building resilience

Photo credit: matti-keponen-APmBcTBLRic-unsplash

I mentioned in my last post that I needed resilience. I didn’t know yet the depth of that truth.

A few weeks later and the “drag” of our situation is wearing on me more than ever. I feel the weight of my own emotions and inconveniences. I am burdened by the pain and struggles of those who are suffering much more than me. I see others reacting with great frustration to the limitations and longevity of the virus impact.

Our stress behaviors show off loudly these days.

It helps to remember that anytime we adjust to something new (new job, new home, new family member), it tires us out. So much about our situation is new right now. New ways of working or going to school – or losing those things. New ways of getting basic supplies or doing without. New ways of interacting or missing interactions no longer available to us.

Uncertainty is wearing. We typically do not like to stand at the crossroads without clear direction, but everything about our future feels unknown. Many decisions that were previously straightforward require more thought now. In addition, we often have to consider the complexity of how our choices affect others.

The loss of anticipated activities and celebrations also depletes our motivation. Feeling out-of-control, vulnerable, or trapped is unnerving. Isolation, loneliness, fear, and grief are physically exhausting. So is living in tight quarters with others who are also expressing their reactions to this out-of-control life. Everyone is at least slightly on edge – some of us much more than others. So what can we do?

SHUT DOWN THE “SHOULDS”

Erasing unrealistic expectations and perfection-pressure helps us conserve needed kindness and compassion for ourselves and others. When I replace “I should be… do… act like…” with a humble recognition of my weakness, I often find others willing to step in with forgiveness and help. I am learning to set goals (significantly) lower than normal at times, leaving margin for those days when motivation, energy, and creativity wanes.

GRACE.  GRACE.  GRACE.

I have repeated this word more times than I can count. Encouraging myself and others to offer grace and acceptance rather than criticism, judgement, or anger is crucial. It’s not easy to do, and I fail often, but we all desperately need it. I’m taking initiative to reach out to others and lean into relationships – even when it is hard for me. I hope that practice will stick with me over time.

TAKE CARE

I am thinking about how I can prepare myself for the long-term effects of our “new world”. Awareness of all the above helps. As does taking care of my physical needs as much as possible (healthy routines, sleep, fresh air, good food, water). Working on a significant, joy-giving, or worthwhile project each day/week gives me energy too.

The flower above is my inspiration – beautiful, strong, and resilient – growing courageously and miraculously in the crevice of that challenging rock. Ironically, that impressive perseverance would not be needed or visible without the challenge.

What has been most difficult for you this past week? How are you building your resilience?

on the roller coaster

Photo credit: n-heath-_px33d4yu1y-unsplash

I have always loved roller coasters – the wind-in-your-hair speed, the crazy-high ascents that plummet headlong into out-of-your-seat descents, the crushing-your-neighbor curves, the hands raised high, and the laughter screams – oh, the screams. I have loved them backward, upside down, twisting, and splash-landing into water. I have especially loved riding the roller coasters with a beloved family member at my side.

But things have changed.

We are on a roller coaster of
circumstances, life habits and emotions.

And I do not like it. I have worked hard to adjust and adapt. I have helped my family create new places to study and work and purchase what is needed. I have controlled my anxiety and fear and helped others work through theirs. We have figured out how to stay away from people physically and still stay connected virtually. We keep our personal space, wear our masks and wash our hands.

Every day the ride changes.

The statistics of cases and deaths keep rising and invading one location after another. The estimates for business and school re-openings are months away with nothing certain yet. Hope and discouragement regularly alternate their visits; sometimes they show up simultaneously and sometimes they hide in a crowd of unnamed emotions. As soon as we get one challenge figured out and come up with a satisfactory alternative, something else changes or gets taken away. The economic impact is adding a spinning-saucer sensation to this roller coaster and that stomach-churning effect is one I have never enjoyed.

I am remembering today that roller coaster rides are usually very short-lived, a few breathtaking minutes at the most. This crazy ride we are on is going to last much longer. The highs and lows and the twists and turns go on and on and on. I have had enough already. I want to get off, but I can’t. 

I will need resilience.

An extended journey requires a different mindset and different preparation than a ride that lasts only a few minutes. This crisis demands long-term physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual care. I cannot simply hold my breath for the few brief moments of a short thrill ride. I will need deep, long, oxygen-filling breaths to give me endurance for the distance. Attitudes and actions must be adjusted, and then re-adjusted again, for a long haul. It helps to remember Who travels with me.

Thankfully, although I cannot control my situation, I can control much of my reaction to the circumstances. In this case, simply recognizing the kind of ride I am on, gives me new perspective and helps me choose a better response.

How are you getting through this crazy crisis ride?

carrots, eggs or coffee?

carrots eggs coffeeA modern-day parable making its rounds on social media… if you haven’t read this already, it might encourage you!

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A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as soon as she dealt with one problem, a new one would pop up.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire, and soon the pots came to boil. In the first pot she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”

Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. Her grandmother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The grandmother then asked the granddaughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the grandmother asked the granddaughter to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma then asked,

“What does it mean, grandmother?”

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter.

Are you the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do you wilt and become soft and lose your strength?

Are you the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship, or some other trial, have you become hardened and stiff? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside are youI bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, the coffee releases fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

~~Author Unknown

One more reason to love my coffee… a great object lesson for life!

When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?

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All three photographs are courtesy of morgueFile free photo archive: http://www.morguefile.com/