One Day At A Time

Today’s guest blog is by Raena

Take a tip from the underdogs:
I’ve always been a sucker for a good old-fashioned underdog story. What is more inspiring than to watch the hardworking good guy/gal come back, just when it seemed that all was lost. These stories make great books and movies but don’t forget that there are real people all around us who have actually lived their own underdog stories. One of their secrets? Resilience.

Each of us is born with varying degrees of resilience skills that affect how we bounce back from negative experiences. If you feel you got shorted in this department, I have good news! We can improve on what nature gave us! There are great resources out there – whether DIY materials and/or trained professionals – that can help us train our brains to deal with fears & trauma in more positive, productive ways.

Thanks to the Covid-19 virus, most of us are discovering our unique set of coping skills – or lack thereof. We have been cooking, eating, sewing, eating, bingeing on Netflix, eating, and thinking… a lot. So many worries! I think it is safe to say that never in our history has the whole world been overwhelmed by the same concerns, all at the same time.

How do we move forward?
More than one person has told me, “You should write a book” when they hear some of my stories. While I don’t think my stories are headed for the big screen, I AM realizing that those life-changing experiences have given me many tools that are helping me process and deal with our collective predicament. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve instinctively muttered one of the following encouragements to myself, I’d be sheltering-in-place on my private island:

“That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” (Nietzsche)
“Fall down 7, get up 8” (Japanese proverb)
“Just keep swimming” (Dory, Finding Nemo)
“This too shall pass” (anon)
“Be the hero you need” (my own adaptation)
“Bend, don’t break” (Lao? anon)
“Dance it out” (every dancer ever)
“Step away from the fridge” (hey, humor IS an important resilience skill!)

Now, to be clear, I’m not a Pollyanna! These mantras are NOT the first thoughts when I’m confronted with a negative situation. Fear and anger are often the headliners for most of us, right? But we do not have to stay in that mindset. In my experience, we can’t stay there for long. If we do, the negative feelings WILL begin to affect us on a deeper level. Our emotions can manifest real symptoms in our bodies. Having been on the journey myself, I allow myself a short pity party but refuse to accept that feeling broken is my lot in life. This is easier some days than others, I think you’ll agree.

Now what?
What do we do with this collective Corona experience? I mean… IT SUCKS!
While our worries may vary widely, all of us are wondering what the future holds for us and our loved ones, short and long term. We are swimming in stress hormones and our primitive brains are on standby to “fight or flight”. Sleep, critical for healthy coping skills, is undermined by our elevated adrenaline. It’s like a snowball rolling downhill! We have step out of the way and find ways to adapt to the “not knowing”.

I have an impressive resilience toolbox that started in childhood, and has been fine-tuned via many traumas. But this pandemic has been a doozy! Personally, it’s been hard to even open my toolbox because I’ve felt defeated. I spent most of the past eight years rewriting my life after a serious illness. The effort has resulted in my becoming a respected, award-winning professional dancer and I’m so not ready to turn in my bedlah! But, I also turned the big 5-0 in February so I’m become more and more aware that I’m not getting any younger and my dream job won’t last forever. This year was crammed full of wonderful things (just in case retirement snuck up on me sooner than I planned) until Corona came along. I’m sure many of you would join me in shouting, “Screw you, Corona!”.

Can we reinvent 2020?
Fear and anger is exhausting, and unhealthy, so this past week I decided it’s time to stop ranting and look in my toolbox. I’m moving forward and reminding myself that I’ve been through worse. I’m recognizing that while I deserve to be upset, I’m also extremely fortunate in the big picture. I’m accepting that I have little control over the current situation but that I CAN refocus my energy on productive positive things like mastering Zoom, teaching Sharqui & trying new things like writing this blog post. Best of all, I’m remembering that once I’ve found my footing, I’m a force to be reckoned with. (Tip: If you don’t have knee highs that say “Bad Ass”, get some!)

I’m not special, I just refuse to accept defeat. Each of you is equally capable with the right mindset.

I don’t know your current story but, if you are feeling stuck, I encourage/challenge you to Google “resilience”. Be open to the idea of adding “taking suggestions” to your toolbox. Find articles that speak to you. Tape your favorite resilience quote on your fridge. Pick a small resilience-building goal each day and write it down or share it with a friend (to reinforce it). Check out Audible/Kindle/your library for some great books on resilience. Watch some inspirational videos on YouTube. Be gentle with yourself but make the effort to feed your mind and soul good things. Turn off the news or limit your exposure. Finally, seek professional help if you are truly overwhelmed and need expert-level support. Even one or two sessions can be tremendously helpful to get through a tough spot (and many providers offer sliding scales).

So, yes, we CAN reinvent the rest of our 2020. One day at a time.

“You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it!”
– my latest fridge meme addition

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