How to Be Resilient

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Photo by Hyungyong Kim on Unsplash

2018 at my day job has been wild. We’ve lost a lot of great people to new jobs and it was painful for me to let go of friends and mentors all at the same time. I won’t say that I handled it particularly well because I had to call my mom to keep myself from crying one day. That’s pretty rare for me. I mean, I waited 24 hours to tell her I spent the night in the ER with a broken nose.

What she told me that day stuck with me and since then, each challenge that arises in my life, whether in direct relation to these big changes or not, I think about it to calm down.

She said to me, “All of this proves just how resilient you are.”

Wow, that’s a word. A word I was and am proud to have bestowed on me. Resilient! I sometimes walk around wondering if I am crazy for putting up with certain things or for not jumping from place to place, job to job, like many of my millennial counterparts. I often think of myself as a lame duck, just paddling along with one sad foot. But resilient? I feel flattered, Mom.

She’s right by the way.

I am not sure when change became so trendy– Quit your job! Travel the world with your savings! Keep moving until you’re happy. All of those concepts never resonated with me. Sure, on a surface level I was like “Hell yes let’s do it!” But deep down, I am the type of person that much prefers to work through the complications I have in front of me, to find happiness and joy in the everyday. I mean, duh, this blog is dedicated to that. But I needed her to remind me that this tendency also makes me resilient.

(PS – I mean if you’re unhappy please find your own happiness, I am not telling you to be miserable! That’s different and you know it. Don’t pin that on me. ;))

Resiliency can be a learned trait. I truly believe this and I will preach it to anyone who will listen. Learning how to be resilient comes from learning how to be uncomfortable. Finding comfort in your life is like finding comfort on a crowded subway– you may not have seat, but you can probably work your way into a safe corner. Since everyone responds well to lists, here’s a “How to Be Resilient” list to get you started on your own journey or to continue growing (everyone, no matter how resilient, always has room for improvement!)

HOW TO BE RESILIENT

  1. Learn to Be Uncomfortable – Life is never going to be 100% sunshine. Find joy in rain. If you’re avoiding a work project because it seems complicated, try to find a way to un-complicate it. Create space where you are.
  2. Find Your Edge, And then Push Past It – Like with exercise or eating kale or starting a particularly hard book… If you stick with it, just past your edge (your breaking point, the day you usually give up) you’ll find that it is possible for you to get past whatever is holding you back. And you don’t need to go far past it, just enough so that tomorrow, you’re a little bit stronger.
  3. Support Others – Believe it or not but helping others to get over their own fears and problems will make you stronger. Others give us purpose, which in turn gives us strength to carry on.
  4. Take Breaks – No human being is going to be capable of taking sh*t nonstop. Learning how to be resilient also means learning how to take a big old break from the work of getting stronger. If you’re tired, take a seat, just don’t turnaround, you are so close!

How often do you think about being resilient? Does thinking of this word make you more capable? Is this the first time you’ve applied the word to yourself? Do you feel resilient now? Let me know…

Love, light and red wine,
Amanda

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Guest Post: Coming Out as Queer after Being Gay for 15 years

 

In Cheap Courage’s continued effort to shine a light on being honest about what scares us, I am still accepting monthly guest posts that explore the meaning of bravery, fear, courage, and honesty. Please reach out if you’re interested in sharing!

This week’s essay, “Coming Out as Queer after Being Gay for 15 Years” comes from one of my closest friends and a recent self discovery he has made. I thank him for his bravery and for your openness and dedication to my little project here.


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Photo by Serrah Galos on Unsplash

I was fifteen and living in Iowa when I first came out as gay. I was young, terrified, and hurting so much emotionally that my only way to control heartache was by cutting myself with a fishing knife.

But I came out. I got help. I got better eventually. And I’ve known love since then.

I think a lot about this time of my life. The scars on my arm won’t let me forget it. And, after 15 years of survival and knowing myself as a gay man, I am now confronted with a new, terrifying realization:

I am not a gay man. I am a queer man.

And that’s hard for me to reconcile. It’s hard for my family and friends to understand. And it’s a hard conversation to have with gay men who view queer men as a threat or unknown they can’t process.

Over the last 18 months I’ve found myself in these moments that feel emotionally similar to those I was having before I came out as a gay man. I noticed increased levels of anxiety as I struggled to resolve a grating tension between my mental and emotional self. Like before, the feeling of heartache and the inevitable loss of control were ever-present and frightening.

It is really hard to look in the mirror and have the thought, “who you project to the world isn’t who you are.”

It’s nearly impossible to look in the mirror at the age of thirty and have the thought; “you can’t possibly do this for the rest of your life.”

