What do you do when all you can do is sit in a recliner nursing a fractured ankle? You might think, lots of things! Read, write, sing, watch shows — now’s the time to get your “creative” on! Yes, you might think that. Truth is, when you’ve been through a traumatic experience, that’s the last thing on your mind. Your whole being is focused on dealing with the trauma and healing your body.
At least this has been my experience. I didn’t even look out my front door for the first two weeks. Everything was a struggle. It’s only in the last couple of weeks I’ve started to reemerge. As I’ve learned to navigate doorways and figure out how long I can hold myself up on my walker before I’m exhausted, I’ve had a few insights on facing that mountain of adversity and finding the good:
1. Surrender to the process. Admit you don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes you need help. This isn’t particularly challenging when you’re in a trauma situation. In fact, your body takes over and you’re pretty much along for the ride and other people have to take over. In other areas of our lives, I think we sometimes give ourselves too much credit for knowing things we don’t know. It’s also tough to face our own vulnerability and let go of control. I think this might be one of the reasons we struggle. As willing students in work or life, it’s important to recognize this so we can listen with an open mind and ask questions. At times it’s really pretty nice to not have to be in charge or know the answer. On your journey as a speaker and communicator, give yourself the freedom to not know and surrender to the process.
2. Know that everything is temporary. Whatever is happening, whether in a conversation, while giving a presentation, or sitting in a recliner healing, it’s all temporary. That’s the truth. Keeping that in mind brings with it that wonderful quality of patience. My mother used to have a saying that drove me crazy as a kid because I saw it as an excuse for not taking action: This too shall pass. Yes. Let me say, though, this isn’t about being passive. It’s about gaining a broader perspective, giving things a chance to work out, and not rushing in or pushing. If you’re facing some adversity in your speaking goals or your interpersonal communication, have some patience and empathy for yourself and the other people involved. Remember, everything is temporary.
3. Feel grateful for your whole experience. Believe it or not, the thing I felt as the earth angels were holding my hand on the mountain, as my son and his girlfriend helped me know what to do, and as the paramedics were taking me down the mountain in a stretcher, was gratitude. I continued to feel that in the trauma center and the O.R. waiting room, and have for all the days since. My friends and family are getting sick of me thanking them, but how can I not? If there ever was an example for me that none of us gets through this alone, this was it. I’m not happy it happened, no. I am grateful for the amazing experience of love and support that it created. As communicators and presenters, not everything has to go “right” to gain from the experience. In fact, when things don’t go right, we often learn the most, and so do our audiences. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision . We don’t necessarily know what we or anyone else needs in any situation. Embrace your whole experience and allow the gratitude to surface.
Above all, know that your wellbeing and your contribution are important. You may not know just how much. So, be gentle with yourself and others. Be responsive, reliable and respectful, and hold the space for everyone to speak their truth. We can go around, or go through, or climb over that mountain of adversity and find the good in it.
I’d love to support you. I can be reached at Andrea@AndreaBeaulieu.com
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Alexander Annenkov