I’m not knocking any of those things. A daily self-care practice is crucial to long term wellness and vitality.
But to build long term wellness and vitality, also known as resilience – the stuff that keeps you somewhat whole during the inevitable tough times and allows you to flourish at any time – requires more than simply having a solid self-care regime.
It requires you to be learning about your reactions and yourself as you go, so you can course correct and shift out of behavior, sometimes even life-long ones, which aren’t serving your current situation and purpose.
Often times these shifts are asking you to step out of your comfort zone and do things you haven’t done before, to react in ways that stretch. I think we’ve all encountered the little bits of fear that pop up alongside excitement when we do something new.
These stretches can often feel uncomfortable at first – the last thing we want more of during tough times.
So in order for you to hold onto new behaviors – which is often times in your best long-term interest – you’re better prepared if you understand the deeper whys which root you.
With understanding comes the ability to spot your behavioral patterns more quickly. You become aware of the emotional and sensory queues coming from your emotions and intuitions which often precede the actual behavior – especially the distinct patterns that come along with stuff you’d rather not be doing.
So resilience doesn’t require only lots of self-care. Rather, it requires something more specific: knowledge of YOU!
With all of the noise on the interwebs and in the daily life about having spots corralled in your day for exercise, prayer, meditation or creative work and play, self-understanding is a crucial area that is totally missing, or only vaguely attended – often sufficed by knowing all the different categories you can claim: Astrological signs, Enneagram, Myers Briggs, Strengths Finders, etc.
But the deeper and totally-particular-to-you knowledge IS the key to knowing exactly when to bring in help, call a friend, hire a coach, spend more time in the gym, stay at home, take the opportunity, say no, say yes, or buckle your belt in to a wild ride from some rough seas.
I see so much information out there on wellness or developing strength and resilience, split into categories like intro or extrovert. Maybe talking about particular medical or dietary issues according to body type. But not often a whole lot about how to actually pay attention to what’s happening inside – how to discern the internal signs that are particular to you.
There’s also a subtle message out there that above it all, it should be filled with ease and bliss if it’s right.
Within all of this talk of difference in personality and type, we still generalize and assume all available preferences are incorporated into these often basic categories.
They are not.
Sometimes, for some people, the difficult or complicated road is what you’re built for. The complexities that rise to your internal surface do matter.
And the particular complexities and contradictions that really matter are often the outliers for the types you generally fit.
To ignore them decreases your ability to build strength and wisdom as you move through your life.
And to imply that if you aren’t ready to zen out for a week in the midst of it all means you’re wound to tightly and you’re doing it wrong, is, well, wrong. Not all of us are focused on rainbows and butterflies, or a path of ease.
We each have our own particular way of doing it right.
Isn’t it time you figured out what YOUR way is – and why – so you can support your development and your purpose in the unique way that it needs? So that you can meet this particular challenge by accepting the wisdom inherent in how perfectly your now and your past are designed to help you develop?
The clues are sitting in your internal responses – in each little pique of anger, sadness, joy and fear.
But how DO you know which is which?
And what you’re really ready for, let alone what that intuition was really trying to tell you?
Or if your fear was really fear or fatigue?
How DO you know whether YOU really do need to keep trying or whether, dammit, you do need a break?
Cause for all the people out there who, for example, identify with the artsy and sensitive Pisces or INFP categories you will always find several who fit those descriptions generally but when we find them in action see that they are focused and driven and acting very out of character – well, according to the literature anyway.
In reality, only you can answer those questions.
Here’s where the typing systems break down and rather than categorize, you need to be able to describe and connect to your particular context and history.
But in times of stress or extreme chaos in life, it can get very, very difficult to suss out the signs from your intuition or to know whether the fear you are feeling is telling you to stop or to proceed with caution. Even if you CAN remember what your pattern in that sort of stress is.
We’ve all got shadow sides we don’t have direct access to. We’ve all got bad habits and patterns where we self-sabotage. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be human.
But still then, how do you know?
Well, sometimes you really can’t.
But from where you are now to the point where you can accurately declare an unanswerable question lies a whole territory of subtle knowledge.
The key here is you might not be reading all of the information available to you internally from your thoughts, emotions, and intuitions with total accuracy.
You end up wasting time and resources on programs you didn’t need, staying focused when you really do need to take a break – and ending up in burnout.
Or you’re just doing nothing other than spinning away your time in the land of overthinking and anxiety. Trying to use your strong intellect to wrangle the goddamn situation.
What about getting to know your own triggers and your story and your beliefs according to the context from which they were created and learned?
Even the ones that aren’t particularly self-evident or overt?
Especially the covert and unconscious ones.
It’s about the decision to dive into your own particular web of contradictions and complexities.
It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s also required reading – for many of us – if you’re really serious about wading through the muck to see your purpose to its full fruition – and you’re one of those people whose a curious, full-plate living, driven thinker person.
Sure, there are people out there who float through and have integrity and live the rainbows and butterflies without much introspection.
I’m happy for them, I really am.
But that’s not my life, and if you’ve read this far, my hunch is that it’s not yours either.
For those of us who seem to choose the hard (or, umm, more interesting) path – whether or not we are aware of having actually made that choice or not – we’re the ones who want to look deeper, but often lack a reliable structure for such inquiry.
And why the heck would we want to go digging around anyhow?
Well, my last year is a great example.
