These last few weeks...months...year, has been nothing short of a complete stretch to our ability to embrace what feels like a buzzword: resilience. With so much attempting to assault our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-beings, it almost feels impossible to understand how to get a handle on how to even make space to just be, embrace, or attempt to be resilient. But, when we stop to take a look at the essence of even what resilience means, especially in the middle of hardships many have been collectively experiencing to different degrees throughout this year, I find myself stopping and trying to understand the origin of what we're even attempting to identify with, without feeling like someone is handing us a label that we didn't even know we actually needed (or wanted).
To get to the root — according to Lexico, someone who is resilient is: "able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions" (feels a little like the understatement of the year, or even decade for some, right?). But, Lexico also provides a second definition that speaks volumes to me. It goes on to describe that something that is resilient is: "able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed." Now, if that doesn't touch you on a deep level, I'm not sure what else to tell you. For me, I can honestly tell you that I have felt bent, stretched, and compressed from every angle, and been expected, whether by myself or society, to spring back, especially as we try to evaluate and re-evaluate our ever changing lives in the midst of a global pandemic, and more specifically for nurses, in understanding what the "Year of the Nurse" has even meant since its proclamation. And, of course, on an even deeper level, I believe this particular definition may resonate with many people who had high expectations for how they thought 2020 was going to start. But, what happens if the spring has sprung and feels like it no longer has the capacity to re-shape itself? What happens when it feels you are damaged beyond repair? I know these are deep questions that I may not be able to answer for you, and I'm not posing them to say I have an exact answer for you. But, I am creating the intentional space for you to think about it, and hopefully, provide you with a little slice of encouragement as you try to give your mind, body, and soul the ability to find itself in the middle of what may feel like a never ending test of being and becoming resilient, regardless of where you find yourself on the spectrum of life right now. So, indulge me for a moment as I reflect on this concept of "visionary resilience" and what that means to me.
I live in a rural area, so these days, nature, gardening, and the outdoors tend to inspire me more often than I ever remember being the case in my life, previously. And, for context, earlier in the year, I wrote a blog entitled "The Illusion of Stalled Growth" reflecting on a perennial plant I have that I didn't even know was a perennial plant, which seemed to be stalled, but actually was just in a self-imposed dormant phase. Since then (in case you wondered), this plant has literally sprouted into an amazing plant full of life that has literally inspired me every time I look at what I thought it was, and now recognize what it actually is. My point? Of course, in me being me, it spoke to my understanding of my dreams and vision, and how we can assume our visions are "stalled," but really, they may be in self-imposed dormant phases to give us seasons of rest, as we take time to establish future sustainability.
Now that I've caught you up, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that this same plant has now inspired me to write this post, too. Again, with this year feeling somewhat like a roller coaster, with way too many jerky stops and starts, and even though, at times, I like to think I'm a self-proclaimed thrill-seeker, I am now at a point of trying to figure out if I'm enjoying the ride, or really just getting tired of the whiplash I feel like I'm experiencing from so many grinding changes. I've even found that the last few weeks alone have felt a bit like a whirlwind.
Metaphors aside, now that my mind is allowing itself to accommodate my present situation a bit more, and even embrace it,... that "recoil" and that "spring back" that comes with resilience seem to be returning just a tad bit quicker in the middle of what has felt like a very compressing year to date. And, during those moments of clarity, I find myself being able to appreciate the various opportunities that have presented themselves in ways that may have never happened, or may have been a bit more difficult to execute otherwise. From opportunities to speak to a local university in Colombia,
to, personally, re-connecting with family over Virtual Zoom Bingo games in ways that have produced richer and deeper relationships even in the midst of challenging situations, resilience has become the new little black dress.
But, as we all try to navigate next steps and what to do, especially with so much change, we are confronted with the major task of deciphering how to change adversity into opportunities, and not allow fear and the magnitude of this collective trauma push us into a corner where we falter and say, I have no capacity to grow anymore, no desire to be resilient, or even, no will to try. I'm here to tell you, regardless where you find yourself at now — don't stop now.
