grit and bear it
On the first day of Grade 8, the homeroom teacher, Mr. Couch asked us to write a letter to ourselves that would be sealed in an envelope and returned to us on the last day of school.
The social and sensory overwhelm of school often took its toll on me so I was thrilled at the prospect of such a solitary and thoughtful task. I loved the time given for silent reflection and the earnestness I had, that was not so popular in grade school, was free to be expressed in those moments with pen, paper and a bit of privacy.
I don’t recall the exact words I wrote to myself but the gist of it was words of encouragement to face whatever challenge came up as opposed to hoping for an easy ride with no drama, screw-ups or obstacles. I remember opening the letter in June of that school year and feeling warmly connected to the author of it: her bluntness and lack of toxic positivity. It was as if she was someone I could count on to help me through tough times. She had grit.
What was noticeably absent though was any acknowledgement of other supports, connections or possible resources when the inevitable challenges came to light. The letter revealed, primarily, a self-reliant, survival mindset.
It’s not that resources weren’t available because they absolutely were. I was privileged to have parents, siblings including a twin, extended family, friends, teachers, ministers and neighbours who I could call on if needed. But, at that age, I generally didn’t call on them because it wasn’t part of my narrative to balance out available resources with my own personal determination.
That’s a hard pattern to rearrange. A difficult habit to shift. How do I honour my grit while giving others the gift of reaching out to them, leaning on their experience and wisdom, connecting with them and counting on them to be there when things get tough?
Now, many decades out of grade school, I still need this reminder to tap into my resources without giving in to the resistance it exposes. What are my resources? I am blessed to say that my resources include a partner, a coach, a therapist, friends, parents, siblings, children and fellow teachers.
We’re not meant to walk the path alone. Engaging mindfully with resources while honouring your own determination, is a practice in courageous resilience.