I had planned to write about courage today.
But as I sit here with my house in a total shambles because a drain pipe on my washing machine broke and flooded the laundry room, kitchen, living room and garage. AND I am preparing to leave in less than a week for my three week pilgrimage to the Southwest to teach, I think I am going to write about resilience instead.
Although, maybe when you come right down to it, resilience and courage are one and the same thing.
As many of you here in my beloved wild heart community know, the bulk of my creative business happens in the form of live in-person workshops and retreats. I take a group of courageous creatives to the mountains or the desert or the forest… and this year to the city of Oaxaca… where we dive deep into the creative process and express the holy truth of our souls.
This live retreat business is always a high wire trapeze act.
Full of twists and turns and shocking surprises. And that all happens before the retreat even begins! There are so many details to juggle in terms of logistics. Not only for me, but for all of my participants. And one thing you an count on is that things will NOT go as expected. Something will always go wrong. And often more than one something. Usually all of the somethings all at the same time.
In June, I had a retreat scheduled in the Sierra mountains and five days before the retreat began I suddenly developed some mysterious symptoms that included excruciatingly painful lymph nodes, high fever and overwhelming exhaustion. At first I thought it was the flu and I wasn’t sure that I was even going to be able to make it to the workshop.
Resilience demanded that I shift my plans to leave for the mountains the next day, get to the doctors immediately and work out an alternative teachers scenario just in case I was too sick to go at all. Luckily, I discovered that it was a weird infection and NOT the flu. So I was able to get on a round of antibiotics and saddle up for the journey to the mountains.
And the fun didn’t stop there. The day before that retreat was supposed to end everyone in our group was awakened at 7 AM with a pounding on our cabin doors and told that they had 30 minutes to pack and evacuate their rooms because a forest fire was raging in the hillside above us. We threw our belongings and our paintings into our cars and hightailed it to the next town where we held our closing circle in a park on the grass in the mountain sunshine.
These last few examples of the need for resilience are pretty dramatic. Usually what goes wrong at my workshops is more on the level of a mix-up around lodging or forgetting to pack red paint or push pins or painting palettes. Which means I either have to go to the nearest art store, have something shipped or simply improvise. ( FYI: Paper plates make fabulous palettes no matter where you are.)
All of these examples are simply problems to be solved.
And when you are being resilient you trust that you can figure out some effective way to deal with whatever is showing up. When I was watching water flooding my kitchen floor and yelling EMERGENCY at the top of my lungs to my husband Tim who was on his computer in the other room while grabbing as many towels as I could get my hands on, I was understandably freaked. But I also knew that collapsing into a state of helplessness and frozen overwhelm wasn’t an option.
I had to respond to the situation at hand. I had to figure out a plan of action totally on the fly. I had to make shit up.
Resilience is an emotional quality that requires BOTH an act of surrender and a belief in your own capacity.
It’s acknowledging that you are no longer in control ( as if we are ever in control) and that you are being asked to give up, give over and give in to whatever is presenting itself to you. Whether you like it or not.
But resilience also demands that we face the current reality of a situation head-on while being willing to enter a new reality at a moments notice.
One minute you are daydreaming and contentedly standing at the sink washing the mornings dishes and the next moment you are in full adrenaline mode, sopping up the lake at your bare feet with every scrap of absorbent material in your house while your brain is going a million miles an hour assessing where the greatest damage and danger might lie.
Resilience does not look like whining about the fact that things never work out as planned, or wishing that things were different or arguing with what has been put in front of you to deal with. Those attitudes are huge energy leaks that distract you from whatever genius ideas you will naturally come up with to effectively address the task at hand.
Resilience also demands a high level of creativity and responsibility to the changed and changing circumstances.
When I was in the mountains with my painting group on the last day of the workshop and the fire broke out, I was still in the position of being the group leader. I was still the person holding space and the one who everyone was looking to to continue to create the sense of a safe container for the group. A few hours earlier that safe space was created in the womb of the painting studio, but now it had to be brought alive on the fly and on the run away from the blazing inferno.
Resilience required that I learn how to create that sense of community and a sacred circle without my familiar physical structures to support it. Improvisation was the name of the game and even though it was an incredibly stressful process, it was also a powerful healing experience for everyone who was at that workshop.
Resilience can take us to our edges and beyond.
Showing us that we are capable of so much more than we think we are. And allowing us to keep stepping into an ever expanding sense of our gifts and possibilities and courage.