Tag Archives: resilience

Finding my strength

It has been a testing few weeks, but I have learned some interesting things around the issue of strength. I’ve broken repeatedly. I’ve done a lot of weeping, I’ve watched my digestive system shut down under the pressure, leaving me with no energy and low blood pressure issues. I’m still here. I’ve been overwhelmed with fear, with grief, with despair, and I am still here. The measure of my strength is not my being whole and hale. The measure of my strength is what I can and will do even when I’m broken.

I’ve been broken a lot during my life. I’ve tended to think of myself as weak and fragile for breaking. I’m re-framing that at the moment. I’m seeing my brokenness in terms of my willingness to care and keep my heart open. It’s there in response to a hunger for more from life than I’ve been able to source, as well, and that might be something I can change.

I do not regret being broken. I do not regret the intensity of love that took me to that place. I would not choose to protect myself from the things that hurt me by simply not caring about them. Resilience does not have to been a closed heart or a thicker skin. Resilience can instead mean the scope not to be brought to a halt by having been broken.

There is so much that I love. There are many people that I love. There is so much to keep trying for, keeping hoping for, keep working on. No matter how heartbroken I am. No matter how exhausted. I’ve seen my capacity for hope shatter and I’ve pulled something out of that by force of will, and I’m still here.

I think today is going to be a hard one. I think one way or another, it is going to tear me open. It could define my future life. That scares me, of course. I’d be a fool not to be frightened by that. But, I know I will get through today, not because I am unbreakable, but because I know how to be broken. I know how to weep and howl. I know how not to give up. I also know that there are a lot of people invested in my not giving up, who will help me if I fall.

Tomorrow is never certain. Every day has the potential to be the day that will change everything. It’s just more obvious to me at the moment because I know exactly what’s at stake.


Community Solutions

When the problems are yours and yours alone, there may be no answers. You may well not have the knowledge, skills, resources or clarity to deal with whatever is going on. So often, we’re under pressure to find individual solutions and not ‘burden’ other people with the issues. This is especially true around mental health problems.

No one gets into trouble on their own. There’s always a context. In matters of mental health, sources of stress, anxiety and trauma are certainly part of the mix for many of us. How can we fix alone what was done to us by others?

Certainly, there’s a macho component to this. The idea of the heroic self having to stride out there and fight the demons single handed. And when you can do that, it can be empowering. But sometimes, it’s not feasible. Often it’s not feasible in my experience.

We’re more resilient when we share resources. We don’t need as many resources to get things done. Our lives are better when we take care of each other. Being able to help someone else is heartening, and everyone benefits. Why should we keep re-inventing the wheel at the worst moments in our lives when the wisdom and experience of others might enable us to cope better?

When you’re in crisis, it is difficult to think well. It becomes hard to assess what is the panic speaking, and what the real issues are.  It can be very difficult to see the bigger picture, to plan, to hold any kind of perspective. Crisis can freeze you up, at which point, rescuing yourself from it is bloody difficult.

This has been a really tough week for me in a number of ways. Personal crisis things going on, plus the horrible impact of sleep deprivation on my body. Lack of sleep increases my pain levels, and beyond a certain point is also really triggering. Stress and heat have combined to mess up my digestive system. I’ve not been able to think properly. This is not a situation in which I can do much to help myself. I am however blessed with wise and kind friends, who are quick to offer support, reassure me and share wisdom. It has kept me going and stopped me from entirely falling apart. I could not do this on my own.

I’m not good at asking for help. When I’m depressed, I struggle to believe that help could be available. This is not an irrational response, there are things in my history that make it entirely reasonable. However, it’s an out of date response.

A while ago, I ran into some pre-history content about how we decide we’re dealing with modern human cultures. One definition, is when we see evidence of people taking care of each other – injuries that have healed are a good indicator of this. To be civilized, arguably, is to take care of people who have become unable to take care of themselves. Sometimes it feels that we, as a species are becoming deeply uncivilized on those terms. There’s always scope to push back against that, by taking care of each other and recognising that cooperation and community have a great deal to offer us all.


