Put the Cigar Down and Do Your Job

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12

When I started recovery from my eating disorder, I did NOT want to press on. But I did want to get out from under the oppression of my disease. Sometimes, as they say in the meeting rooms, we have to “fake it ‘til we make it.” I am not, as a general rule, a fan of faking stuff.

But sometimes we have to pray for the healing thing, even if our body, mind, and spirit rebel at the thought of the healing. When I prayed at the beginning of my journey, I imagined myself running from a giant bear, fighting for my life. I was in survival mode. I prayed as a cry of desperation, not a prayer of hope. If this is your situation, perhaps my imaginations will help your prayers!

Sometimes we have to acknowledge that we absolutely must. Press. On. Our lives or the lives of others depend on it. But no need to Pollyanna the experience up. We can admit how absolutely hard it is to press on when our brain is screaming at us to return to our old habits so that our brains do not have to work too hard.

When I know that I need to press on but do not want to, I imagine my brain sitting in a recliner chair smoking a cigar saying, “Not today.” And I say back to my brain, “Put that cigar down and do your job. You are smart. You can press on.”

Hope and the future

Yesterday I mentioned a friend who is extremely resilient and provided an example of how is resilience shows up for him and the rest of us. He is, I suspect, temperamentally well-suited for resilience. This is not to discredit his resiliency in any way, because resiliency isn’t a temperament trait, it is a skill set. But knowing this man, I think it is a skill set he took to like a duck to water.

However, I am NOT temperamentally suited for resilience. But by dingy I practice it. It is not natural, nor am I as skilled as my friend, but I personally believe that as faithful people, we are called to resilience.

Whether or not we are working on new resolutions in this fresh, new year, resilience is a crucial life skill. It is the difference between thriving and wasting away. Too often we believe our circumstances drive our thriving - that’s not true. It is resilience.

Notice that I particularly called on faithful people to practice resilience. I’m not talking pie-in-the-sky, God blesses me because he loves me, and every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before thinking. That is not resilience. It’s a kind of spiritual languaging that some find comforting, and if you do - awesome. But I do not. It doesn’t fit the facts of my life. I believe that the facts and our faith align.

Does God bless his people? Yes. Do God’s people suffer? Yes. Resilient people can believe both those things at the same time without poking their eye out with a pencil, because resilient people do not NEED everything to go well for them in order to feel loved by God.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV

Hope is a gift not a guarantee. Whether or not we fulfill our resolutions in 2019, our hope does not rest in getting what we want. My friends the Ryans wrote this on page 242 of “Rooted In God’s Love” - “We need to remind ourselves daily that we do not serve the god-of-relentless-cheerfulness, or the god-of-naivete, or the god-of-blind-optimism. We serve the God of Hope. God is hope-full and loves to share hope-full-ness with us. We can come to God with our fear, doubt and despair and God will give good gifts to us. When all other reasons for hope fail us, we can return to the God for Hope because God is greater than our disappointment, greater than our failure, greater than the problems and conflicts in our hearts and our homes and our communities and our world.”

Resilient people can teach us

Resilient people have shared characteristics - so say the experts in these matters. One of those shared capacities is confidence that no matter what is happening in the present, tomorrow will be different.

This morning I had an early meeting with a group of folks, one of whom had just received terrible news about his business. It COULD be potentially very bad for his bottom line. Here is what he did about it:

1. He showed up for his obligation even though we all would have understood if he bailed. But he didn’t bail. He showed up because this is what resilient people do. They show up.

2. He named the problem. He analyzed it. He questioned the issues and was curious about the findings. It was clear that he would look into this issue further. He will not just assume that the bad news is the truth.

3. He ended his conversation by saying, “Either way, we will figure it out.”

Resilient people have an innate sense that things will work out. They understand that bad news isn’t the only news, and that a bad day is one day. It doesn’t translate into a bad life or even a bad week.

Can you find that capacity in yourself? If not, how could you acquire that skill?

