I have mentioned a few times in various blogs about my love for music, and how music helps me keep an even keel when my resilience is being challenged. At the moment my resilience is being tested. Now part of being resilient is accepting that there are times in your life that will hurt, and occasionally it will hurt so much that you find it hard to imagine anything worse. Now I am not quite there, but I have been there before. Accepting emotional pain is so hard to do. The key is making space, which is not the same as letting your pain takeover. Allowing pain and happiness equal space and attention is the answer. You have to actively do this, we will automatically move to and pay attention to the pain and then try to get rid of it.
As Paul McGee would say, allow yourself some hippo time (some time to wallow in your self pity, but don’t make it a place of residence. It is then time to look for what makes you smile, what you value. Now my go to for evoking positive emotion is music. I will always go to my playlist and find something that fits my mood.
I am super lucky, as I have 2 boys that are musical. Both are in bands, Jack’s band is in it’s early stages so their is no music to listen to yet, but I cannot wait to share there first single. Ben however you will remember is in a band called Vialetters and they play live regularly and have just released their third song on all platforms. Listening to their music has got me through some challenging times recently. So as a huge heartfelt thank you to Ben and the rest of the Vialetters here is their latest offering Genera.
I was having a discussion at work yesterday with with some wonderful people (Anthony Brookes and Janis Hostad) about resilience and how we can support people to recognise and embolden their resilience. We were asking ourselves what enables resilience and we started to dissect Coutu’s 3 behaviours of resilient people. As we were talking I noticed that we were talking about spiritualism, a sense that we are all connected. I said it out loud which now seems a bit ridiculous telling a Chaplain that what we are talking about is spiritualism, as if he hadn’t already realised. He was however very patient with me, and really rather excited about exploring how to create a message of connection, meaning, and compassion that does not appear to be wedded to one religion our other, but is accessible to all regardless of faith or lack of it.
This got me thinking about the latest video of Brene Brown with Russell Brand, where they discuss at length spirituality and where a seeming denial of it can lead to the blind pursuit of wealth without regard of wider society. This was something that really resonated with me. I spend a large part of my working life spreading the message of compassion, both self-compassion and compassion to those around yo, to create connections, which creates collaboration, which can create meaningful long lasting outcomes. But then I come home and turn on the news and hear the rhetoric of hate, difference, and protectionism. Lesbian couples being beaten up on buses, young women being racially abused on the tube, a father and young child drowning trying to get to a better life, politicians encouraging disconnection, politicians being physically attacked in the streets. I am sure I could create a longer list, as there is always something new reported everyday, reminding us of our differences, creating fear. It makes my heart sink, some days it feels like I am swimming against the tide trying to get people to view the world through another lens, that lets us see the connections we have with our fellow humans. A lens that encourages us to see them as human beings, to see them as mums, dads, sons, daughters, cousins, aunties and uncles, with hopes, dreams, fears, and optimism. As Brene Brown says it is difficult to hate someone close up, so move in. Move in and recognise your hopes, dreams, fears and optimism in theirs. We are all complicated, and flawed, we are all contradictions, so lets recognise, reconcile and appreciate.
Don’t get lost in the rhetoric of fear and protectionism as that denies our innate desire to search for and find connection with those around us. It is biologically necessary for us to nurture and support our species. Don’t fall for the de-humanising language used by people that want us to create disconnection in their desire to accumulate personal wealth. Connection and compassion creates more sustainable wealth for all.
Well what can I say? Life has got in the way a bit recently and I just haven’t had the time or the inclination to write.
If I am honest it was more the inclination. I have spent a lot of time wrestling with my emotions and appreciating those emotions. I will not be going into detail about the specifics of what is going on, as it is not all my news to share (I am physically well). What I am prepared to share is my rumbles and wrestles with my emotional state and how I am managing, or not my resilience.
For quite some time I have been writing about resilience and how I endeavour to maintain my resilience based on what has been written. On that very base level being realistic, value driven and creative works well, but I what I did not know was how well this theory held up when something really important and challenging happens.
So far so hard. Maintaining all elements is tough. When you are going through difficult times, rarely do you get a full picture of what is happening to you in one go. That is something have experienced over the past couple of months. The attacks that lay you low, seem to come from different directions without you seeing them and do not come complete. It just so happened that I have been reading and still am reading Raising Strong by Brene Brown. Brene describes it (as ever) wonderfully when she explains that her research shows that our minds hate incomplete data, so will always make an attempt to complete the story. We also like familiarity, so the fictional part of the story tends to fit a narrative we have adopted about ourselves and our world. Then if you think our minds are hardwired to protect us, then it makes sense that the story will often take a worst case scenario arc. And can I tell you, this storytelling is relentless and really does test your resilience. Realism goes completely out of the window, these fictions beat up your values and remove any kind of creativity.
Do not despair, these stories that we tell ourselves do not have to take over our thinking. Adopting these stories is a default setting, however we can make a conscious decision to ignore them and stick with uncertainty. Uncertainty is not a comfortable place to be, but what it is, is real. It does not crush your hope or give you false hope, it lets you wrestle with and identify those emotions you are feeling. I tell myself stories about what is happening to me everyday, several times a day. When I catch myself doing this I bring myself back to the not knowing, and ask myself what I do know, and sit with what I know and my emotions.
My emotions make me feel sad, they are painful at the moment, and so they should be, I am going through a difficult, painful part of my life. For most of my life, I have held the truth that emotional pain and discomfort are bad. I am now beginning to shift my paradigm. Emotional pain is inevitable as is physical pain, not only is it inevitable it is essential, as long as it is transient. For many of us it is. When I accepted and embraced my discomfort I found it easier to embrace my happiness. I find it easier to laugh and have positive emotions, whilst still feeling sad, in fact I have found myself laughing about the circumstances I find myself in. I know it is easy to say ‘accept the pain’, but it is a damn site harder actually doing it. I still do not enjoy feeling sad, and I hate not having the answers, but the stories I tell myself don’t make it better, in fact they made me feel worse. It felt like a spiral of despair. Uncertainty to me feels more optimistic, it is real, it reminds me that I am alive as are my loved ones, so lets live our lives and not let our thoughts get in the way.
Thank you for reading. Writing this out has certainly helped me, I hope you get something from this too.