The politics of illness

I’ve been struck by the massive and wide reaching political implications of the coronavirus. There’s a lot to think about here.

Governments that put people before profit are clearly going to take better care of their people. Leaders who believe experts and take science seriously are going to be an advantage to their populations. Societies that organise for mutual aid and protection will do better than anywhere dominated by rampant capitalism. This may change how we think about politics and politicians.

Good leadership will reduce panic and focus people on what they can usefully do. Good information will help us stay safer, slow infection rates and protect the most vulnerable. Governments that don’t do that will put their people at risk.

There are many things we’re now looking at that we could have had all along – working from home, conferencing and studying from a distance, cutting back on travel. These are things that would always have helped disabled people. There will be no excuse moving forward, for not being a good deal more inclusive – clearly we can do this. These measures also reduce the need for travel, which has huge environmental implications and again, we should have been taking this seriously already.

Western countries that have been so intolerant of people fleeing war, famine and climate crisis need to get some perspective. If we look at our own responses to this threat, we might see people in other kinds of crisis in a more compassionate light. Many people around the world suffer a lot more, with considerably more stoicism and sense than white and reasonably comfortable panic buyers around the world have been demonstrating recently.

If your healthcare is free at the point of delivery, sick people won’t be afraid to come forward. People who are identified and treated are less of a risk to others. State funded healthcare is in everyone’s interests.

If you have good laws around work and sickness, people don’t have to work when sick. All diseases, coronavirus included, won’t spread as much when ill people are allowed to take time off to recover and not infect others. Flu kills a lot of people every year – there’s a lot we could do to reduce misery and suffering if we had a better work-health culture in the first place.

If we had universal basic income it would be really easy to shut down all non-essential work for a few weeks to reduce transmission.

The more structures, networks, systems etc your country has in place for taking care of people, the easier it is to respond to an emergency. If we focus on profit and efficiency, we pay for it in terms of resilience.

Coronavirus at its worst affects breathing. It is known to hit smokers hard. Clearly, air pollution will also create increased vulnerability. Our polluted commons make us much more vulnerable to diseases. We need to recognise that human health and planet health are the same thing.

Perhaps some good can come out of all of this. Perhaps we can start recognising how much we depend on each other. Health needs to be a collective concern. It needs to be framed within the health of our world as a whole. The politics of profit and growth are killing us, and this is just another example of that playing out. We need to change how we think, and stop treating people as expendable, and economic growth as a master to be served in all possible ways.


Druidry and the Future

Back in April, I did two talks at Pagan Federation events – one in Wakefield, the other in Edinburgh. I went in to both expecting to talk to at least some degree about how to use your Druidry to cope with what’s going on in the world. At Wakefield I had a lot of conversations with people who were struggling, and I ended up devoting a lot of my talk to the power of working together and my own involvement in the Transition Towns movement. At Edinburgh I’d been asked to talk about self care and I ended up talking a fair bit about how self care is also planet care.

I came out of these two events with a bit of a fire in my head, feeling that I needed to say more about how to dig in with the Druidry. I started writing. I pitched myself to Druid Camp in the Forest of Dean and went there to talk about Druidry and what we can usefully do. I’ve been writing this sort of content in my Quiet Revolution column at Pagan Dawn for some years now, as well. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s really important to give people hope and options rather than yet more handwringing. What I write about isn’t speculative, it’s stuff I’ve tested. It’s all about what we can crack on with right now – this is why I love the Transition Towns movement. It’s not about waiting for laws to change or other people to act.

I’ve written a book that I hope will help people in their personal resilience, will help people make changes, and stay sane.

If you would like a copy of this book, there are a number of options. I am selling it – because it took me a lot of time to write it, and I do not live in a household that has a high income. I am not going to make vast sums out of this – I get less than a pound per copy for the Kindle edition (the rest goes to Amazon) and slightly more on the Amazon print version (the rest goes to Amazon) and a couple of quid if you buy from me directly (because the rest is eaten up by the printing costs). I mention this because I am happy to give away the ebook version and I want people to have a context for thinking about that. If you can afford to buy a copy, I would really appreciate you buying a copy. I am at the income level where a few extra pounds here and there does make a difference.

