Apologies in advance for a lengthy, wordy post! But I think it’s an important one —
A few weeks ago Simon and I were asked to speak to our Sunday school group at church on a topic that felt near and dear to us. We really wrestled with what that topic would be — being asked to speak to people about something somehow insinuates that you’ve got it all together or that you’re an expert at something. And while we can unequivocally say that we hardly have everything together, we can speak passionately on the idea of going from living our life in survival mode to shifting into thriving as we’ve lived it firsthand.
Here’s my M.O.: I believe strongly in the power of transparency. There are far too many people who go through hard experiences thinking, “no one ever told me it would be like this.” I know this because I was one of them. It’s paralyzing, alienating, and really lonely. But odds are, you’re not the only person who’s ever experienced your particular hardship. And I refuse to keep the lid on The Hard Things of my life just because they’re not pretty or they’re hard to talk about. Everybody’s got their problem.
I’ve never been hesitant to talk about all the issues I’ve had with ulcerative colitis, nor have we shied away from discussing all the craziness we went through early in our marriage (UC included, but also Jude’s premature birth, my postpartum depression, Simon’s job going kaput, being unemployed for several months, all in the space of a few months). It was rough, to say the least. We weren’t really thriving or being nurtured — we were barely getting by emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It was survival.
Sounds pretty bleak, huh? There’s no joy in merely surviving because there’s so much involved in the staying alive. Our turning point came not long after I had my final surgery. We went on an anniversary trip, just the two of us and over dinner one night we talked about all we had been through together. Simon looked at me and said, “I hereby declare this the year of no longer merely surviving. We are going to THRIVE.”
I can’t say that it was any one magic thing that helped us turn the corner during those difficult years. We were together, certainly, and we realized just how much hard stuff we really could endure. We also undoubtedly had our faith to ground us. But beyond that, we also had a few core things that helped us through the rough stuff. We also had to decide along the way that we weren’t going to be victims of our difficult circumstances. We were going to choose joy regardless of the circumstance.
Beyond that, we couldn’t have gotten by without a support system. What’s that phrase? No man is an island. Our extended families were priceless, but we needed a little more support in the form of counseling to give us the proper tools to deal with the hurts and disappointments that had been thrown our way. I can’t stress the value & importance enough of counseling. It isn’t just for people who’re in a rough patch – I liken it to having an emotional personal trainer. You’re getting your feelings & actions healthy so you can be better prepared to deal not only with your past but also the future.
Simon and I both have benefited from it together and individually, and we still go back every now and then for maintenance sessions. It’s the best money we could spend. Additionally, finding people who’ve walked the same road as you, regardless of which situation, gave us hope to see the good that could come from the future. I like to call those people the veterans – they’ve been through the war.
Similar to building your support system, find the people who are going to build you up. I remember when I was preparing to go back to Mayo for my surgery, I talked to too many people who, frankly, didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of my life. They wanted to offer up opinions — “Why would you choose to do such a thing?” or “Well, have you tried eating only foods that are the color white?” “Have you given up eating anything that isn’t ____?” It was discouraging, despite their (surely) best intentions. They just weren’t my people, you know? They hadn’t walked in my shoes or known the details of it. It was a lot of noise that was discouraging.
So finding the people that were my tribe – my people who had my back and just “got” me – that was huge. Blogging has been hugely instrumental in this – it’s about building a community of people who are mutually supportive. People who build you up and help you be your best self. I love finding those people — and more importantly, I love being that person for someone in need.
Wow – that was way longer and wordier than I intended it to be. So thanks for sticking in there for it!
Thoughts? Comments? Have you gone from survival mode to thriving mode?