Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cultivating A Resilient Spirit: Week 1

This resiliency guidepost is a tricky one. I think it is the one I have the hardest time with. Basically, resilience is the ability to overcome adversity and bounce back from trials or pain. This resilience is rooted in spirituality, which I plan to talk a little more about in a future blog post. When we are not resilient, we turn to numbing instead. Numbing can be done in all kinds of ways, including drugs, alcohol, ice cream, Facebook, shopping, sex, over-planning, watching tv, staying busy, or anything else we use to avoid feeling pain. These things don't have to be bad things, but if we are using them to numb, we are misusing them, and we stop ourselves from progressing in a lot areas in life.

I believe I was numbing so much I didn't know I was numbing. When I would ask myself what trials I have gone through in my life, I couldn't think of any. Yet, if you were one of my close friends for very long, you probably heard me crying about all kinds of things that really weren't going right.

But if I was crying, then I wasn't numbing, right? Why would I be crying if I was avoiding the pain? I think it's because I wasn't crying because of the hurt itself. I was crying because I felt powerless.

So for me, one of the main keys to resilience is to start believing that I have power to change things. There are a few things I can't change, but they are quite few compared to the things I can change. And working on using my power to change things is a far better alternative to numbing.

I'm throwing around a lot of terms here, but I want to share an example to make more sense of it. In January 2014, I had been living at home for about a month, after I had finished all my college classes. I had broken up with someone in November (after dating him for four months), and then broken up with a friend named Steffen that I had been close friends with for 2 years, and dated for about 2 weeks. We were still friends, and talked fairly often. I started to get really lonely and depressed and hopeless about my situation - living at home with no friends around, and without the support of a boyfriend, which I had gotten used to in the preceding months. My loneliness was very sharp, and I often called Steffen in these moments, just to have someone to talk to. One of the times I called/texted, he was at a party and said he couldn't talk for a few hours. I didn't know what to do. I had tried calling other people too, and no one was available. I felt I had exhausted every option, and now I was going to be alone. I was terrified of being alone, of no one coming to save me from my pain. I had prayed too, but I was still feeling terrified and lonely.

Eventually I thought to myself, "Okay fine! I guess this is it! I'm alone! No one is coming. No one will come save me from this pain. So I guess I have no choice but to feel it." I then proceeded to feel the pain of being alone - of calling for help and no one answering. I felt the pain pretty deeply and cried my heart out for about 20 minutes. And then............... I felt okay, and I realized I had survived! I thought to myself, "This is the pain I've been avoiding for years?" My fear of this pain had negatively influenced so many of decisions and my moods over the years, and yet the pain itself was really not that bad. I found that crying from genuine pain for 20 minutes is completely worth it, instead of numbing pain whenever it comes, running from it, and making decisions in order to avoid it. After going through this pain, the fog of fear was gone, and I could then finally make some choices to try to change things, with hope that things would change. And that even if things didn't change right away, the pain wouldn't defeat me.

Putting down my shield and allowing myself to feel the pain ended up enabling me to be more powerful. Interesting, huh? I believe that God did the best thing by not taking away my pain. I needed to survive those 20 minutes. After that, He helped me to move forward.

I acknowledge that some pain is so large that 20 minutes of crying won't take care of it. These 20 minutes didn't completely take care of my loneliness either. They just taught me I could survive through it. The experience taught me to not let my fear of pain make the decisions for me. Instead, I can make my choices based on other things, like my goals and deepest desires, trusting that my Savior will help me through any of the pain that is too much for me to handle.

Without God, I don't think I could be resilient. But with Him, I can do anything.

This week and month, I will do my best to not run away from pain. I will admit when I am uncomfortable or pained, and give myself permission to feel it. And then give myself permission to move on. Saying good-bye to my Chicago friends and my Chicago life this month will be hard. But I will survive it. And I will be able to move forward with power if I will let myself feel the pain of good-bye first. It's pain that I know I can survive.

Monday, February 2, 2015

February Guidepost: Cultivating a Resilient Spirit & Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness

I'm proceeding with my plan to focus on a new guidepost each month. I intend to keep practicing self-compassion, but I will turn my attention toward cultivating a resilient spirit and letting go of numbing and powerlessness. Part of the reason I chose this one is because I'm going to be saying a lot of goodbyes this month, and making some big changes, and I don't want to be numb to those experiences. I want respond and interact  powerfully with the changes in my life this month. 

I'll try to explain more this week about Brene's research on this topic. I have bus time now, so I may be posting more, since this commute is a good opportunity for that. 

Here's to an exciting month!