It is time to take stock. It is past time, actually. I can see it in our eyes, a weariness that comes from running on fumes. We are in a time of conflict and crisis in our country, our world, and within each of ourselves, unlike ever before. We are also in a time of growth and regeneration, of passion and renewed commitment to a greater good. We are in time when we are coming to terms with harsh realities: that the political is personal and the personal becomes cultural. We are a society wrestling with the fallout of that toxic culture. A culture created by the values we act upon, not necessarily the values we claim to cherish. We are #resist-ing and #metoo-ing and learning how to be allies while tending to our own reopened wounds. Lest we pat ourselves on the back for finally facing this, we must also come to terms with our own personal shortcomings and failures to live within our integrity.
This is my story too. Against the backdrop of the cultural and historical moments of 2017, I went through a bitter breakup of a long term relationship, dealt with the reopening of wounds from past sexual trauma, confronted the reality of living outside my own values, practiced being brave enough to say what I needed, and figured out how to love my own damn self not only in spite of it all, but because of it all. Spoiler alert: I’m still working on it. We are always going to be working on it.
We. Are. Working. Hard.
This work of being authentic—of living within our integrity and values—can be draining work under the best of circumstances. When doing that work requires us to push against internal and external opposition, it can derail us. We experience compassion fatigue— we lose compassion for ourselves, for the important people in our lives, and for the collective. How many times a day do we read (or express) glib phrases like “I can’t even, anymore” or the blunt, “IGZF (I give zero f__ks)?” Yes, I say it too and would gladly have it stitched on a throw pillow…because it is a REAL thing. Those pithy throwaway lines go bone deep. We really can’t even, anymore. That moment when we become hopeless, helpless, and afraid, is the moment that our growth stops.
At the point when we most need to rise up, we discover that our tank is dry. And here is the scarier part: nature hates a vacuum. The empty spaces left unfilled are the spaces where self-doubt, shame, anger, and blame seep in. We begin to believe the stories that we are not enough. If we aren’t enough, then what does it all matter anyway? Our life stops being about growth and starts being about avoidance. Stuff the feeling; numb it with food or alcohol or sex or shopping. The behaviors we use to numb the feeling create more self-doubt, shame, anger, and blame. We become trapped in this cycle of avoiding our hard truths.
The antidote to all of that is resilience. Each of us has a certain, natural capacity for resilience. Regardless of how much (or little) natural resilience we have, it requires cultivation, nurturing, and maintenance to grow and stay strong. That effort is self-care. Self-care encompasses how we treat our bodies, the words that we speak to and about ourselves, the boundaries we set to protect our integrity, and the time we allow ourselves for that care.
Resilience is an entire box of goodies…a gift to ourselves. Think of it as the “Bark Box” of emotional wellbeing. Inside of that package, we find worthiness, self-awareness, grace, gratitude, and courage. Guess what else is tucked in there? Forgiveness; forgiveness of ourselves and of others. That box of resilience is the fuel we provide ourselves so that we can drive toward authenticity. There is a bounty, an abundance, to be found in living authentically and with integrity. That is not because what we need or want falls from the sky like manna from heaven, but because we realize that what we need is something that we can generate.
This work is deeply personal and internal. It requires us to sit alone with ourselves and all of our messy painful stories. Then it insists that we share those stories with those who have earned the right to hear it. Only then does it open the space where we can finally be vulnerable enough to love ourselves wholly and be loved by others wholly.
It is also work that should be encouraged, supported, and developed externally in families, workplaces, and various circles of community. Why? Because resilient people create a resilient culture and a resilient culture is positioned for authentic, positive change. My aim is to partner with people and communities as they seek to build resilience and experience bounty.