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Resilience

I'm Low on Resilience and Scouting for Hope

A Personal Perspective: When the resilience cup runneth low.

Yup, I'm low on resilience these days. I've been writing about resilience for more than a decade, and how to boost it, but my booster rocket is low on fuel. It's kind of bobbing in the ocean, waving its arms, saying, "Hello? Ship of good news? I'm over here!"

I woke this morning thinking today's "June gloom" is a fine time to describe what low resilience looks like. Waking up, here in Southern California, after my irrigation system gave my xeriscape its allotted eight minutes of water. If I don't keep my hillside (barely) alive, it will slide into my neighbor's backyard. We've recently been placed under water restrictions because our rivers and reservoirs are running low. Have you seen the pictures of Lake Mead? It is very low on resilience. It looks like a dried coffee mug full of ring stains. One for every month of evaporated hope. Insert Debbie Downer: "Wah-wah."

I don't hold out much hope for rain this summer, but I do have hope and trust that my resilience will refill. I try to maintain awareness that this is part of my natural cycle. When the water runs dry, we see what we've taken for granted. We become aware of the depleted vessel and wide-eyed to its sources of replenishment. Here's what that has looked like for me:

1. The Depletion: Running low on coping strength, my patience for people is waning. Actually, that ship has fully waned. Things that require cooperation, like planning a holiday, easily bring the water to a boil. If I was full up on resilience, I would remember to take deep breaths. I would consider everyone's unique circumstance and envision the great time we'll eventually have together. But lately, I just don't have the steam for it. And the result is avoidance. Closing down. My protective inner self attempts to predict and prepare for worst-case future scenarios. Dredging up the past and getting angry at things that haven't happened yet. This is what the brain does to predict and prevent pain.

  • The Hope: My avoidance takes me out into the garden. I'm surrounded by beauty and bounty, but it won't survive without me. I'm a necessary piece of this great big puzzle. We all are. If we contribute to it and replenish it, we are contributing to the growth. The outdoors gives me pause, 360 views for fresh perspective, a disconnection from electronics, exercise, fresh air, flowers, bird song. Oh yes, now I'm remembering where to find resilience.

2. The Depletion: When the cup isn't full, the vessel loses its structural integrity. Okay, I'm talking about my body. I'm talking about the ravages of two years of pandemic. Fast food and takeout because dining rooms were closed. Avoiding doctors because it was scary to sit in waiting rooms. All that sitting. We sat and sat and waited for, something. Well, that something has arrived. The world is opening back up and so are those waiting rooms. Finally, that long-overdue checkup. And what's this? High cholesterol? How did that happen? Me, the ever-healthy vegetarian with high cholesterol? For shame. Cue two weeks of slumping around feeling sorry for my arteries.

  • The Hope: When I got the news, I emptied the cabinets. All that stocked-up junk, as though Armageddon was coming and only cookies could save us. I reached out to friends and family to discuss healthy recipes. My partner and I went shopping, investing in ancient grains and olive oils. Did I mention no alcohol? Yeah, wine was a pandemic pastime. Time flies when you're having wine, but now it's time to throw my liver a life vest.

3. The Depletion: It's all about those little breakdowns, isn't it? Those Bridget Jones moments. Can't you just hear it: "All by myself, Don't wanna be, All by myself." With all the bad news, the tragedies and the roadblocked politics, it can all feel so helpless and impossible. All of that big noise shrinks us down and mashes our heads into our pillows.

  • The Hope: Bridget didn't cry herself into oblivion. She's the queen of resilience. I may not be that queen, but I've taken my woes from the pillow to the people. I've set major boundaries with people who make me feel miserable. And better yet, I've gotten a little bit better at opening up to those people I'm closest to. Surprise! It's me and I have something to tell you. I can't do it all. I make mistakes. I don't have what it takes. I'm closed for toxic comments. You're great, I love you, but I'm tired. The point: I've told my people I need them to take it easy on me. And I recognized that need in me because I recognized that I wasn't taking it easy on them. I've found myself acting like a jerk. I don't want that to be the way people remember me when their ship passes me by.

I may not always be able to identify the reasons why I can't expect as much from myself right now. All I can come up with is: "I just can't." And I need that to be enough. I need it to be enough that I'm giving the dog her medicine and figuring out what to do with these damn ancient grains. Just know that by doing that much, I'm coming back to life. I can feel it. I need you to be there for me, but not right there for me. I need you on standby for our big holiday. We'll get there. But for now, I'm just getting back into the kitchen. And if you leave me to it, I might just dance.

References

If you're feeling lonely, stressed out, depleted, suicidal, or in need of warm support, please reach out to someone. I talked to my therapist, and there is someone out there for you. You can find a therapist who provides in-person or virtual visits by exploring Psychology Today's Find A Therapist directory.

If you need urgent help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Did you know that as of July 16th, 2022 all callers in the United States will be able to dial 988 to access the Suicide Prevention Lifeline? Please spread the good news.

Did you also know that you don't have to be in crisis to call someone for support? The National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) provides a directory of volunteer-run "warm lines" across the country. These lines are staffed by peers who have been trained to talk with anyone in need of emotional support. Please, please make use of the support systems available to you. You are and always will be a necessary piece of the great big puzzle.

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