How are you?
Well, if you’re reading this you could say that you are pleased to have made it to the end of a bizarre year. Isn’t it strange how we are somehow tempted to think the end of the year means the end of all its troubles and that the New Year means we can start afresh? Although that’s not true, we do find ourselves in happier circumstances, adding to the illusion I just mentioned.
Perhaps you may be one of those who belong to this wonderful GGS community, finding yourself crawling to the end of the year. No doubt on Christmas Day, replete and nourished, we may raise a glass to toast our having survived. Beaten up a little, knocked about by the demands of spatial distancing and the need to learn new skills as well as the real possibility of contracting the virus, nevertheless we made it…we have survived.
Actually, let me suggest that we did more than just survive, let me suggest that we have thrived. We have found out things that are hard to discover in normal circumstances. It’s in the fire that we have opportunity to find our mettle, or resolve, our determination and learn our personal creative slalom skills through the various obstacles thrown up. This can indeed be quite exhilarating. The type of exhilaration that Year 9 discovers in their Timbertop year, the triumph of not just surviving adversity, but thriving in the midst of it.
Mary Angelou suggests that our ‘…mission in life should not be merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.”
Easy to say but when you’re tired, stressed and overwhelmed, almost impossible to do.
What is it to thrive?
Is it to put on a good front? …to grin through gritting teeth?
Let me suggest a few ways towards thriving.
Saying positive things out loud sounds good in theory but if you’re only just managing in survival mode, it’s inauthentic and deep down you’ll know this.
An honest assessment is like confession, not necessarily in the religious sense (which is similar) but in the sense that it is good to openly confess deep feelings and if possible, to someone.
That someone needs to be someone who will listen without comment. Someone, of course, you can trust. No one is perfect.
Challenging times tend to be magnified. We often enlarge our circumstance with dramatic language.
‘This is the worst time ever!’ ‘I’ll never get through this.’
But what is the reality of the situation?
Again, sharing our circumstance with someone who we know won’t join in with our catastrophising is going to help. Remember when we fell over as a child and scraped our knees? Screaming loudly, so our whole world would hear? Our Mum or Dad would give us a comforting hug alongside a real assessment of the situation, namely as much as it hurt, we had in fact just scraped our knees and a band aid was all that was needed alongside some hugs.
“The way to thrive is to help others thrive; the way to flourish is to help others flourish; the way to fulfill yourself is to spend yourself.” – Cornelius Plantinga
Perhaps the last thing you want to do when you are in ‘survival’ mode is to ‘spend yourself.’
You are more likely to want to save yourself for fear of running out of energy, passion, focus, or simply the ability to carry on. However, strangely, it is in spending ourselves that we become replenished, the very opposite of what we deem sensible to do. Of course, there are times when we need to rest, relax, smell the roses and times when we need to say ‘No’ to some things. This is part and parcel of being honest, realistic and generous as a package that is balanced and healthy.
“We thrive not when we’ve done it all, but when we still have more to do.” – Sarah Lewis
Yes, but, only if we mix into this good thought the necessity of the rest that some call Sabbath.
That’s being generous towards ourselves too.
A disciplined, scheduled rest on a day or at a time we choose. For play, for reflection, for physical ease, for leisure. It’s a God invention and a God practice for the purpose of thriving, rather than just surviving.
To end, some wisdom from anonymous street artist Banksy “If you get tired, learn to rest, not quit.”
Rev Gordon Lingard