Recently, my twin sister came to visit, and I came out to her as queer. I did it very nonchalantly – as I have with most of my friends – because I’m secretly hoping if I’m casual about it they won’t ask me what I mean.

Because if I’m honest. I’m still figuring this out. I’m not sure what it means. But I do know that for the first time in a long time I haven’t felt trapped in a consciousness that wasn’t my own. And that feeling is a sacred space that many LGBTQ folks struggle to find.

During this conversation with my sister she did the most loving thing a person could do at that moment: she was honest, “I don’t know much about this. What does being queer mean?”

I didn’t give her a finite definition. I’m not sure that there is one definition of what it means to be queer – it differs for every person. For queer folks their own identity is a sacred place of understanding.

But I do know what I’ve been reconciling as I’ve navigated this realization:
• It started with my increasing rejection of the binary. I’ve never believed in the binary when regarding sexuality and have always believed that sexuality is an every-moving point on an endless spectrum.

• I’ve also been contemplating how the binary (sexual, gender) has been, is, and will always be used as a means of oppression for one end of the binary.

• And what it mans to be an “other” outside of an accepted binary caste system.

Mostly, though, I’ve felt trapped inside a definition of myself wasn’t me, but rather what I felt was wanted from me.

Looking back, I’ve realized that I was accepted for being gay by many because they could understand what being gay meant in opposition of themselves, or straight. They were comfortable only because they could compare it to themselves, with my sexuality being the abnormal identity.

In the few times I expressed any behavior that crossed any sort of known boundary, it was rejected because they couldn’t place it within their binary understanding. And as such, I too, internalized the idea that a binary look at sexuality and gender was the only correct way to understand these complex identities.

Struggling to be gay for fifteen years has confined the possibility of me being my actual self – whatever or whoever that turns out to be. And if I feel this at thirty in New York, I can only imagine what a scared teenager of 15 in Iowa is feeling. So I’ll leave with this: I’m queer, and if you are too, you have don’t be alone in this.

 

justin

Justin Dewey is a former playwright and current arts marketing professional living in Queens. He currently serves as a Marketing Manager at The Public Theater.

What I Read in March

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I have no other words for this month other than the inelegant: CLUSTERFUCK.

I spent the first two weeks of the month majorly concussed and with a broken nose. It was a wrong place wrong time situation and I got hit in the face by a grown man. Seriously! I have been mending fast, the bruises were gone after those first two weeks and while my nose is still broken, I can breathe *almost* normally. I consider myself so lucky.

Secondly, I lost two of my biggest support systems at work and a 3rd is on maternity leave. (Really, guys? Really?) I’ve just kicked off my largest, most important, most highly visible project at work yet and it is requiring me to travel a LOT. As I write this I am in Boston. I soon go to Miami, San Fran, Honolulu, and Key West. This is only the beginning. But I spent the month planning for these moments and really not sleeping. It has been wild.

Needless to say, my reading took a dip. While I normally finish anywhere from 3-4 books a month I only got through 2 this month. Though! I do want to say! What Is The What is incredibly lengthy and has a lot of depth. So cut me a little slack.

Last month I read only westerns as inspiration for my own novel. (Yes, you heard that.) This month I just grabbed stuff at the library.

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Goodbye, Vitamin – I’ll be honest, the cover got me first. The inside sleeve got me second. And my pure boredom got me third. I wanted to try something new and contemporary after all those westerns and this one fit the bill. I found the story itself very sweet and while not super meaty, it was compelling enough that I stayed invested to see what would happen. This is a gentle ride. Sure, there are surprises, but they are the surprises that many of us are “used to”. They are real life drama problems. I did have a hard time finding any of the characters likeable. I am not saying they have to be for a good book, not at all, but I wanted someone to root for. Maybe it was all those westerns. I guess what I am saying is, this hit kind of close to home in some ways and getting close to my own ugliness was tough for me. The writing itself is refreshing and different than any I have experienced. I loved the structure and the narrative choices made there. Really, really, beautiful writing.

 

what What Is The What – I do not have the time or space to share all I want to about this book. It is a masterpiece. While it is technically shelved and sold as a fiction book, because they didn’t want a Oprah call out situation I’d assume, the book is LARGELY (like, entirely) based on the life of a Sudanese refugee who later immigrated to the US. The story is artfully woven between our main character, Achack’s, life as an adult in Atlanta and his life as a child refugee starting in Sudan, then traveling to Ethiopia and Kenya. The depth and detail of this story alone is enough to cause awe, but it’s truthful look at politics, humanity, immigration, love, family–I really mean EVERYTHING. Is stunning. Must read. (Long but worth it!)

