What does it mean to thrive?

I haven’t been writing here much lately.  I have been carried away on my fundraising efforts for SACHA, one of Hamilton’s sexual abuse support centers.  I didn’t know this when I started, but they also serve men which makes them unique in this city.  And that much more awesome.  I have been on my bike a lot and truth, I haven’t been writing much of anything lately.  April was a write-lite month.  Not really even in my journal.  May is proving to be similar.

Two weeks ago, I filed my taxes.  Or at least, left them on the accountant’s desk.

This has been cause for a lot of writing.  Stress, terror, and utter despair have generally given me cause for serious journalling.

The night I filed, I pondered, and it seems like an odd question, considering the size of the financial monster I am looking at, what does it mean to thrive?  At first glance, even to me, I kind of want to laugh in my own face and just accept that waking up dead tomorrow, or facing a total world appocalypse, annihilation of the whole human race, might actually be easier.

But then I realized, nope, cause that’s survivalism.  In some ways, just surviving, just scratching by, always on the run, keeping my eyes on all the exit signs in case I have to bolt, are normal.  These are the habits of Survivor.  My champion warrior woman.  She digs the scrappy, get by on the skin of my teeth lifestyle.  For her, world apocalypse is easy.  It’s easy because it’s what she has been built for; resist, sprint, fight, adrenalineadrenalineadrenaline, starve, scrap, hide.  The shitty thing about that is, all of the rest of me doesn’t like that, has a hard time dealing with the high doses of adrenaline and emotional hurricanes.

A few weeks ago, when I was having all that trouble sleeping, I witnessed a conversation between two parts of myself.  Sitting in a desert, meager supplies, dirty ragged clothes, a small, smouldering fire of mostly ashes in front of this ragged pair.  Clearly at odds with each other.  An adult woman, looking totally disappointed and confused, as though somehow, the thing that had been working for so long was suddenly not useful anymore.  Next to her, a child, maybe 5 years old.  She looks concerned, but clear.  She knows the scope of the situation, her innocence lets her see the way out though she knows it is not an easy one.  She says to the adult “I know that you have gotten us this far.  You have laid down everything so we could survive, you have done everything you could, and I am grateful.  But now, we are safe, we are ok.  The danger is gone.  Just over that hill is sanctuary.  You’ve made sure I had the basics, but I’ve not been allowed to rest.  I’ve had to be ready to get up and run at the scent of what you call danger.  I need to rest.  I need to sleep through the night.  I won’t make it if I don’t.”

I see that child as innocent wisdom.  We all have an innocent wisdom.  It’s like.. the original blue print of you.  The part of you that just knows what’s right, what’s wrong, what direction we are supposed to go.  It’s simple, like all the best wisdom is.  I read once that innocence is not so much the absence of wrong doing, but knowing how to make it right again.  This innocent wisdom in me has seen wrong doing, and from that sprung Survivor.  And now it is time for innocent wisdom to gently point to a new way.

In this new path, for a while, I just didn’t know what it was going to mean.  The difference between surviving and thriving is pretty simple.  It’s a commitment to stick in one spot, to settle down a root or two, and develop a plan.  A real plan.  Not an escape strategy, escape is not an option, the monsters can chase you all over the world because they are sewn to your own feet.  A real plan means finding their weak spots, and building the machinery to dismantle them.  Thriving means doing the hard, foundation work now, sticking with it, placing one foot in front of the other and keeping your eyes fixed on the target.  My friend Jany would say “stay on target.”  Survivor wants to bail out at the first sign of difficulty.  She wants to do it herself because she will not trust others.  She wants to be in control, but can only see as far as the end of her hand.  She ignores beauty, goodness, and pleasure because they all require trust and faith that beauty, goodness and pleasure really do exist and are safe.  She can only see the pain and the ways to navigate through it.

Athena, the goddess of wisdom, strategy, battle, planning and weaving has become like a totem for me.  She studies the trends, hears all sides, and chooses the most just courses of action, always adhering to her higher principles of justice and right-ness.  She was considered a powerful ally in war as she would find the quickest route to victory sparing as much human life as possible.

Athena, goddess of wisdom and strategy is the symbol of how I am learning to be.  There is a time for being on the run but there is also a time for standing your ground, facing up to it, and plotting your course for a long term.  Thriving requires foresight, planning, action and careful observation.  It involves learning how to move with the flow but stay on course.  elements of survival are necessary; strength, determination and perseverance are absolute musts.  Without them, there is no thriving, there is no surviving, there is just falling over dead.  Not an option.  But thriving also requires planned time for rest, opportunity recognition and seizing, and sticking with it even when it gets hard.  Rerouting when your course leads you astray.  Being kind to yourself but firm.

At the beginning of this year I got a tattoo on my back of a Great Blue Heron.  It symbolized going my own way, seizing opportunity, being true to myself and standing on my own two feet, firmly planted, alert to my surroundings, but confident that I reign in the swamp.  The last few months have seen me descend to the bottom of the swamp, scratching with my toes, and plucking up what rises with my beak.  It has smelled like swamp bottom but has provided me great nourishment.  And now, taking in that nourishment, I am integrating.  Survivor was a small part of who I am.  All of me is Rising, and Athena is joining the team, developing, becoming more clear and with time, an integral part of me.

What does it mean to Thrive?  It means to accept where I am, see the vision of where I want to go, understand what the goals are along that way, and clearly map out the action steps to getting there.  It means to stretch only as far as I can, to allow rest when rest is due, to be patient and allow things to unfold as they will and move with the flow.  To take time to appreciate the beauty, pleasure and goodness around me.  To develop trust and faith in myself and my people. To set down roots and really, truly, grow.

*photos taken on the day I completed 75km Mikes Bike Ride in Hamilton ON.  Definitely a moment of thriving.