Tag Archives: Resiliency

The Weight of the World On Your Shoulders

Again. Still. Always…

You have responsibilities: to your children, to your spouse, to your parents, to your partner, to your employees, to your banker…

to yourself…

It’s too much. But it doesn’t go away. Oh, sometimes it gets quieter, or lighter. And sometimes it feels heavier or your feet are stuck.  And sometimes you even stumble under the weight of it all.

But you can’t rid yourself of it, make it go away, put it down once and for all.

So what’s there to do?

Carry your burden more lightly… Breathe deep into your center, remember your purpose, remember you are not alone, remember it is what it is, and, most of all, remember what is real…What matters…

And remember that it all passes; it all turns into the next thing.  Faster than we ever imagined…

Copyright © 2010 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.


On Fireworks beyond the 4th of July

fireworksI love fireworks. Love them. The light. The colors. The crackle of excitement, the explosives that signal fun, not guns. The way we all wait in anticipation, strangers united, staring in the same direction, hopeful. Last night, watching Macy’s fireworks on the Hudson, I was so struck by the sense of joyous New York community: people on private yachts and packed party boats, on rooftops, standing on the docks, even watching on tv – New Yorkers coming together to clap and laugh and blow horns and share in the oohs and ahs of the spectacular. Echoes of other, more tragic, explosions somehow bringing us all closer, more appreciative… Pushing Recession 2009 out of mind for an hour of shared optimism and delight…

In life, most of us also prefer the occasional dollop of excitement and surprise, enough explosiveness to surprise us and get the adrenaline going. But beyond adolescence, the drama and explosion generally work best in infrequent, controlled doses. Enough to light up the sky with the fabulous, to let us sigh together at the duds, and to leave us sated and happy to settle into the calm that follows.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

On Blowing Bubbles in the Real World

bubble_colorful_colors_221291_l1You can’t walk into a job interview in your suit while blowing those drippy summertime bubbles that come in a hot green plastic container. You can’t give your elevator speech to the new networking contact with a qualified, live lead while sitting on a bench in Central Park blowing bubbles.

Or can you? Should you? (You can see where this is going…)

You need breaks from real life: to play, to float above the problems, to not deal. And you need breaks from taking breaks: to get up off the sofa and write that document, make that tough phone call, run the numbers. Most of the time, you oscillate between the two. It’s easier that way. Work while you’re working, play while you’re playing. No distractions, in control, not too sloppy.

But what would happen, how would life feel, if you infused the two? If you didn’t wait for Saturday night to have “time off” or wait until Sunday night to “plan the week?”

What would happen if – just for a moment, here and there – you dealt with the hard realities with a smile on your face and a bubble wand in your hand? Well, for one thing, you’d notice who thought you were nuts and avoided you (though arguably in New York that takes an awful lot), and who smiled along with you, maybe even wanted a go at the wand.

To make the largest bubble you can before the thin film breaks, you have to breathe easy, deliberately and deeply. You slow down, you focus, you let go (For a moment. You can easily get it back, all that tension, if you need it). With conscious awareness, you take a breath and focus gently on the ephemeral here and now. You know all too well the bubble’s going to burst. They always do. That’s part of the challenge, the pull, maybe even the fun. You try yet again: for a bigger bubble, a bunch of tiny bubbles, two intersecting bubbles. Or a laugh, a smile, even. Just to yourself. Or, maybe even better, a shared glance with a kindred spirit.

It only takes a conscious moment. Just a few moments can make a big difference helping you get through these tough recession days, shifting perspective, giving you a much needed and appreciated breather. So that when you return to the challenges of your daily life, you do so refreshed, energized, feeling less frantic and more positive. By creating a sort of resiliency reservoir, the same daunting challenges don’t feel the same.

It’s easy to lose the smile when the demands of daily life crank up. And they seem to more and more these days. Financial woes, 24/7 email and cell phone and internet, the markets open somewhere pretty much all the time – all of them demanding your attention. And someone else nipping at your heels – evaluating you at your job, dumping their job on you, lying in wait for your job. Seems as if there’s never enough time or bandwith. No wonder you get edgy, short-tempered, exhausted.