Over the last year I have been reminded and, if there was any doubt, fully experienced the benefit of having done this “self-work”, myself, over the last dozen years.
This year will go down in my book as one of the most stressful years I’ve experienced. It began over a year ago as I started to write a memoir, something I had been longing to tackle for years. While I got a good start, it became apparent that my mother was falling into dementia and was going to require my long-distance support to manage her affairs, which would include building a care team with my siblings and my mom’s siblings. Fun times have ensued.
The book progress slowed. In the spring and early summer my mom developed an acute health situation which almost took her life, and required my in-person presence for support on and off through the summer months.
In the meantime, my partner and I had been mulling a decision to turn our long-term pathway toward a small-town existence. For several years, I’d been noticing the increasing desire to leave city life; finally, the scream from inside of me required action.
After careful consideration and long, focused conversations, we decided on Taos, New Mexico. Low and behold, the perfect house came on our radar and before we could say “get a mortgage”, we were in the process of signing papers! About six weeks ago I moved most of our belongings here, to Taos, and while my guy still has his career in San Diego, we have a foot firmly planting in our future in this high-plateau desert land. While all of this is a dream come true, it also means I’ve signed up for a long-distance love affair to be supported by planes, cars, phones and Skype for the indefinite future.
So as you can see, while some fabulous developments have appeared, life has presented me with a not uncomplicated turning point.
Oh. And did I mention that I’ve been working on rebuilding and refocusing this business? Well, you’ll hear more about that soon enough. The plate has been full with never-before-done tasks, and potentially draining, possibly fabulous, high-emotion situations.
Needless to say, I haven’t had much time for yoga and green juice. Even my beloved daily walks have become not always daily. The food regime has teetered. Time for intimate check-ins with my friends and colleagues has waned. Tense conversations with family members and doctors have ensued. Deeply set emotional triggers have been sprung. Heck, even the not-so-buried crap has gotten oh-so-polished sitting as it always does on the surface.
But how have I coped and maybe even thrived at times?
Because through it all, I’ve had the research work I’ve done on my own self and life to refer back to – time and again – through this last year.
The research and practice for identifying my internal stimulus and connecting that stimulus to the appropriate meaning and, hence, action has been my life-saving-and-enhancing anchor.
This isn’t about ignoring the intuition. It’s about using the intuition and emotions to their fullest. Bringing in the intellect and reason to enhance, not control.
And I’m not talking about knowing that I’m a Virgo or a 4 on the Enneagram or an INFJ, either.
I’m talking about being able to feel when I’m triggered into one of my family-of-origin patterns and being able to know which pattern either in the moment or not too soon afterward.
I’m talking about being able to check in with my birth chart, this year’s progressions and solar or lunar returns for confirmation or discernment of behavioral patterns and even events.
I’m talking about knowing when to stay curious and do more research and when to step into my firm decision and act.
It’s been about me knowing how all of the patterns FEEL in my body as I’m in conversation with my family members and being able to shift course – during the conversation – so that I’m not just doing that thing, that thing that served me as a child but wouldn’t be serving me in this particular moment. That thing that I thought I’d done so much work on over the years to not do. That thing that very sneakily found its way back into my behavior cause, good lord, shit is complicated right now.
And here’s the payoff:
A quicker read of emotions – fast connection to the pattern at play – or noticing something doesn’t fit – staying curious till it connects. It keeps me in sleuth mode – something I love and am driven by, one of my favorite ways to be.
Connecting with my truth and seeing my internal contradictions at play in the moment, when it matters and when the consequences loom large.
Learning to stretch into the ambiguity, like breathing into a difficult yoga pose, is invigorating when I can find the courage to do it.
And getting to acceptance of the ambiguity and contradiction more quickly when it matters.
The two main tools I have at my disposal are my training in traditional astrology, a surprisingly practical and grounded tool when used properly, and my training in family systems theory and corresponding therapies, especially narrative therapy and the family-of-origin work.
This last year I got to use every tool in my tool belt to stay in some level of vitality and not totally freak out or burn out.
Of course a certain level of self-care, exercise and eating some of the right food was crucial.
But with the mom stuff, my family of origin work saved my bacon any number of times – and has, during this most stressful time, taken one sometimes-troubling sibling relationship and turned it into one of the most rewarding teamwork situations I have yet to experience.
In terms of my move to Taos, my astrology work came more into play, helping me see myself and my partner in the context of this big shift – and being able to hold this massive ambiguity and the possibilities over what will most likely be a very slow unfolding (not my favorite sort of thing, just so you know).
Both of these experiences will be looked at in greater depth in upcoming blog posts so you can see with greater detail not only what these tools have to offer, but to see how you can begin to apply some of the concepts to your own life and decision making.
And most importantly, so you can start to build a more resilient response for your own life.
For now, start to follow your curiosity about that internal response that is niggling in you.
It will make sense if you let it.
If you are available to be surprised about what floats to the top – and if you allow a not so logical path which relies on your intellect for getting to this information that holds the key to your sustainability.
Cause like I said at the beginning. Green juice and yoga are great, but for many of us, they’re just a beginning.
Stay tuned for the next couple of posts where we’ll look specifically at each of my main tools and their gifts for your developing resilience.
This post is part of the #braveblogging series with Makeness Media (makenessmedia.com/bravery-blogging-project/). Check it or join us if you’ve got big stuff to say.