The Strength to Carry

It ought to be known that I am obsessed with the series Alone. Hahahaha. I feel ok admitting this because the more I do, the more people whom I love and respect are like, omg, I do too. It ought to also be known that I had to take a break from watching it because I caught myself being extra judgy about contestants who had lost their ferro rods and/or didn’t make a shelter a priority—because I have, you know, expert primitive life skills from watching three seasons and all. Right? Right. In any case, I realized why I love this show so much:


#1 They are all alone. Sounds so nice, not gonna lie. And I know I know, they are like surviving and it wouldn’t actually be nice. But, wow. Alone.


#2 I feel like motherhood has totally prepared me to be a Ms. Macgyver in the wilderness, even with extreme sleep deprivation and stalking predators.


#3 The show’s winner is always the person who has the most inner strength and actual survival experience, and this feels affirming and inspiring.


Before I go on, I want to say that I know nothing about these people nor am I saying that this show is actually anything awesome. It’s just a weird thing I have been overthinking. But, when I think about the #3 item above, I also realize that this is the “something bigger” here that draws me to the show. I guess we live our whole lives thinking that winners are people who are the toughest, the most physically fit, the most positive, the most focused, and the most confident. And, on this show, the truth comes out. Confidence means very little in the wild. What matters most? Two things: A resilient relationship with your own emotional world AND hard-fought experience. 


Also, interestingly, the people who are left standing in Alone do not shy away from falling apart emotionally or expressing difficulty. In Season 7, in fact, one of the contestants (I will not spoil it) spends about 95% of his air time openly grieving in a raw way the passing of his mother. Another incredible woman spends most of her air time bouncing between sobbing or cheering with joy, having to pick herself up and begin again each morning. I realized after that season that THIS is what it looks like to know how to carry the burdens of surviving life and learning to be with suffering. Maybe this is what inner strength looks like: You have the ability to fall apart, reconstitute yourself, learn, and repeat over and over. Courage is not static. Strength is not still. These things bend and turn and wane and build. And you stay with yourself as they do. More essentially, you don’t hate yourself when they do. 


It makes me think of the palliative care doctor and author of That Good Night, Dr Sunita Puri, whose life work is about helping people accept the eventual conflict of their identity and their body’s agreement with that identity. Yes, she deals with end of life, but I do believe that people who work in this realm have a lot to teach us. Her experience has taught her that life is a bunch of temporary shifts into circumstances we can’t control or change. Our inner strength resides in being present for all these shifts and doing what we can, when we can. She says, “By accepting my patients’ circumstances, rather than fixating on their inherent tragedy, I could focus instead on changing what I could.”


Now, I do know that I am simplifying this idea in a big way and maybe, like me, you’ll be tempted to go grab some self-help books or maybe enroll in an online course. Maybe this feels frustrating because, I don’t know, we’ve been led to believe our whole lives that something outside of ourselves can and will ease our pain. But don’t we all learn that external things don’t work? People will disappoint us. Vices will hurt. Quick fixes will dissipate. Diversion will prolong. As someone very important in my life used to always say to me, “You can’t buy bread at a hardware store.” In other words, you’re not going to get what you need from a source that doesn’t have it. So, couldn’t it be true that the bread store is inside of us?


That’s my question and it feels obvious now that I write it. Like, DUH. Isn’t that what all the spiritual experts and calm humans already know? So, blergh. This feels obvious. Then again, maybe it is not obvious because, yes, a lot of us have heard this and a lot of us know this. BUT, how many of us actually practice it? How many of us have actually been able to say, ok, what do I need to carry my life and my suffering? That’s actually hard work and that is actually rare work. 


In my own life, I came to a point where I had to close the self-help books and external stuff. I’ve had to just roll up my sleeves and live like a survivor on Alone, which means I’ve had to learn how to pause before I call the rescue team and develop discernment about my reality and what it needs. And, PS, there’s nothing wrong with calling the rescue team. Sometimes it is the exact right thing to do. BUT, this means that I’ve had to learn to come home to my body, to use the resources in here and the deep knowing and to muster the strength to hold myself to a challenge without fleeing. 


So, this month in our August Challenge, we are going to be talking about The Strength to Carry. And since we are MommaStrong, we are going to focus mainly on how our physical integration and body awareness can be an excellent tool in your toolkit for getting through something in life that is challenging. Lucky for us, our new MommaStrong trainers, certified this past spring, will be guiding us through with their process in this topic. They will be sharing what they are carrying and then leaning into what they are doing to develop the strength to not flee. I’m so thrilled that you will meet them in this way and I am so thrilled to be led by them this month myself.


The challenge starts Monday, August 2nd, which is great timing before the major shifts of the end of summer head our way, quickly. If you are a current member, you can register for this month’s challenge by clicking on the Challenges link in the teal navigation menu once logged in. If you are not yet a member, sign up today and then follow those instructions. AND, bonus, here’s also a little general intro to our new trainers so you can meet them before diving into the deeper stuff. 


Until then, do not binge Alone because I said so. It may not be as enlightening as I am saying. I am weird like that. But, if you get to Season 7 and you get to the episode with face lotion, please send me a message. BECAUSE WOW.