to an outlet five feet away. It is so aesthetically perverse that it makes me angry daily. There’s an outlet behind the TV, on the wall, but it will take three grown people to take the TV off the wall, reach behind, and plug it back in, while a person is holding both sides of the TV, and then remount it. This will also require two ladders or, at the very least, step stools. I don’t have three grown people, and I don’t have ladders.  

There is an infestation of large black ants that are coming from somewhere. I don’t know where. I have ant traps on my list. Please don’t get me started about my list. The pilot light went out on the gas fireplace a couple of weeks ago. Normally, I’ve been able to relight it myself, but this time I can’t get it going. I try, but then I get scared that I’m going to blow my face off, and I stop trying. Three of the five burners on my range are not working properly. My vacuum fell over and took a nice-sized chunk, in a visible area, out of the wood floor: a white scar right there in the middle of the walkway. The countertop cracked in one area. The front door won’t lock, all of a sudden. The Internet is spotty at best.  

I really do try. I’m not over here attempting to see how far I can let things go. I am relatively on it, and I don’t particularly enjoy the scent of canine urine. At all. It’s not like this is how I want things to be, how I want to live, and yet, here we are. Maybe if I had a different set of life skills, a different personality, a different perspective, a different set of circumstances, a different bank account … perhaps things would be different. But there is no amount of fixating that will change one thing.  

This is the life I have, and the home I have, and the kids I have, and the marital status I have, and the bank account I have, and the work I have, and the calves I have, and the dog (give me strength) I have.

This is the life I have been given, the life I accept with gratitude. But I’m tired. I’m tired of making lists and making calls and making messes.  

How do I make peace with ant invasions and pet urine?  
How do I make peace with derelict burners and countertop cracks?  
How do I make amends with this body, this SHE that is only ever asking for love?  
How do I find any capacity whatsoever to remain present in my own life when these things are constantly swirling around me?  

The Great Secret is this: where you are right now — right now — is the most mattering thing. What we go through trying to hush reality. What great lengths and attempts and stutter steps we try to pull off doing anything we can to avoid standing right here.  

It’s hard, I tell God. It’s hard to lean up against the chaos, internally and externally, every day. It’s hard to know what needs my attention and what doesn’t and what deserves my time and what doesn’t and what I should do and what I should get help with or try to hire out. I am tired of trying and things always being in half-repair or disrepair. I’m tired of giving everything I have and it not mattering.

And I realize I am no longer talking to myself about the house. I am talking about my life. My work. My mothering. About all the things I take seriously and personally that I wish I felt I was better at.  

Then I get a text from my sister. She and my niece Lindsay want to stop in for a visit sometime today.  

The whisper in my ear is this: radical acceptance. Radical acceptance of my life, my marital status, my disappointment, my frustration, even the dog. Radical acceptance of this reality, this place, this body. The cords, the burners, the ants, the divot in the floor.  

Hello, chaos.

I cannot outrun you. No matter how fast I get. No matter who I hire. No matter if I buy new. Hello. You want to take me away from myself, pull me out to sea. You want to disintegrate me and fragment me into a million pieces. Hello, you. I see you.  

And hello, self.

I see you in all your intricacies and nuances. I see you wanting to create and nurture and nourish. And I see you wanting some small semblance of order in which to do that. I see you wanting perfection sometimes too. Wanting it all to look exactly right. I see you wishing for that, trying to create that, longing for it, actually. I want to take you by the hand and help you walk into what is. Not what I wish for in my fantasy of perfectionism. What is.  

Go find God in the cords. Go find God in the crumbs under the bed. Go find God in the ants. Go find God in the frustration, disappointment, chaos. Go find God. This is your only hope.  

My sister says, “We are going through the drive-through on our way over. Can we bring you a tea? We are going to the dump after we leave your house. Can we take the boxes in the garage for you? We can help you with the TV cord. No prob.” Yes, I say. Yes. I will accept this miracle too. 


  • What in your life feels chaotic today?
  • What might God be wanting to tell you, right here, in the chaos of your own heart and life.  

(Adapted from Hope Anyway by Leeana Tankersley) 

Leeana Tankersley (