If you want a copy but can’t afford one, message me on any of the platforms I use, or leave a comment here – that will give me your email address and I’ll get in touch. You do not need to tell me if you are asking for a review copy, or just can’t afford one, I am not going to ask. I will simply trust you all to think about this fairly. I don’t want anyone excluded on the basis of not being able to pay.

If you’d like to make it easier for me to invest time in work that I give away, I have a Patreon account and a Ko-fi page.

If you’d like to do any book promoting things with me then also drop me a line. I’m generally up for interviews, writing blogs and articles and so forth.

If there’s any sustainability topics you’d like me to write about here, also please tell me.

Druidry and the Future on Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Druidry-Future-Nimue-Brown-ebook/dp/B07WJX6CYH 


Contemplating Resilience

It looks increasingly like ‘resilience’ is going to be a key word for me in all sorts of ways. I think it’s an essential part of making change, and I think it’s something best handled at a community level, not a personal level.

How do I approach things that are fragile and help them become more robust and survivable? It’s something to consider with regards to the people around me. It’s a question for social groupings, for businesses I am involved with, for volunteer outfits I’m working with, and for the place I live. It’s a wider question for us as a species and I expect that exploring resilience on the small scale will lead me to a lot of thoughts about the larger scale, too.

It’s not the first time in my life I’ve moved towards a concept that will define how I go forward. It may be the most conscious I’ve been in doing that. Without resilience, everything else becomes harder and less likely. If I can help develop coping mechanisms, support systems, more dependable and enduring structures, I can keep good things keep going. I can help good people keep going.

How do we fairly share resources? How do we support each other, practically and emotionally? What are we willing and able to pay for? What can we do if financial support isn’t an option? How can we think and act more collectively for the common good rather than feeling isolated and powerless? These are questions that open the way to more resilient ways of being. Asking what we can do for each other that makes things better is the heart of how we achieve greater resilience.

What can I do? In some of the specific situations I’m looking at, there are practical things that need to change to achieve greater resilience. Too much knowledge and responsibility shouldered by too few people. In some of the situations, the key is cash flow, and getting money moving in better ways will increase the amount of resources available and put a number of people I care about on a better footing. I need to work differently so that others will be better paid, and I’m fine with that. Selfishness is very much at odds with resilience, it isolates us and encourages us to compete rather than co-operating, which in turn makes us all more vulnerable.

What can I do to help the people around me be more emotionally resilient? This is a tricky one. It brings up questions of how much care and energy is invested in whom, and who I am willing to feel responsible for. Factoring my own resilience into the mix, I just can’t afford to invest too much of my energy in people who take a lot and put very little back in. When I look at how best to deploy myself as a resource, the most immediate answer is that I can’t really afford the people who see me only as a resource to deploy, because that undermines my own resilience. Depression and anxiety make me less effective. Exhaustion increases my risks of depression and anxiety. I need to learn how to attach my own oxygen mask first.


What do you do?

It’s almost the first question to be asked on occasions of meeting strangers. In most instances it’s a question about your job, your career. Amongst creative folk it’s about your art, recognising that there may be a bill paying job that has very little to do with who you are. The work we do defines us economically and socially, all too often. It becomes who we are. Yet how many of us really identify with our jobs? How many of us work predominantly on callings and vocations? Is what you do to afford food much measure of who you are as a person?

I have a lot of jobs. At the moment, in no particular order I am press officer, author, PR elf, provider of website content and editor. These are all regular paying gigs to at least some degree. I am sometimes public speaker, teacher, celebrant and musician. I have all the non-paid work that comes from being a mother, and the wife of an artist. There’s intermittent voluntary work. My adult life has always been this kind of happy muddle. Who am I? Well, there’s not much point looking to my job title for an easy answer!

