When it comes to building resilience, there is no such thing as a Maverick. No going it alone or toughing it out. This is about building bridges and not walls. Building resilience means finding your tribe and loving them hard.
It doesn’t take many people; in fact, it only takes three core people in your life to join your resiliency tribe. Let me introduce them to you:
This is the person who can be your accountability buddy when it comes to self-care. A reliable and trustworthy friend with whom you can share goals and check in with each other. This can be a formal check-in if you both need and like structure. You can check in once a week to see if you have met some self-care goals for the week (i.e. did you take the walk outside when you started feeling overwhelmed like you said you would?). Meeting goals using the buddy system is proven to work, especially when both people are working toward a goal. That’s why support groups and 12-step programs are successful.
These accountants can also play a more informal role, but you know you can trust them to be your truth-teller and truth seeker. She (or he) is the one who can give you the “no, really” look when you say you are “Fine. Totally fine. Everything is fine,” when it is anything but fine. The first Christmas after my divorce was particularly bleak. I was going to be apart from my children for the first time in 12 Christmases. Those of you who have experienced divorce know this particular agony. I remember telling one of my closest friends that my plan for Christmas Day was to sit and be miserable and wallow and cry all by myself. “Ok,” she said. “Just be ready the next day for me to pick you up. We are going to go shopping and have lunch.” She was being my accountant. She was saying, yes you get to be miserable…for 24 hours. And then you have get up and shower and rejoin the world of people. Guess what? I DID! I got out of bed with red-rimmed eyes from crying and showered and got back to living. I also ended up buying an awful moss-green and pink sweater on the after-Christmas clearance rack. There ARE limits to what your Accountant is able to protect you from.
YOUR STORY KEEPER
We all have stories. Our stories weave into a larger tapestry that makes the entire narrative of our lives. Some of our stories are worn on the outside. They are threaded with gold and bright colors. They are stories of our success and moments of joy. They are our hero stories. There are also stories that we wear in the lining or sewn into a pocket. Their stitches feel jagged and the cloth is rough. They are stories of our mistakes, short comings and heartbreaks. They are our shame stories.
Each story creates meaning in our life. Some we share from the mountain tops and others we whisper so no one will hear. Is it important to share your shame stories? Well…yes. And, no. Remember, that shame is born of guilt but different than guilt. Guilt says “I did something bad,” and shame says “I am something bad.” Guilt claims the behavior; shame claims the person. When we keep our shame stories solely to ourselves, it festers and grows. Our shame stories begin to speak in louder voices to us. It tells us that we are not worthy of love and belonging. So we isolate or we numb the shame in unhealthy ways…and guess what that creates? Yep. More shame stories. See where I’m going with this?
Find your story keeper. The person who is stalwart and trustworthy. The person who won’t minimize your story (“oh, it’s not that bad”), nor cause you more shame (“OMG…you did what??”). That says more about their interest in keeping their vision of you in tact. Your story keeper is someone who can sit with you in a dark place and say, “if you can’t get up right now, I’ll sit here on the floor next to you.” Our story keepers wrap their arms around our messy, broken, complicated, learning and yearning stories and show us the roadmap of how to love ourselves, not only in spite of our stories, but because of our stories.
I’ve sometimes called this person your sunshine, but that’s a whole lotta pressure for one person. One person can’t be the sun to warm your earth. But they sure can be a flashlight when you need to find your way in the dark. They bring the joy and the optimism. They hold hope for you when you have forgotten what it even is you had hoped for. They remind you that it’s ok to laugh in the midst of grief.
My grandfather, Poppa, was a flashlight. His smile was big and broad, but most new him by his infectious laugh that was both warm and silly. For forty years, he was on the radio in a small town in Kentucky. He was the voice and the laugh that people woke up to every morning. He seemed to know the importance and power he had to set the tone of a person’s day. Even in times of crisis, his voice was the light. Years before I was born, there was a devastating flood in the town. He stayed on the radio as the waters rose in the studio, moving from floor to floor and eventually the roof, talking to people on the radio to help them feel safe. Even when we were grieving him, he found a way to still be the flashlight. The morning of Poppa’s funeral, my father couldn’t find the suit he was going to wear. After tearing apart the house, a slow realization crept upon us: in the chaos of the previous few days, we had accidentally sent my father’s suit to the funeral home for my Poppa to be buried in. In death, my grandfather played one last practical joke to shine a flashlight on a dark day. Find your warm, silly, comforting flashlight who reminds you to smile.
That’s it, folks. Your tribe needn’t be huge. Three people. That’s all it needs to be. Now…read that list again and decide what member of the tribe you will be for someone else.
Bounce forward…and take someone with you.