In going back to my plant (of course I have to get to the punchline), I started to get a visionary revelation on life. This plant, with its long, green leaves, now sprouting bigger and longer than I could have imagined, has literally grown without much intervention from me when it finally felt it was the right timing. Yes, I had to continue exposing it to the right elements (ex. sun and water), but what I didn't understand until later was that its success was already built into it. I also had to recognize that the angst I had during its dormant phase had nothing to do with me "messing it up," but it was actually related to me not understanding its cycles clearly enough. And one of the biggest factors, as I also reflected in my previous blog post in January, was that my mother-in-law helped me recognize this phase, and actually encouraged me to keep tending to it. A whole lesson all in itself.
All of that being said, what I really started to gather as I look at where this plant (read: my vision) is now in relation to where I felt like it was just 6 months ago is the following:
We cannot allow previous traumas or the appearance of failure, or even the illusion of stalled growth, to stagnate us when, in fact, we are growing, even in the middle of adversity.
The intensity of this pandemic, of being in quarantine, of uncertainty, of loss of jobs and furloughs, may feel and appear like it's completely changing your trajectory, but I'm here to remind you that you were built for success, regardless of what it looks like around you. Plain and simple, it's inherent in your DNA, whether you realize it or not. For me, even with the on-going new initiatives I find myself undertaking on a daily basis these days, I have to mentally push myself to trust that my God-given vision will grow and expand successfully. Otherwise, if I try to shelter it, hide it, or overprotect it for too long, the many boundaries I may be putting around it could actually put it at more risk than good, because I'm allowing the fears and doubts of past circumstances influence my vision — more than its inherent potential.
What I have also recognized is that sometimes what we perceive to be failure, stagnation, or loss (metaphorically speaking) may be just seasonal, temporary, or circumstantial in nature. And, instead of being okay with resting when you need to— knowing that even rest is growth (again, a whole other lesson) — we could end up tricking ourselves into allowing fear to grow, versus our vision to grow. Many times, whether we like to embrace it or not (yes, I struggle with it to), we must also come to grips with the idea that some of our perceptions might come down to being okay with the timing. Again, easier said than done.
So, now that you've given me the space to reflect on my process, in the context of this plant and our ability to achieve a visionary level of resilience, I'm sharing several things I've recognized (yes, actively as we speak):
We have to continually be willing to listen to wise counsel, and especially be open when those in your counsel may see more than you see of yourself. Because, like everyone else, sometimes fear may try to cheat us out of the preciousness and uniqueness of our vision.
Sometimes you need to have the space to actually talk yourself out of your own fears by allowing the right people into your visionary reflections, without interjecting their own will or desire. These people, many times, are there to simply help you hear you.
Sometimes you need to be reminded of your story or your why. Even if you feel you've shared your story many times before, you'll never know it’s unique value to someone else, as well as the opportunity it gives you to keep it fresh in your mind.
I cannot say this enough: you must have the right people around you, protecting your vision, cheering you own, or just giving you the space to just be you. Better said, often times, you just need that team of people who can bring cohesion to the next leg of your journey. These are the ones who are interested in listening to you and wanting to understand where you want to go. These are also the ones who know you, and your potential, and are willing to firm up your vision and journey.
You need to be okay with not always having the answers. The hard part about fear and trauma is that it constantly traps you into asking "what if...?" and "how do I know...?". And, unfortunately, these questions can then become a spinning hamster wheel that literally exhausts you into moving without making progress. To help the process: instead, try asking "why not?"; or ask: who do I know that can help me take my next step, or keep cultivating my vision?
Again, you can't let past fears, failures, or appearance of failures keep you from expanding, growing, or trying new things. For me, and my plant (read: my vision), it may mean thinking about re-planting it into a bigger pot, or even planting it in a different environment. Yes, I'm nervous about doing so, because I'm so vested in this plant (read: my vision) now, and I just don't want anything to happen to it. But, then I also have to remind myself that some of my concerns may be based on the incorrect thought process that I failed in some way initially, when actually it was literally a part of the growing process all along.
In whatever you do, dare to be influentially visionary. Whether in your resilience, your vision, your purpose, your dream, or your day-to-day. Even if things may look like chaos right now, I am confident, with the help of those around you, that you will blossom in ways you never thought possible.
Finally, if you are truly struggling with trauma or your mental well-being, please do not hesitate to reach out for the help that you need from your trusted confidant, pastor, friend, therapist, whomever. Don't try to figure it out all on your own. You are worth it, and we all need you here!