I wonder about the impact of specialising. I wonder about how it informs who we think we are, and how we see each other. Pay me a couple of hundred pounds an hour for my time, and I am not the same struggling creator who could barely make a pound an hour, am I? And yet…  Those who are highest paid are often furthest removed from doing the work that the rest of us really need to have done. Too many jobs don’t give much sense of satisfaction or completion, many are incredibly dull while seeming to serve little purpose. As a culture we are apparently more concerned that all the cans in the stores should be neatly facing forward than we are about the not so neat littler outside the stores.

If work is your identity, then power over your sense of self is given to whoever pays you. If you only have one job, then the power this puts in other hands is vast. The job pays for your life, it defines you, and yet someone else could take it away, deeming you unnecessary or not good enough. This makes aging and sickness much more alarming than they need to be, because these things can rob you of your work identity.

Of course this fits very well with capitalism, and a life that is to be all about money and exchange. What you earn is who you are.

We would as a society have more practical resilience if people tended to have multiple jobs. A wider skills base gives more options. Not having all your eggs in one job basket makes a person less vulnerable to changes they have no control over. It’s more interesting. You aren’t locked in to such a narrow social engagement if you have multiple jobs, and better networking and more contact also gives communities more resilience. It’s easier to walk away from a job if you don’t totally depend on it – which would tend to push working conditions up.

What do you do? Imagine a world in which you have some control over that, and where your pay packet does not define your social identity. Perhaps ‘hard work’ isn’t the most important thing in life, and perhaps if we did not feel so defined by our jobs, we’d have more room to question their usefulness. Imagine if living well was the most important thing, and on meeting people they were most likely to ask ‘What are you interested in?’


The march of progress (and where is takes us)

The mainstream west understands progress in terms of technological advancement and increased material wealth. It is held as a self evident truth that these two things are good, and desirable. They go with economic growth and increased GDP and are understood to be how we overcome poverty and improve quality of life for everyone. This is why it’s very hard to even start a conversation about alternatives – we have a culture that believes in material growth and consumption as its primary means of salvation in this lifetime, and its grand hope for improving the future for generations yet to come.

Thus is causes horror and alarm when The Green Party talks about zero growth economy, shrinking the economy, reducing material wealth. There’s a knee jerk, fear based reaction to all of this, because if material progress is good, not seeking material progress must be bad.

So what are we getting, for our great march of progress? What have we marched to, and where does the road lead? Yes, most of us now have more material wealth and comfort than the average mediaeval noble.  We have increased life expectancy. We also have an obesity epidemic, social fragmentation, isolation, lack of resilience, loss of skills, increasing inequality between the richest and poorest and a crisis in mental health. There is no clear correlation between improved material comforts and improved quality of life. I would argue that the high stress, over stimulated, depression and anxiety inducing modern lifestyle is no kind of progress at all. As air pollution takes an increasing toll on life, those life expectancy gains are dwindling for many, too.

The march of progress pollutes our drinking water, the air we breathe and the soil that feeds us. It depletes habitat for all living things, and takes beauty out of the world. The mental health of humans is directly affected by contact with nature. So the more forests we cut down, the more open spaces we cover in tarmac, the more harm we do ourselves. It’s a funny sort of progress, when you stop and think about it.

And what do we do, with the amazing technological progress we’ve made? We sit in traffic queues and we watch television programs in which other people pretend to do exciting things. We do less that is real, less that has inherent meaning, less that gives us chance to be heroes, or saints, or whatever your calling may be. We spend more time investing in imaginary people doing pretend things. Are we living fuller, richer, more rewarding lives as a consequence of all our progress, or are we struggling to pay the bills and spending most of our free time on escapism?

Where are we marching to?

Because we do have a choice, and we do not have to accept the assumption that all new technology and all material posessions are unquestionably good. We need to be more discriminating, more selective, more willing to question the benefits and costs. Forever marching forward on the grounds that forward is good is a very weak strategy, especially if there’s no attention paid to what you march towards. With climate change, habitat destruction and species extinction on the rise, as we destroy the very resources we depend on, the march of progress seems intent on marching itself right over a cliff.