You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have. Look back over your life and remember some of the times you found strength inside yourself you didn’t know you had. If only we had some way to remind ourselves of the times we’ve been strong as a first and last resort, then we might be more prepared. We wouldn’t doubt ourselves so much, get so anxious about things and play the victim card so often.
There’s a way to live strong no matter what challenges life throws at you, no matter how much memories and emotions and circumstances try to bend you out of shape. It’s called playing the essence card, knowing who you are. More about that soon. First, lets mine for some precious metal in memories.
Memories visit at surprising times, just like emotions and challenges. Sometimes memories tug at the corners of your mouth, or burst out as a laugh that makes people around you wonder if you’re hearing voices. Other times they spill out of your eyes and roll down your cheeks, leaving tear shaped reminders on paperwork. This is all perfectly normal and healthy. Memories have powerful purpose, I’m sure. The challenge is to have memories without being had by them.
I found a metaphor to describe the relationship between memories and knowing who you are; Shape Memory Alloys (SMA’s). Here’s how they work. Hold a flame to a regular paper clip, and it won’t change shape. Twist a piece of Nitinol (an SMA) into the shape of a paper clip and hold a flame to it, and hey presto it will unfurl back into its original straight line. Its incredible. I’m sitting here doing it with my kids right now.
SMA’s are used for some eye glasses, so that no matter how twisted the frame, they will come back to their original shape. Put a bra with shape memory wire in the drier and the heat of the drier will bring it back to its rightful shape (very important!) Even more amazingly, some are suggesting that SMA’s can be used to make bridges earthquake resistant. The earthquake will twist the bridge out of shape, but the raw materials of the bridge rearrange back into their original shape. (forgive me, I’m no scientist. I’m more interested in the metaphor, but hope I have the science roughly correct)
These amazing metals hold a memory, at an atomic level, of their original shape. They can be bent out of shape, but with enough heat they will go back to their essence. They remember what they are.
Apply it to memories and challenges. Memories bend us out of shape all the time; whether its extreme happiness or sadness, trauma, anxiety or excitement. Hold a memory of who you are at your essence, and come back to that essence when you feel yourself bending out of shape. You know who you are, you know what’s most important, what moves and motivates you. You remember it, at an atomic or DNA (essential) level. The more time you spend mining this essence for the raw materials of strength and resilience, the less circumstance can rock you.
This brings me to playing the essence card. I love this. There is an HMO called Essence. So when you have a health policy with Essence, they send you a card that says,
Always carry your Essence card with you in case you need emergency or urgent care.
That’s it! Always carry your essence card with you in case of memory meltdown or other urgent crisis. When life throws you a curve ball, play it confidently with a straight bat (to mix baseball and cricket metaphors) When events bend you out of shape, whether it’s circumstances from outside or haunting memories from inside, play your essence card. In the heat of the moment, when the crisis may even feel too hot to handle, bring yourself back to your essence, which is as strong as it needs to be, as flexible as necessary and as resilient as is called for. Life can pull you in every direction, but hold your memory of who you are at your essence.
As brilliant author Jodi Picoult wrote,
The human capacity for burden is like bamboo- far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.