In a short battle, grey clouds tangle with blue sky, a patchwork heavens, splotches of sun illuminating the trees growing, until the sun shines brighter in victory.
Resiliency--the ability to overcome adversity -- starts with hope.
When I walked off my job teaching on a Friday in September I had no back up plan. I felt hopeless and powerless of affect any changed in my life. Through some good counseling, reading tons, a gratitude journal and medication therapy I was able to cultivate hope again in my life. I decided I wanted to go back to school...to pursue a Masters Degree in Library Science. My first job as a teacher was in a library and I had loved the nature of the work...teaching people to find information, to help them develop life long learning skills. It was noble detective work and very rewarding.
So I had a goal. I applied to school, applied for OSAP and called my family back in London to see if they would put me up while I tackled this 12 month program. (My mom offered her basement and while I did move in, move out, and move back in again because of the challenges in our relationship--I was able to make my imperfect plan work). I was living on the west coast so it meant leaving my house there and eventually losing it and filing for bankruptcy --but all these were manageable because I had a goal, I had figured out to the best of my ability how to achieve the goal, and there was no doubt in my mind that I could achieve it, even with the bumps along the way.
This is the formula Brown talks about in this chapter. Have realistic goals. figure out how to achieve and tolerate the bumps and detours along the way. Believe in yourself.
Living in an media driven environment where we are bombarded with talk and images of how we should be, look, act, smell, move, dress, relax, party, have sex, are a constant struggle to measure up to. Brown suggests taking a step back from the single image shoved in your face for your one to one comparison and see the bigger picture --compare yourself to everyone in the world. Not fake, airbrushed, media corrected folks. You fit in the world ---not the TV -- and through places like blogs and support groups, you find you are not alone. This provides perspective.
Struggling with worthiness sometimes makes you want to numb the pain. I like to use snack food and second hand shopping. Both are quick fixes --- used to distract myself from sitting with my thoughts. They keep me distracted from the discomfort of some of the thoughts in my head. Brown suggest trying to feel what is happening and be aware of numbing behavior. It is so much easier to stay busy, vanish into the Internet, feed your perfectionism by cleaning, dive into relationships, spend money, gambling, drugs, alcohol, food, sex. Everyone numbs the pain on occasion. Being aware of what you are doing, why you are doing it, however, sets those with hope, power and worthiness, apart.
The key question I asked myself from her book was:
"...does our ________(eating, drinking, spending, saving the world, incessant gossiping, pursuit of sex, sixty-hour work week) get in the way of our authenticity? Does it stop us from being emotionally honest and setting boundaries and feeling like we are enough? Does it keep us from staying out of judgment and from feeling connected? Does it keep us from staying out of judgment and from feeling connected?"
I still have some work to do here....cookies down...step away from Value Village.
The last piece to cultivating a resilient spirit is another one that I am working on...and listening for...and finding in places...is the belief in something bigger. A sense of spirituality---which can be defined a million ways---believing in God, a god, a divine sense of the universe, and how you connect to it. I had to think about this one but I connect to the power of the universe through music, and dancing, and nature, and holding babies and my own two sons now getting so big. These things bring me joy and wonder and can be overwhelming in how joyful they are. When I dance I dance all of me....all my energy and soul and feel a huge sense of connection with something bigger than myself. My sons bring me such joy--though discussion and sitting close and play--but their words can also bring hurt and pain. Living through the pain, knowing it will not kill me, not numbing ---allows me to also experience the joy and love they offer to the fullest.
Unfortunately, you don't get to selectively numb yourself. All in our all out. For some things, I am still at the first verse of the hokey pokey---one foot in and one foot out. For others I have come to the end of the song....all in!
So with a sense of purpose, some perspective on the journey to get to my purpose and really connecting to the meaning behind my purpose---the sense of hopelessness, of being overwhelmed with where I was in life, and the refusal to numb myself to the challenges along the way allowed me to work through the challenges of school to get my Masters in Library Science. With it, I have been employed since before I graduated, and have loved much of it.
Now comes the task of being open to figuring out the next part of my life. Engage the heart--forget the head. The head always figures it out. There are answers out there if you have the purpose and believe in yourself. I have lived it once. I can do it again.