I woke up this morning and the world was still here. I still had work to do. The sun was shining, and the moon was still up.
As I read my daily email updates, checked out social media, and finally decided to listen to some news, I began to read and hear lots and lots of advice from people for how to deal with feelings today. A lot of it was very good, and once again, I appreciated words from Maria Shriver.
And there were lots of other people sharing advice to breathe and acknowledge your feelings. I think we all need that, regardless of your feelings about the US election. We are still a country that is very divided, so I intend to continue to send thoughts for peace and calm, remember that I’m resilient, and keep living in the moment.
I’m not going to tell YOU how to act, what to think, or what to feel. I feel overwhelmed by all the advice, myself. Please do what works for you. That’s all my advice.
Know that lots of bad, awful, and disheartening events have occurred throughout the history of this country, but regular people still just want to live their lives in peace and safety. I’m remembering that.
Last night I read a good article in the current Psychology Today about resilience (this link is to their article defining resilience). Since the current issue doesn’t appear in the archives (lucky me, for being a subscriber), I can’t link you to it, but I will as soon as it’s available. But I can summarize my thoughts after reading the article.
What sticks with me most, and what I find really helpful in today’s world of challenges, is that the author repeatedly points out that resilience is the default state for humans. That’s how we managed to keep on going through our evolution, as new challenges keep cropping up. No matter what, a large proportion of people will make it through hard times and learn from it with out too much permanent damage.
Sure, some folks are negatively affected more than others, and as is the case with most psychological trends, both your inner makeup and your life situation help determine how well you will cope. And people can learn to be more resilient, which eased my mind – I’m pretty sure I’ve done that. One thing the article points out, and that I’ve used to help me become more resilient, is to accept and cherish the fact that suffering and joy are both a part of life. No one gets a life of total ease (and it would be boring).
Encouraged by reading the article (which is quite long and fascinating, and included interesting case studies – you might want to go buy a copy), my plan is to use my experiences during 2020 to hone my ability to rise from stressors and challenges and keep on going forward. I guess my campaign to keep having fun is a part of it. If I can find ways to support and nurture my mental and physical well being, I will be able to help others, as well.
I think I’m psyching myself up to find the good in what will be a very stressful upcoming work week complete with extra worries about coronavirus upticks, concerns for my black and brown fellow citizens, and fighting the urge to move to another country (as if there are many countries that will take Americans).
Still, I want to make sure to be there for friends and family who aren’t feeling very resilient right now. Some of us just aren’t, especially people who feel the pain of others very strongly, those who don’t cope well in isolation, and those who are struck with known and unknown fears. Empathy is something we’re all going to have to work on, and work on hard, if we are all going to find ourselves in a better place, eventually.
What Else Tests Our Resilience? Assholes.
Imagine my delight while looking for the article I read, when I found instead a fun article on exactly what constitutes an asshole. Turns out there are three different types, who knew? They are the dominant asshole, the callous asshole, and the quiet asshole. Since my spouse self identifies as an asshole, I’ll have to check and see which type he thinks he is.
Why isn’t there a lovable asshole category? I think they need it. If you have some resilience, they can be worth the struggle.
Right about now, lots of folks are finding their resilience tested. It’s another really appropriate word for UU Lent. Every day we try our best to bounce back, face the day, move forward, and support those who need our support. It ain’t easy, especially for my family and friends who’ve lost loved ones, have sick friends, have lost their income, or are trying to teach children AND do the job they still have.
Some people are born more resilient than others. I’ve read all those studies about how some people will thrive no matter what circumstances they are thrown into. You hear stories of people who have overcome really sad situations in their youth to become amazing contributors to the well-being of others.
Others of us aren’t resilient by nature at all. Still, with support and care, many of these folks can learn coping skills and do very well in life.
The rest of us are somewhere in between, and do better or worse due to our environment and other support systems. It’s the support systems, I think, that matter the most, which is why I’m grateful to all the people around me who are supportive.
My friend Pam shared the types of resilience she’s working on, in a comment that doesn’t show up on the Instagram photo. They are too helpful not to share. Here’s what she said:
8 forms of capital I have been working for quite some time to strengthen my resilience in. Some days are easier than others. Time, social, cultural, emotional, knowledge, material, living and financial are the 8- sending you peace and love and light today Suna💕
Chris Martenson, PhD and Adam Taggart in their 2015 book, Prosper! How to Prepare for the Future and Create a World Worth Inheriting
I love getting helpful feedback with resources to help out, so thanks a lot, Pam!
Nature and Resilience
One of the things we learn about in our Master Naturalist training is how resilient things are out there in nature. We learn how forests recover from fire, how ecosystems can regain their balance once important species are re-introduced (wolves, reindeer), and so on.
We also learn about the most fragile members of ecosystems, like frogs, who just can’t take all the rapid change. The most resilient plants and animals get to keep going (why we have so many medium-sized mammals and so few giant dinosaurs now).
It’s just hard to watch entire groups of plants and animals going away because of the actions of humans. We have re-shaped the planet in so many ways, with our agriculture, selective breeding of animals, depleting resources like trees, and taxing the ecosystem with our large population.
I once read that plagues happened when there were too many people in a place. Is Nature trying to tell us something? Can we stay strong and get through to better (or at least different) times?