Inspired reflections in the midst of the storm

I’m doing this webinar today… and I’m thinking, “oh wow— this is really cool timing”… I’m feeling affirmed too, which is always nice, isn’t it?

Resilience. It’s a subject we can all appreciate and benefit from thinking about and reviewing, in the reflective  light of our own life-journey.

Resilience, as the presenter described, is the capacity to adapt to life changes, respond constructively, bounce back from adversity, learn, grow, and develop wisdom, strength and greater coping skills.

A “resilient world view” is characterized by feelings of confidence in life and in oneself… trusting in life and in others. Having a personally meaningful approach to spirituality, is at the heart of it.

This, building resilience, is why raising our kids is an imperfect dance that takes trusting our parental intuition, our gut, and knowing when we screw up it’s not the end of the world. You know your kid— what he can handle, what he <might> be able to handle— but it’ll be a stretch, something you might need to “spot” him on (much like the support you would need at the gym when going for your max lift). We need adversity to learn and grow… to develop trust in life, ourself, God and others. Some of our adversities hit hard and there is no time for grabbing a spotter. In such a time, we can only rely on what’s already been built. Seeing my grandma suffer for 2+ years, and die a brutal death in the bedroom next to mine, at 57 years old… is one example. I was in middle school. How the heck was I still showing up every day, talking to no one about the suffering I was witnessing every night and morning before school? Maybe our family was a lot like most? Kids weren’t asked how we felt. We watched, and in my house, we usually cried our tears of fear and sadness alone. It wasn’t because we weren’t loved or well cared for in many ways— feelings just weren’t a thing to be talked about. Stories and talks about toughness, grit, character and virtuous values are all I remember. Later in life I’d have to make up for that missing piece. It was a big piece. Funny, I became a therapist… all about the power of emotions… of feelings.

We could all make a list of adversities from childhood. Maybe you had a parent or sibling with mental illness or a substance abuse problem? Maybe there was a tragic accident, a financial hardship or disaster? That old saying, “that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, comes to mind but I think there must be some supportive factors in order to come out on the right side of development and to become resilient and not bitter, apathetic, helpless and hopeless, replicating negative patterns.

In my example, even though no one asked us kids how we felt or if we had any questions about grandma’s cancer, and what we were witnessing, we did always have our family there, actively involved in our lives. There was family dinner together, every night. Despite all the treatments and medical therapies going on in our house for grandma, somehow I was still taken to every practice and game. Sports was my outlet, my release, a saving grace where all stress and negativity melted as I played, even if I did not realize that at the time. My family might have had some broken parts but togetherness and support was strong. It sometimes felt like us against the world and my parents were the stuff or Rocky. No joke. No matter what, we were gonna be okay. And we you know what, we were. And I saw some really hard stuff.

For years after my initial breakthrough, everything was predominantly smooth sailing. Sometimes I’d have to work through and release feelings of guilt… a feeling I’d describe as similar to survivors guilt, for all of the good in my life, as I’d see others hurting.

In my work, I often sit with others who are in a season of great despair, in the eye of their storm, and I do all I can to help them find their light and their pathway trough. Like being at the finish line of their marathon, there’s no greater feeling than that rejoicing hug, witnessing their breakthrough… their well earned resilience, shining in all its glory.

One thing I’ve learned is that you can never predict the next adversity in your life. We’ve been in one now for a few months. Never saw it coming, wouldn’t have predicted it in a million years… but here we are. People close to us have commented about how amazed they are by how we remain lively, faithful, joyful, graceful. If those descriptions are true, and to be honest, I think the are, I don’t think we can take much credit. All we’ve done— all we are doing, is following the lesson plans of old.

We trust life. We trust the God of our understanding. I trust me. Andy trusts Andy. We trust one another. We trust the network of incredible friends and family surrounding us, when and if something bigger than us is needed or we need to check our perspective. In fact Andy’s having drinks with a friend tomorrow to tap into his wisdom and insights for a decision we need to make. We spoke to another friend from KC, yesterday, on speaker phone, for his perspective. We pray. We do the work that leads to the results for which we hope. We’re prepared (we’ve saved even amidst the challenges of providing for 5 kids and having a residence in two cities for 8 years). That said, we’ve also carried some debt through these college years and part of our current adversity is pondering the questions of how best to proceed with our current circumstances, involving my job too— where to live while we figure out his next job, and where we will ultimately live next. There’s the wisdom you grow up hearing. “Don’t touch the investment savings until you absolutely must…not until your 70’s, ideally.” We’re the kind of people who take wise advice so that’s never been called into question— until now.

Another thing I’ve learned is that when a riveting, unforeseen shift comes along, you question things you might not have otherwise questioned. You go to the root of what you “know”… what you’ve learned and picked up along the journey. You test your knowledge in new ways. “Is it best, at 50 and 58 to leave that nest egg untouched, to keep adding to it as usual… or is it best to take some of it and pay off those parent plus college loans, that credit card balance, and be debt free?” Cautious friends (our former selves 6 months ago) would be alarmed by the mere question of tapping into the nest egg, for fear we could actually do that and hurt our older selves… but here we are, wondering about the risks and benefits. Would it be better to feel that financial freedom in the here and now, while we are younger, and trust in the solid remainder that would be left in the account and in our ongoing ability to rebuild it as well as using the pensions we’ve earned, come later? How would it feel to be in this space owing nothing or no one beyond the cell phone provider, utilities, and the mortgage banker (assuming we buy a house in our next chapter, the way we have in all the adult chapters until now)? Do the benefits of that pathway outweigh the risks? Or do the benefits of maintaining what we’ve always known and done outweigh the risks of turning that wisdom on its head? It’s a choice. I like choices. Options are empowering. There are always options, no matter the storms you might be encountering in your life.

Why haven’t we freaked out despite selling and donating most of the things we owned and loved, including our family home, right down to the dining table that we gathered around for day to day meals, special occasions, holidays, tough disciplinary talks with our kids… despite moving our college freshman who has the added challenge (adversity) of ADHD, 900+ miles away from all he knows (except us), only to face the very high likelihood that we won’t even be here to see the end of his 1st semester… and the list goes on and on…

Today’s webinar answers it beautifully. We have a resilient world view. I not only believe this is just a season, one full of tests and shifts, both externally and internally, but I also believe the next amazing novel opportunity, adventure, chock full with new people, places and experiences awaits us. I’m ready, even while I pray each day for clarity, for eyes, heart and mind to see what’s being revealed, to learn and grow from this experience. I trust. That feeling – trust – is amazing beyond words. One worth pausing on for a moment. While I have moments of fatigue, and certainly moments of listing my losses and the accompanying feelings of grief, usually in prayer walks with Andy, which sometimes linger into post-prayer conversations… and in realizing this season could be longer than I’d hope… I have the constant peace and knowing inside that I’m okay, we’re okay… it’s gonna be okay. It seems every prayer or talk concludes with peace and to some feeling akin to excitement… a heartfelt embrace filled with the air of love and hopeful anticipation for what’s on the horizon, just beyond our physical sight at the moment.

Resilience is a beautiful gift, for which I am eternally thankful. So today I’ll say thank you Mom and Dad, for all the right things you did and also for trusting that your screw ups would some how come out okay. I’’ll sign off with the constant truth reminder I always give my own kids: Always seek spiritual solutions to your problems and trust the journey. This is a universal truth for us all.