On The Metro-North – Non-Fiction Essay

As I get braver about sharing my work — first it was the poems on my Instagram account) and then it was my publications in this quarter’s newsletter — it gets easier. Today I’m sharing a non-fiction piece I wrote some time ago but that I stopped submitting for publication. I’ve really been focusing on poetry and letting non-fiction essays take a backseat for a little bit.

I hope you enjoy this short, exploratory piece and that it inspires you to share more of what makes you tick this spring.

-Amanda

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On the Metro-North

We are riding a late train out of Grand Central. I don’t notice you until you catch me snapping pictures of a drunk guy passed out cold in his seat and snoring.

“I saw that,” you say and I giggle, looking at my hands.

I am drunk too. Actually, I am much drunker than I should be, given that I am both riding the late train and coming from a first date.

Not expecting you to say much more, I go back to texting my date, texting my friends, sending pictures of the man passed out, but you ask me where I am going. I tell you I am headed to my mother’s in Connecticut, to take her boyfriend’s boat out, to forget about my ex from last month. I tell you the truth but not just because I have been drinking, but because your eyes are nice to look into. You smile and nod like you already know it all. Was I so obvious?

You tell me that you are working at the Lincoln Center as an intern but have to live in Stamford. You do the forty-five minute reverse commute everyday coming into the city early and leaving late.

“But, that’s part of the deal when you’re young, right?” You ask me.

As if I should agree with you, as if I know what I am doing, as if I should tell you that you’re doing the right thing living an exhausting life to get somewhere, anywhere, better. I sort of nod, let my heavy drunk head slosh about in a white wine puddle.

“That’s what they say.”

I don’t share my first year in New York story with you. Even though everyone has one. And they are always awful and painful and lonely but also full of parties and strangers and pink sunrises while still in work clothes from the day before. I decide to let you figure it out. I decide I had too much to drink and want to shut my eyes. I decide I give terrible advice.

You’re just a kid but we exchange numbers anyway. You get off in Stamford and I continue on toward New Haven, letting the white wine seep into my bones. Only a few minutes go by before my phone buzzes.

“I’m not kidding, I just walked by a car fire,” you write.

I laugh in shock. The kind of laughter that comes from the back of your throat and catches your teeth.

We don’t text again for months. Your number is saved but forgotten and I hope to god you aren’t still doing that awful commute because you think it will give you a new life. A life where something, anything feels certain because I am not sure yet if anyone can have a certain life.

A year passes and my phone buzzes. “Zach Train” my phone says. I finally remember your name.

You tell me you’ve seen another car on fire. You aren’t sure why we stopped talking but you remember the car on fire.

“How have you been?” You finish.

I don’t reply. Leaving the weird train ride to be our one and only story. Because it was your first year in New York. Because it can be. Because I’ve met somebody else. And because you really shouldn’t get numbers from drunk girls on trains.

Call for Courage Challenge — Try Meditation

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I know what you’re all thinking. First the mushroom herb tea and now meditation? Has Amanda gone completely woowoo nuts on us? The answer is, yes a little bit, but I’m hoping what that means for you is that you can trust me more because all of this stuff is new to me too.

As you know I started the Call for Courage Challenge this year, posing a new challenge for my readers every month. Whether that’s sharing your weird talents with the world, or reaching out to someone, we’re pushing to be our best selves every day.

This March I want you to try meditation. Why? Because on the most basic level we all need time to empty our minds and relax the brain waves. Have you ever noticed how you do your best thinking in the shower? That’s because you’re focusing on something simple – scrubbing your skin – and allowing your mind to relax for a moment. The same thing can happen when you’re coloring or knitting or running. By giving your thinking mind a break you’re freeing up space to be CREATIVE, ENERGETIC, LOVING, and OPEN.

Meditation can seem really daunting at first. I was afraid of it at first like I was afraid of yoga. The source of my fear is the same with both… I was afraid to be alone with my thoughts, afraid to pause, and afraid to be still. In today’s world when we never have to be alone, the prospect of it can be so scary. This is something you can ease into. If you need to keep your hands busy pick up a coloring book. If you need guidance, download an app to help you. Or start how I did: breathing deep a couple of minutes at a time with your eyes closed. That’s it. I focused on breathing in and out and nothing else.

I know it sounds crazy but I always feel better immediately after a meditate, and in general, it’s made me a calmer person. I can tackle all I have to do by taking a break each day just to let my mind rest.

So there you have it. Give meditation a whirl and let me know what you think. I’m dying to know!