I was adopted when I was six weeks old, and I have never met those responsible for my biological birth. It’s funny how now, in my adult life, I always seem to be on the lookout for those who look like me. A few times I’ve had this funny Deja vu sense, and I find myself oscillating between real curiosity and this strange internal rage. I have not quite figured out how to be level-headed when these sensations roll through me. I have finally accepted that EQ is my life-long developmental focus.
I was only four months old when I was diagnosed with a genetic disorder. I required hospitalization and a great deal of medical care, a special diet, and expensive medication. At the time, my parents did not have insurance. I know it was rough for them and all these years later, I am still so attached to the little plastic pillbox with different cubbies for the day of the week and time of the day. I find myself living my life around those little tiny squares. Some might even call me a pill popper.
I will never be free of the drugs or the dietary restrictions, but I always feel gratitude for the sacrifices made to keep me healthy. Everyone has their ‘thing’. Some struggle with allergies, infections, others obesity, and many more with unhealthy eating disorders. I have lost track of the friends who complain of joint issues. Life is full of ailments - mine is my liver, and it’s something I’ve learned to live with. It does not define me.
I don’t have siblings, and I find this actually does define me. I have never had to share toys, beds, or lose privacy to someone who was constantly in my space. This is probably why emotional-evenness is something I’ve not quite mastered. I find myself feeling a little tense when I’m in crowds or when my routine is disrupted. Being with others is a constant joy and a constant source of anxiety. Perhaps my mental health and my liver are tied together. I wish this organ somewhere in the middle of me that is supposed to remove toxins from my blood could also remove the lingering toxins in other places of my life that cause poor choices.
Having said all this, let me tell you how this year has actually been the best year of my life. It’s a strange thing to admit, and I know everyone is feeling low levels of depression and worry. I sense it everywhere and from everyone. No one is happy right now, and there is always an accompanying four-letter adjective resembling excrement when 2020 is mentioned. For me, though, it’s been a complete game-changer.
I used to enjoy my independence, but my introverted tendencies left me choosing past-times that were not appropriate or wise. I’ll spare you the details, but having too much time left me digging emotional holes that I could never fill. I actually believed I was a private digger and thought for so long no one knew what I was doing or how I was spending my time. I was a fool to believe this - the people around me always knew. They.always.knew!
I could hear my family and friends talking about me when they thought I was not in ear-shot. The word ‘intervention’ still makes me shiver - there is something so sinister about this utterance. Each syllable has an angry sound, and all I hear in my head is no, no, no, no. Let me just say, prior to this $%&* year, I spent way too much time alone doing alone time things I should not do.
Now, things are different. I have found a way to be alone while never losing companionship. I rarely have the house to myself, but when I do, I will literally roll around in the serenity of this sweet pleasure of me-time. What once caused pain is now a luxury that has made me realize how I can be still and feel love without worry. Every single one of us is wired for connection, and we can tell ourselves lies all day long denying that we are needy. I am beginning to accept all my needs and feels, and instead of the unhealthy hole-digging, I now choose to curl up with someone and let my heart-rate calibrate with theirs. I have never felt this much peace. Thank you, 2020 - you have changed my life.
- Blog post provided by Moose (The Arnold Family Black Labrador Retriever)
When I was 29 years old, working with my first leadership coach, I got feedback that I was resilient. My coach went on to tell me that my story reminded him of a willow branch. It can bend, but it won’t break. That encounter over twenty years ago in my novice leadership career was a watershed moment.
When water drains from a single source but then hits a point of divergence, it divides. Perhaps it is a ridge that sends the water down one side or the other; it could also be a fork that creates a division. When we as individuals have these existential ‘a-ha’ instances that cause us to stop and deeply think – they are watershed moments. There was a before that moment, and an after that moment. There is a divide or a turning point in our thinking. Our water flows into a new basin, and we collect these moments as they help define our elasticity and wonderment in life.
Resilience is about recoiling after being stretched or springing back into shape once compressed or bent. To be a resilient person suggests someone can withstand difficult circumstances and press on in life. It’s not about mere survival as I know plenty of people who have been through difficult times but still smell faintly of resentment or anger. The residue is part of their pores, and they shed it in each encounter. To be resilient suggests more than survival, it suggests forward-facing growth with an abundant mindset. It means when the branch is stomped, trampled, or flattened, it slowly rebounds and stretches back into the light.
The universe urges us to explore our flow of thinking right now and ponder our own sense of resilience. This invitation to reflect allows us to hold up a mirror. How honest are we with how we are?
How are you? It is a mere acknowledgment. Most people respond with the word, fine, or good, or okay. Then we reciprocate with the same question and response exchange. Perhaps it is time to retire this socially constructed greeting for a while, given that we are now living in times where very few are actually fine, good, or okay.
Sometimes the most honest exchange is one in which there are no questions, but shared declarations such as:
You are here
I am here
I see you
We are together
I am with you
You are home
Then in our messy, compromised, worrisome, humanness, we can choose to go dark and stay trodden and bent (we need not go far, 2020 has a bucket of items we can pick from), or we can search for the light. Joy lives in the light.
There is joy in eye-contact, a good meal, a chuckle, a compliment, feeling heard, and knowing someone is with me (whether physically or psychologically). Joy can be a fountain; sometimes, it gushes, and sometimes it’s an infrequent soft drip. I always have control over the current.
After that encounter with my first leadership coach, I filed that watershed moment of resilience, and when it was time to start my coaching practice twelve years later, I knew. I knew my company would be called the Willow Group. Like many of you, my resilience is hard-wired. However, my honest joy is a day-to-day decision. I choose joy. What about you?
Carrie Arnold, PhD, MCC, BCC
In no particular order: Author | Dog mom to Moose | Speaker | Reader Mom to human offspring Wife | Lover of Learning Leadership coach & consultant, The Willow Group | Fellow, Institute for Social Innovation | Program Director for Evidence-Based Coaching at Fielding Graduate University