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 NIV

Build each other up

So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 CEB

Recently a mom and dad came to me in the hopes that I could help them figure out what to do.  I couldn’t figure it out.  I had a few ideas, offered a couple of options.  But honestly, I didn’t know.

What I did know was that I could encourage them.  For real, not just patronize them with platitudes or false confidence.  Certainty is not all it is cracked up to be, because it isn’t real.  Nothing is certain.  There is no one right way.  

Here are a few ways that I find encouraging:

* I am encouraged when someone is willing to listen to my endless need to verbally process.  I can tell the difference between someone listening and being humored - I bet you can too.  Not everyone is equipped for such hard work as presence, active listening and such.  It’s ok.  We all bring different gifts to relationships.  
* I am encouraged when I witness joy and curiosity and playfulness in others.  This is not my strong suit and when I am able to see how it is done, it provides me a good example to follow.
* I am encouraged when I am on a team that cooperates, appreciates, respects and laughs together.  I love working and playing with people who sincerely love one another.  In our community, we are exceedingly blessed to have a lot of love among us.
* I am encouraged when I get a good night’s sleep.
* I am encouraged when I have time in nature.
* I am encouraged by the resilience and courage and hope I see in families who work recovery.
* I am encouraged by people who hold fast to faith in a world where having faith is no longer cool.

What encourages you?

Encourage who you can

Even the most resilient person can fail to thrive without necessary support and encouragement.  We were working late last night when a young adult showed up in a desperate state.
He immediately began to tell us how he had ruined his life; it was all his fault; he needed help but could totally understand why no one would help him.

Scott replied, “I think it is a bit more complicated than that.”  He provided resources appropriate to the situation as we understood it.  As always, it felt too little for so much need.  
This person wasn’t able to hear much.  He wasn’t really comfortable in our presence.  But there was no way we were going to let him leave without a bit of encouragement.

Maybe this simple sentence feels like it offers little in the way of comfort.  But what we discover over and over again is that suffering people are rarely able to receive much more than a small dose, the tiniest hint of feedback that just because a person has done a lot of naughty things, it doesn’t mean that they are people who do not deserve dignity and respect.
We are not as resilient as we once were as a culture.  Our infighting and name calling and judging and blaming and shaming of one another has become a cultural norm.  This must stop.  This is killing us all.  

How can you encourage others today?  Even people you disagree with at every turn - how can you put more encouragement into the world?

Know when to rest

Highly resilient people are not necessarily hard charging, extroverted type A kind of people.  In fact, the capacity to rest, process distressing situations and learn from mistakes (if any) means that resilient people know when to take a break.  And they do so.

Another healthy habit is developing the skill set of being present in the moment with one eye on the future.  After one takes stock of the past, makes notes and plans and develops practices that take into account past failures and upsets, resilient folks learn how to let go, get back to living life on life’s terms, stop ruminating and obsession and reject bitterness or despair as appropriate responses.

So breathe.  But don’t vegetate.

How are you doing with these skills?

Why so resentful?

Have you ever felt mad at the world and had no clue why?  Rigidity can do that to a person!  In many ways resentment is bred and multiplies as we continue to have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, others and the world around us.

It is taking this thought to far to say that we should have NO expectations.  But when we struggle with rigid attitudes and resentment, chances are our expectations are out of control.
When we drive we expect people to stop for red lights and go through green ones, right?  But we all know certain intersections where for whatever reason people do not live up to our expectations.  (Richmonders will know that the intersection of Robious Road and Huguenot Road fits that category.)  Experience teaches us to pause, verify and then proceed with caution through that particular intersection.  We may have an expectation that people should know better but experience teaches us that this is unrealistic.  In this situation, a resilient person knows to manage their expectations.  They are extra cautious; they plan for reality. 

For years I would experience frustration as I go through that intersection and daily watch people run red lights trying to beat the clock.  Today, after practicing my skills, I proceed with caution and manage my expectations by being honest about the way Richmonders handle that stretch of road.  No more resentment.

