Building Resilience is not EASY!

…well, I guess it depends upon where you start from….

My life-partner began to practice resilience as an infant, because his parents taught him to. Both of his parents managed to transcend their own childhoods with a sense of calm responsibility and mostly healthy self-care practices. I mean, they were cigarette smokers - but really, who was born in the 1950s who did not have parents who smoked? There was an alcoholic grandpa in the family as there are addicts and deaths from suicide related to addiction in his family still. However, in his immediate family there is no blame, hate, or ugliness toward the afflicted. They show love, they speak love, and when their loved ones do dangerous or scary things based in addiction, they help where the can but practice self-care by loving from a distance.

I’m learning the value of “loving from a distance.” In the past, detachment a’la AlAnon has been about fear and blame for me. Now, since the death of my daughter, I am a different person. I am exponentially more sensitive to cruelty than I was before. Having come from a cruel family who did blame the addict and “crazy” person, I am also much more sensitive to my own embedded habits toward verbal cruelty. Throughout my life I’ve been more negatively affected by my relationships with people who are dry but not active in recovery, and this fact has tripped me up in my own resilience-building practices.

It’s the “practice self-care by loving from a distance” skill that I am just now learning. My basic necessities for a balanced life are not so uncommon. I need a peaceful household - free of created drama/trauma. I do not think I would have discovered this simple need if not for the past many years that I’ve spent living with someone whose highest desire is quit contemplative kindness.

Mostly I’ve been able to develop and exhibit kindness toward my friends and family, though not always. Since my daughter died I’ve become involved in a cycle of hurtful intrusiveness (theirs) and hurtful reaction (mine) with a family member. So far this has ended up in anger, anxiety, depression, shunning, and awkward reconciliation (both), all becoming more severe with each intrusion/reaction event. As I’ve been learning about self-care, I’ve begun to look at my part in these transactions with calm observation and clarity and this is what I’ve learned - my reactions are precisely half of what causes the cycle to continue. I don’t need to blame or continue to try and figure out why this cycle has been happening. I don’t need to try to fix it or make it stop. I can simply forgive, myself and the other party, and move past the trauma-inducing cycle. I can create my own peace and calm, in my own life and my own home, without expecting the other party to change. So, I can “practice self-care from loving from a distance,” or I can continue to participate in a demoralizing relationship. I can only stop my end of the train wreck.

My current self-care musts:

~~Laughter Yoga - every Wednesday morning I experience how it feels to laugh uproariously with like-minded friends.

~~Spending quality time with my grandchildren and their wonderful parents.

~~Bibliotherapy - slow deliberate reading of fiction or philosophy helps my brain slow down and appreciate other creatives.

~~Calm thoughtful friends - especially those who have taken the time to become trauma-informed and who do not consider my sensitivity an irritation.

~~Taking conscious care of my physical health.

~~ Quiet and time alone. THAT’s new since child-loss grief. I’ve begun to wonder if I have ever been a natural extrovert or if I was expected to be that way.

Doing these things is not in my nature. My nature is to fight, run, fix, learn, and teach my way out of discomfort. My learned behavior is to ignore my needs and accept insult and degradation, whether intended or perceived. These “skills” are no longer serving me. I’ll never be perfect. But, I will continue. My health and happiness are central to my most important relationships - with myself, my spouse, my children, and my grandchildren. We are my family of origin because I’m new now.

Erica KitzmanComment