SURVIVING OR THRIVING?
I’ve been blogging, primarily about sexual assault, for a little over a year. I’m not past the fear of “not doing it right,” but wanted to lighten up and just wing this one, writing my heart onto the page. Instead of researching and taking frantic notes, I’m going to share as a human being (as opposed to a human “doing”).
On Sunday, I finished Lysa Terkeurst’s latest book, Forgiving What You Can’t Forget. At one point, she asked readers if they would rather be a survivor or a thriver. Even though I had said in my memoir, Peeling Away the Façade: The Long Shadow of Child Abuse, that I had progressed from victim to survivor to victor, Terkeurt’s question provided something of an epiphany for me: I’m a thriver!
How do we determine whether we’re merely surviving or thriving? As a Christian and a bit of a health nut, I view the difference as a matter of living a balanced life. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.” Webster defines abundance as very plentiful, more than sufficient, ample, rich. What are the steps to abundance?
As a twenty-year-old social work major I learned from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that humans can’t focus on needs such as belonging, esteem, and self-actualization unless their basic needs for food, water, rest, and shelter are met. I’m assuming that if you’re reading this blog, you’re physiological and safety needs are not in question. When I contemplate the concept of thriving, my mind turns to the balance we achieve in our lives.
The relationships we have with an intimate partner, our family members, and friends reflect how we’re doing in the realm of belonging. If we are getting along well, experience joy, setting and maintaining boundaries that contribute to our serenity, and have steady contact with these people, we’re probably feeling successful.
Most of my readers likely have jobs which pay the rent or mortgage, supply nourishment, and determine how they use free time. Some readers are retired and may volunteer or barter their skills in exchange for goods or services they need or desire. Many people engage in hobbies such as gardening or fine arts which bring them gratification. All of these activities can contribute to one’s feelings of accomplishment or self-esteem.
For me, an hour of physical activity or exercise six days a week not only keeps my body strong but releases feel-good hormones and gives me a mental boost. The mind/body connection in our health has been stressed by doctors for decades and is worthy of our time and attention.
Each one of us has opportunities to do random acts of kindness. These don’t need to be costly or grandiose, only heartfelt. We can call or text someone who is lonely or struggling with some issue, mail a greeting card, pick up litter we spy during a walk, make a positive comment on somebody’s Facebook post, make a donation to a charity, anonymously pay for someone’s groceries or fast food, make a meal for a family who has a new baby or has lost a loved one, put someone’s newly-released book on our Goodreads “want to read” list, donate clothes or household items we no longer use to a thrift store. The possibilities are endless and remember that the heart that gives gathers.
Where would you be without laughter in your life? I’m certain that without a sense of humor and at least a couple of chuckles per day, I would shrivel like a raisin and be a fraction of the person that I share with my corner of the world. I suggest that we all look diligently for things to laugh and smile about every day. Then do it with reckless abandon, showing those amalgam fillings in our molars! Another release of endorphins. And before you fall asleep at night, remind yourself of what made you laugh; it’s more effective than Tylenol PM.
The realm of spirituality is highly personal and has great potential to enrich our lives. Having the humility to consider the possibility of a higher power opens the door to infinite faith experiences. It allows each of us to realize that, while possessing elements of divinity, we are not God. We are not in charge of the universe, cannot control others, and will make mistakes which are forgivable. The guidance, networking, meditation, music, prayer, and hope found within a spiritual community might lay the very foundation for a thriving life.
Finally, what do you do for recreation, for pure fun or pleasure? I have a thirst for literature, love music, making stained glass windows, playing with grandchildren, and spending time in nature. Some days I spend less than thirty minutes so engaged, but occasionally I spend seven straight hours in these activities. And not to be a TMI queen, but I also treasure intimacy with my husband. Sometimes there’s a black lingerie party at our house!
Why is thriving important?
Sexual assault can be destructive on so many levels. It takes work and the understanding that we were not at fault to move from victim to survivor. Having been exploited by three perpetrators before the age of thirteen, it took a bachelor’s degree in social work and considerable counseling for me to resign the victim role. Two graduate degrees in psychology, an incest survivor’s group, an adult child of alcoholics group, more individual therapy, and weekly participation in Al-Anon groups has taken me to a life of thriving. I can’t express how grateful I am for each of those healing opportunities.
So, what about your journey of healing? Congratulate yourself for the steps you’ve already taken. Crank up some courage to move to the next level if you’re surviving, but not thriving. You may be a quicker study or more resilient than I am. What’s important is that you make the decision to thrive. And know that there’s a broad support network out there to bolster you when you feel discouraged.
I’ll close with Dr. Suess,
Life’s a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)1
(For a list of recovery resources, please go to leereinecke.com.)
1Geisel, T. S. and A. S. Oh, The Places You’ll Go, New York: Random House, 1990.