Denial - an often unconscious commitment to fight a losing battle with reality also creates resentment.  It may be extremely scary to face the truth about our families of origin, our marriages and especially our children with mental health issues or a substance use disorder.  But as we fight off acknowledgement, as facts present themselves that challenge our fantasy living, one symptom is resentment!

Any signs in your life that there are some realities in need of addressing?  Resilient people face these troubles head on.  Be that!

Living with Loss

My grandson has not yet hit a trauma (that I know of).  Last weekend we were sitting outside and a big hawk flew over - darkly silhouetted against a beautiful bright blue sky, unusual in its brightness for a Virginia summer day.  He looked up and gasped for air, which he does when excited.  He clapped his little hands together in delight.  He cooed and pointed and said, “Meme look.  Big turd.”  Which of course means bird in baby speak.

He gets equally excited when his Pops hands him a peanut butter track (cracker).  I have a video I will show you if you are lucky and ask nice!

I just love the eager anticipation and total unfettered joy of a baby brain.  

When we suffer losses, live with trauma or inconsistency, fail to receive nurturance, we lose our spark of joy.  Instead, we develop coping skills.  If we don’t get help, these coping skills can become debilitating handicaps.  What worked for a scared and lonely ten year old may not be extremely effective for a middle aged person with three kids, a mortgage, and a career that demands a lot of critical thinking.

One common response is rigidity.  We cannot flex.  We up our attempts to control anything that we can because we have learned that there is a lot that we cannot control.  The other companion to rigidity is often resentment.  The birth and blooming development of my grandson reminds me why this is the case.

We were created for joy.  Our senses are equipped to notice and appreciate a big hawk sailing across an azure sky.  Peanut butter is a treat!  Crackers are crunchy and delicious!  People love to give us good gifts and we enjoy giving to others.  

When we are kids we may lose our sparkle and for a time there may not be much we can do about it.  But as we grow and develop independence, we can change all that.  Sadly, many of us do not.

Today, if you can bear up under the weight of it, imitate my grandson.  Ask people for stuff!  Sit in a chair and look up.  What do you see?  Stand barefoot in dewy grass.  Take a walk and watch the landscape not your pedometer.  Eat a dessert (one).  Put cream in your coffee.  Wear your favorite shoes.  Play a round of golf.  Phone a friend and waste time just chatting.  Mostly, figure out what brings you joy and go get some!  

Resilient people absorb joy on a regular basis.  Do that!

Wretched and Hope-Filled

What if you are as bad as you think you are?  Let’s talk about that scenario.  

You think you are bad?  You think your life situation is heartbreaking?  Ok.  But here is one other piece of information for your consideration.  There is no need to compare and compete for the worst story.  

But suppose you did compete and won?  Suppose you really do have the worst story EVER?  And suppose you are the villain in the story (at least in part)?

Consider this:

Even if he (GOD) has driven you to the far end of heaven, the Lord Your God will gather you up from there; he will take you back from there.  Deuteronomy 30:4

Our stories do not serve us well when they keep us stuck.  

The 12 steps and the scriptures are in sync on this - we must come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.

A sane perspective understands that God is all about gathering up and bringing us back.  Are you willing to be brought back?  Or are there some areas that remain stubbornly resistant to hope?

Stubborn Hope

Hope is not a Hallmark card sentiment for me.  

It is often a fight to the finish.  The battle is between my stinking thinking and the discipline to believe that if God is who He says He is.  When I practice this disciplined way of seeing and being in the world, I have an inspired way of seeing that ALWAYS allows for the possibility of hope - regardless of my circumstances.

Hope is also realistic.  It believes in miracles AND it accepts reality.  When our dearly beloved friend Will was diagnosed with cancer I hoped for a miracle AND I paid attention to what the doctor and Will were teaching me about his condition.  I so wanted the miracle, but I did not indulge in fantasy living - because that is not genuine hope.

Hope can bear the weight of reality and still be hope.  In 2 Samuel 14:14, it says this:  

We all have to die - we’re like water spilled out on the ground that can’t be gathered up again.  