Who’s got the time or energy for anything besides accomplishing something or vegging out in front of the tv? Who’s got time to be conscious and focused on the little joys? Maybe you do, just for a moment. In fact, just imagining it might almost do the trick.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

On Glasses Half-Empty or Half-Full. Part I: The Research

glasshalfemptyTough times, right? It’s easy to feel pessimistic. Well, read on. More evidence that an optimistic outlook correlates with better health, both physical and psychological.* After this week’s post on depression, that’s a pretty positive thing!

Results of a longitudinal study, published in the May issue of Health Psychology, provide yet more support for the value of learned optimism. Laura D. Kubzansky, PhD and colleagues of the Harvard School of Public Health tracked 569 individuals from age 7 to their mid-30s to see if certain personality traits influenced health later in life. Their findings: Children who were able to react less negatively to situations at age 7 – who viewed the world through the lens of optimism rather than pessimism – reported better general health and fewer illnesses 30 years later.

According to Dr. Kubzansky, “Certain characteristics already evident early in life are likely to spark positive or negative emotions, and also influence biological and behavioral responses to stress. Some traits may contribute to developing healthier behaviors and better social relationships, and ultimately more resilience in mid-life.”

Trained observers rated the 7 year olds’ behaviors, which were then assigned to three personality attributes, one of which was distress-proneness (the tendency to react negatively to situations). To determine adult health, participants rated their health and reported whether they had any of the following illnesses: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, asthma, arthritis, stroke, bleeding ulcer, tuberculosis or hepatitis.

For all the participants, having a more positive outlook (along with the ability to pay focused attention) in youth affected health the most. These effects were greater for women, suggesting that women may be more sensitive to interactions among emotion, behavior and biology, perhaps predisposing them more to certain health risks, such as heart disease. No differences in effects were found across race or ethnicity, childhood health or socicoeconomic status.

“Behavior and emotions generally linked to certain temperaments play a crucial role in long-term health,” Says Dr. Kubzansky. “Fortunately, early childhood characteristics can be shaped and guided by social, family and peer interactions. Interventions can focus on altering certain ways of responding and behaviors that frequently accompany particular traits to prevent certain diseases.”

Next up: Part II: How to change that half-empty glass into a half-full one. A slightly tougher task, so give me a few days, please?

*With special thanks to the American Psychological Association Public Affairs Office and DS who inspired this series.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Too Much to Bear?

worldonyourshoulders The weight of the world on your shoulders?
Sure feels that way sometimes.

So much responsibility. Too many worries.
So little time. Not enough strength.
So much to deal with. Too many problems.
So little energy. Not enough wisdom.
So much at stake. Too many risks.
So little support. Not enough courage.

And then: A moment of connection. A chance meeting that inspires hope. A glance that tells you someone else gets it: a friend, a therapist, a stranger.
A shared thought, a shared value, a shared feeling. It doesn’t take much; it is everything. You breathe into your belly and find you can once again carry your burden lightly. You smile in gratitude, vowing to remember you are never only alone…

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

It’s Not Going the Way I Expected…

You went to b school to be a master of the universe. You worked crazy hours and missed Thanksgiving more times than you can remember for eventual f___you money. You bought the apartment and figured bonus = mortgage. And now, everything you counted on, assumed…
sanandreasfault1Well the upheaval’s so enormous, it’s as if you can’t even trust the ground under your feet.
You need to get some perspective. viewofearth1
It’s not going back to the way it used to be. Nothing ever goes back to the way it used to be. The Buddhists talk about impermanence – everything changes, like the shifting sands. shifting-sands1
The only question is, how light on your feet can you be? Because you’ve got to let it go and go on to the next, whatever that is…
Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Raise Imperfect – But Resilient – Kids

Protect your kids by shielding them, or inoculating them?

Peggy Orenstein writes in today’s The New York Times Magazine section http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/08/magazine/08wwln-lede-t.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink that parents are ruled by what she calls a “Toxic Paradox … a belief that if we do everything right we can protect [our kids] from pain or failure or sadness  We can make them perfect and, in the process, prove ourselves beyond reproach.”

Not a good idea.  Not possible.  Not even a good idea if it were possible.

So what’s a parent to do? Hold your nose, bite your tongue, but open your eyes:  your kids need to make mistakes and recover from them.  They need to get hurt and recover.  They need to lose and recover.  They need to be on the wrong side of fair and recover.  A parent can’t – and shouldn’t – shield them from all life’s difficulties.  A parent can – and should – help them learn to turn life’s shit into fertilizer and grow something glorious. 

 Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.