This in no way gives information about the exact date and time of any of our departures.  But it teaches us a limit to our humanity - we are all mortals.  We will all die at some time.  This is a reality limit that must be factored into my hope.

It goes on like this:  But God doesn’t take life away

I didn’t have to spend any energy wondering if God was taking Will (or any of the other folks we have loved and lost in our community over the past 20 years) because he needed another angel, or to pay for a crime he or someone else committed or to punish someone so that they might repent or to teach others a lesson at Will’s expense.  God doesn’t take life away.  Life is finite.  

Furthermore, instead, he makes plans so those banished from him don’t stay that way.

A parent of another young adult who passed away recently is lamenting her daughter’s “lack of faith”; she is obsessively worrying over this thought that her daughter’s addiction “stole her child’s faith”; this is yet one more thing she regrets and blames herself for.

Someday soon I pray there will be a moment when she can see and hear 2 Samuel 14:14 for what it is - a small but powerful insight into how God loves us.  He makes plans for restoration.  This is hopeful.  How he does it, what it looks like, I do not know.  But any situation that I am tempted to wilt over is an invitation for me to remember this:  we all have to die, but God doesn’t take life away, instead he makes plans so those banished from him don’t stay that way.

Hope is a choice; a spiritual discipline; a partner of reality; a gift from God.

Resiliency Limits

Resiliency is not a universally helpful concept.  Perseverance is not always our best move.  Some objectives are not realistic and should be ditched as goals.  Sometimes resiliency means being realistic and giving up.  I do not like saying this, but it is true.

In my lifetime I have had a couple of humongous disappointments.  Both of which are totally predictable based on how I see the world.  I love collaboration and community building in a world that often prefers to compare and compete.  I idealize the notion that if we all work together our outcomes will immediately improve because a bunch of heads thinking, feeling and doing together is better than a solo operator any day of the week.

However.  This has blinded me to the fact that this is not everyone’s reality.  In both of my most life-altering disappointments I can see how my eagerness to collaborate over-rode my instincts about my collaborators.  I hung in too long in the relationships when I should have acknowledged that my goals were completely NOT the goals of others.  This does not make others bad and me good or vice versa; it means we are different.  It is only a problem when one or the other of us (me in this case) expects someone to be someone they are not.

I was wrong.  I unconsciously asked others to play by my rules.  I pushed.  I pulled.  I moved away from my own core value of collaboration and tried to control the situation.  This is all on me.  It cost me and others who love me a lot of time, energy, and angst.  

Today, I am more cautious about this collaboration mindset.  I do not just assume that if you say you want to play nice in the sandbox that I need to go out and get us a bigger box and more sand.  I am learning that resiliency has limits.  These limits are naturally occurring if we pay attention to all 11 skill sets associated with resiliency.  If I had paid more attention to self-care, and less attention to this inclination to build a bigger sandbox, then I would not have experienced the heartbreak I did.  BUT I also would not have learned what I learned either - so you see?  

We end up back at resilience - with limits.  Because learning from our mistakes is what?  Resilient behavior!!

Take care of yourself

I gaze at my grandchildren and desperately wish I could provide them the perfect cover and protection for a life without trials and tribulations.  This is my sincere desire even though I understand that this will not happen and even if I could manage to muster up such a massive amount of control and domination against living life on life’s terms it would be terrible for them.  They would grow up weak and not well.


Still, I dare to dream.


Fortunately for them I am obsessed with this study of trauma, conflict and resiliency.  I’ve learned that the elimination of conflict is not only impossible it is bad for our health.  What is GOOD for us is the capacity to take care of self and others.


Here is a suggested list of how we manage that:  diet, exercise, fiscal responsibility, wellness check-ups, asking for help, and commitment to taking care of others when they cannot care for themselves.  Volunteers build resiliency even as they serve others.


So take care my friend!  Let’s be good to one another!

Humor and Resiliency?

Yesterday I claimed that resilient people have a funny bone and I shared a joke as illustration, one that Pete’s grandmother loved.   If you didn’t read the blog yesterday, you might want to. If not, this post won’t make much sense.


When my husband’s grandmother died, his mother was in the hospital.  He knew he had to go up to her hospital room and tell her of her mother’s passing.  He did not feel up to the task.


As we walked through the long corridors at St. Mary’s Hospital he stewed over how he would break the news.  His anxiety was through the roof. He felt the weight of handling this situation well.


Nothing I said seemed to help, in fact, I think I was making matters worth with my endless suggestions.  Until I had a thought.


“Ok, I’ve got something, I think this will work.”  He looked skeptical but agreed to hear me out.


“Tell your mom that Gram is on the roof and she won’t come down.”


I am not naturally a funny person; I am far more likely to make someone cry then laugh.  But Pete stopped dead in his tracks and looked at me. He allowed the line to sink in and he realized that I was quoting one of his grandmother’s old and oft repeated jokes.  And he completely lost it. We started laughing and could NOT stop.


Neither one of us can remember how we handled the situation with his mom.  But both of us have relied heavily on that shared moment when we were able to unite and laugh together before we had to do a really, really hard thing.


Are you laughing enough?  Do you have people you can share a laugh with in good and bad times?

See the Big Picture

Do you struggle with getting caught up in the weeds and details of life?  I certainly do. That’s not good for us. It turns out that “big picture people” are not only resilient but optimistic about life too!  What is the difference between a big picture person and a person who is great with the details? Well, for one thing, the detailed people make sure we have maps and bottled water and a first aid kit when we go camping.  So let’s celebrate the details! Big picture people also are helpful, if not quite as tangibly helpful in terms of gathering supplies.


A big picture person sees both good and bad events that occur in their life as temporary rather than permanent.  Nothing is FOREVER good or FOREVER bad. This is why they rarely use words like “disaster” to describe the normal upheavals of life.  They refrain from putting too much stock in the big wins of life because they understand that this too shall pass. BPP are less likely to live in the highs and lows of emotional reaction to current events.


BPP are also able to see events having a specific impact on certain areas of their life rather than having a pervasive impact on their entire life or their future.  When my mom passed away, I felt her devastating loss. But my grandson was born at the exact same time and this forced me to think big picture. One life was going and another was coming and although it was all an emotional roller coaster, it certainly provided perspective.  


As my mom was dying, I asked my husband, “Will I ever feel joy again?”  He didn’t answer but life responded with this little bundle of pure joy that reminded me that life was a grand both/and, not an either/or.  I understood that two extreme experiences could happen simultaneously and this reminded me that life was not ever defined by one event.


Finally, BPP do not play the blame game because they are more likely to be looking for meaning and purpose in events rather than people to prosecute.  This has the added benefit of allowing BPP to learn from events (accountability) without the emotional trauma of blaming (self or others).


Be a BPP!  How could you develop that skill in the days ahead?

Learning to do hard things

Most days if you ask me the root of my anxiety I will give you a ridiculously wrong response.  I will tell you that it is a function of my awareness of a world fraught with danger and my concern about others not paying attention and planning accordingly.


But what I have learned from my work with the Enneagram (it’s a tool for self-awareness) is that a more accurate way to explain my anxiety is to say that it stems from a profound lack of trust….in myself.


This is super interesting to me because it turns out that resilient people tend to have both a humble spirit and a high amount of self-confidence.  They imagine themselves to be capable of doing hard things.


Obvious right?  If we believe that we are competent, what do we have to fear?  We can handle what comes up in life.


My grandson has recently graduated to the steep steps and the big slide at the playground.  He doesn’t want to go up the gently sloping ramp anymore. That’s too easy. One particularly hot summer morning he was making his umpteenth trip up the steep steps and he said, “Meme, hard.”


I replied, “Are the steps hard to climb?”


“Uh huh,” he grunts.


And, because I am studying the skill of building resilience I knew how to respond.  I said, “These steps are hard; together, we can do hard things. You can do hard things buddy!”


He kept climbing.  He repeated in his baby language the phrase “Do hard things Meme.”


And I was so grateful that I knew to not insist he take the easy way up.  Are you encouraging yourself or someone you love to go easy? Maybe rethink that position.  WE can do hard things. As long as we realize that we are not alone, that it is a team effort, this is a message of resilience.  It is also great anti-anxiety medicine.

Fear and anxiety: The Usual Suspects

We all wrestle with fear and anxiety but not all of us realize the devastating effect chronic anxiety has on us.  My family of origin is a highly anxious system. But I didn’t realize that until I was in my forties. I thought I came from a family who was angry and irritable!  My lack of awareness in this area was a big problem for me and the family Pete and I built. This is the opposite of resilient because it indicates that I was (and can be) emotionally unaware.  This decreases problem solving, interferes with relationships, increases conflict and confusion, on and on the list goes of the ways I misidentified a problem in my family that resulted in me making poor attempts to resolve the issue.  


One summer I was in Atlanta visiting my folks while my kids and husband were on a mission trip in the inner city of Atlanta.  Part of the trip included a concert put on by our youth group at a large baptist church in the area of their ministry site. All were invited and I was so excited that my folks could come to an event where they could see my kids sing, meet people I cared about, and have exposure to the awesome work my church was doing through the youth group.


In case you are unaware, Atlanta has a lot of traffic and we chose to leave early to head across town.  As the natives can attest to, this is a long and arduous trek. KInd of like a safari without decent guides.  My folks sat in the front of the Suburban and I sat in the back in a way that was eerily reminiscent of my childhood.  Both of my parents began to talk about the traffic and express the likelihood that we were going to be a statistic on the mean streets of Atlanta before nightfall.  And in that moment I got it.


My folks weren’t angry they were anxious.  They weren’t a little anxious they were a LOT anxious.  Was traffic bad? Yes. Did my dad navigate it every single day without losing life or limb?  Yes. Did this chatter seem like an over-reaction? Yes. In the past, I would have gone to my mind palace and thought they were fussing at me or each other.  In that particular moment I realized that this is how they sound but not how they felt. Instead of getting irritated myself, I realized I was asking too much of them.  No one should be put in this position. I suggested that maybe it would be a better idea if they didn’t go. They could stay home (we were still in the driveway) and I would take my car.  I admitted that I didn’t realize how much this drive would make them feel so anxious and told them that I wasn’t feeling anxious about driving, so I could go and they could stay home. Dead silence.


We all went and lived to tell about it.  My mom thoroughly enjoyed the program and my dad enjoyed meeting all the people and charming them with his witty repartee.  Rarely did anxious moments like this go well between us even after this revelation on my part. I struggled to manage my own anxiety in situations like this and they did too.  But here’s the thing I took away from that encounter: as we increase our ability to identify and handle our strong emotions, sometimes conversations can be more meaningful than mean.

Find a place that supports your healing

Resilient people are more likely to become sturdy when their environment supports their developmental stage AND helps provide coping skills that foster health.  Mutual aid societies and many long term treatment facilities often serve to help participants not only get sober but grow up. Here are a few common phrases that AA uses to reinforce new ways of being in the world.  Notice how all of them support the work of resiliency training: First things first (responsibility), this too shall pass (patience), live and let live (boundaries), let go and let God (humility), time takes time (gentleness and grace), one day at a time (take care of yourself today), principles before personalities (big picture), cultivate an attitude of gratitude (find meaning), God doesn’t make junk (big picture), misery is optional (emotional regulation), etc.  


They use hokey slogans because in some intuitive way the early adopters knew that folks early in recovery needed a hook, a learning tool they could hold onto while they healed.  They didn’t have the science that we do today to teach them the extent of injury to the brain substance abuse causes, but they found a way to support healing nonetheless.


Are you getting the support you need to strengthen your areas of weakness as it relates to resiliency?  If not, what could you do differently? Who could you ask for help?


My grandson has a vast array of strong feelings with virtually no capacity to manage them.  He’s 18 months old so this is not only perfectly normal and developmentally appropriate, it is pretty darn cute.


Since infancy he has had an obsession with vacuuming.  My floors have never been this clean. But he has no LIMITS on how long he is willing to vacuum.  Inevitably, Pops and Meme wear out before he is ready to move on to another fun adventure. Like leaf blowing.


When we need to redirect him to another task, he learned very early how to dramatically present his dissenting viewpoint.  These responses are typically referred to as temper tantrums. I’ve never heard a kid yell “No!” with such conviction! Eventually our family strategized about our response and he gave up the ineffective foot stomping, vehement use of the word NO and the wild swinging of arms that looked suspiciously like a sucker punch.  But the kid still has strong feelings he needs to express. Lately he has picked up the most adorable response of growling! He growls.


My grandson, whether he realizes it or not, is developing the skill set of resiliency.  Resilient people know how to recognize and own strong feelings without being impulsive and out of control.  They know how to use their thinking to manage their feelings. For now, growling without temper tantrums seems acceptable emotional expression for an 18 month old.  If he’s still doing this when he is 40 years old, that problem will need to be addressed!


How are you doing with your own emotional regulation?  Do you react or respond when triggered? Do you have some developmentally appropriate physiological self-soothing techniques that are not illegal, immoral or fattening? A sign of maturity is the ability to respond, learn when to take a break, and how to self-soothe when we are emotionally wound up.

Learning and Listening

Resilient people are lifelong learners in some specific, measurable ways.  It turns out that as we continue to work hard to improve our communication and problem-solving skills, we are creating a deep reservoir of resiliency.  Who knew? Recently, I realized that I needed to redouble my own efforts at the communication skill of listening.


I never had a huge ego or even a modicum of confidence about my own parenting skills so I’ve been open to learning from my adult children (who are now parents) about child rearing. I believe that part of my responsibility as a grandparent is to respect my children’s parenting preferences.  Some of my friends find this offensive and this conflict has resulted in more than a few spirited conversations. They have reported to me that they managed to raise their own children, why should they need to bow to the whims of their adult children? My response was to counter argue that the parental units of these precious grandchildren will rightfully develop a deep and abiding suspicion that we may not be a safe person to babysit if we don’t respect their wishes.  In reply my friend said - “Exactly!!”


I was missing her point.  I was a poor listener the first 20 times we had this conversation.  I was wrong in believing the issue was that my friend was confused, ill-informed, and missing key information about grandparenting etiquette. Eventually I heard her - she doesn’t want unsupervised visitations!  She is perfectly ok with her children’s skepticism. She does NOT want to be left alone with her little ninja grandchildren.


Not only do resilient people continue to work on their relationship skills, they also figure out that we humans are all different AND THAT’S OK.  I’ve stopped suggesting to my friend that she perhaps consider the latest research on how to position a baby when they are asleep. She doesn’t need the information.  I was probably annoying her with my grandmother chit chat.


Resilient people, by virtue of their commitment to a particular set of skill work related to communication and conflict resolution end up with skills that are helpful and can be adapted to a wide variety of situations. Hooray for learning!  


Are there any repetitive frustrating conversations that you are having that might be eliminated by more careful listening on your part?

Be Reasonable

Resilient people are those who are able to see the world as it is, not as they wish it to be.  Looking through this lens, these realistic folks are able to make plans that are reasonable AND they carry these plans through to completion.  


Although flexibility is important, it is balanced with an ability to stay focused.  If we are going to follow through on our realistic goals, we need to learn how to be proactive, not reactive.


I realized at one point that I was feeling scattered (as opposed to flexible).  I might get to the end of a long day and have failed to accomplish even a modest task.  I, in an effort to be flexible and present for others, was constantly interrupting myself to answer emails and return phone calls.  This constant hopping from one technology to another left me drained.


I have strategies today to compensate for my tendency to flit from one crisis to the next.  Am I still flexible? I think so. But I’ve balanced that with a plan that includes the capacity to attend to and complete necessary tasks.  I’ve had to change the way I work in order to make this happen, which is also an example of being flexible and realistic!


How about you?  What do you need to reconsider in order to find balance and improve your resiliency?