Happy Friday December 11th, 2015!
Today. Is. The. Day! 🙂
My book, Just Roll With It: 7 Battle Tested Truths for Building a Resilient Life, is now available in hardback, paperback, and kindle on Amazon.com. Whooooooo hooooo!!!!!
Ok, but beyond my own personal excitement about my book finally really being ready for the world, I’m most excited at the opportunity to share my work with my peers, with my family, with my community, with the people whose proverbial shoes I’ve stood in as well as those I haven’t.
We don’t have to have experienced the exact same thing as another person to be able to empathize with them, and offer kindness.
Unfortunately, during the holiday season in particular, many of us – not just veterans – struggle with feeling truly connected. Due to family drama or separation, cold and dreary weather, or quite simply tough times and overwhelm, we often feel more alone than we do supported.
And that can be a dangerous sensation.
We can isolate. We can feel separate. We disconnect – from others and ourselves. We can end up feeling like no one really understands us.
So, why this book? Why now?
Because I passionately hope that people know that they have options.
Because our veterans – and their FAMILIES – need more than a “thank you for your service.”
Because not only our veterans, but anyone who’s been through a really tough time, trauma, or pervasive stress, needs support.
You can extend your hand. You have enough to give now.
You don’t need more money, more time, more resources. Offer to chat with someone. Smile at them. Give them a small, but meaningful gift. Provide them a meal. Give them a hug.
There are so many options for how to authentically support another person when they’re struggling.
My book (and honestly, my friend and colleague, Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas’s book, Brave Strong True, too) is but one offering in that direction.
Because my book is about resilience and posttraumatic growth, moving beyond trauma, as best as we can, and being gentle with ourselves as we try to do so.
(This is an excerpt from my introduction chapter).
Imagine if we lived in a world where people trusted themselves and others, felt connected, and gave themselves grace and patience during difficult transitions.
What if, at their core, people knew they had a choice? What if our veterans know they have a choice?
What if all survivors know they have a choice?
We’ve all heard the statistic: twenty-two veterans a day are dying by suicide.
Well, the stuff that potentially saves veterans from killing themselves is the same stuff that can make us a more compassionate parent, a more forgiving and loving partner, a more effective executive, and a more resilient human being.
Mindful, intentional choice is the act that transforms the energy of any situation and keeps us on a path of resilience, as bumpy as that path may be.
Mindful choice requires awareness, awareness of things that are sometimes very painful; but it’s only on the other side of awareness that healing takes place.
We hear a lot about posttraumatic stress, but let’s think about posttraumatic growth and the places where we do heal. One of the ways people can heal from trauma is through the vehicle of choice. Growth is possible by choosing to change our relationship with trauma by choosing to move through trauma mindfully, versus avoiding it, burying it, or checking out of life, or remaining stuck in our trauma, repeating the story to ourselves over and over again.
In the book, I talk about choices.
This may be a hot button topic in the context in which I will address it because some may say that we cannot choose our life, or choose what happens to us after something terrible occurs.
Choice is complex.
There are people who live in marginalized and oppressed segments of our society who have little choice in matters that may be no big deal to some people. There is even a lot of human behavior that looks like choice, but in reality is a coalescence of all sorts of forces acting upon that individual—like genetic factors, environment, and otherwise—to lead that person to make choices that may be the best thing they can do in that moment. Some research shows, for instance, some people have mental illnesses or other powerful factors that render them incapable of certain choices. Moreover, especially in the context of trauma, there is much guilt, shame, and self-blame involved in situations in which the victim feels they didn’t make the “right” choice in a situation in which they didn’t really even have one. And it’s only at the point that they realize they had no other choice (they didn’t have all the intelligence gathered yet, or the person broke into their house, etc.) and that even if what they did seemed inconsistent with expectations of what they “could’ve” or “should’ve” done, the point at which their healing starts is when the person realizes: “No, there really wasn’t anything differently I could’ve done at that time.”
Therefore, my intent with what follows on these pages is not to judge or to compound feelings of guilt.
Rather, it is to say this: in the situations in which the power to choose is available, this book is designed to help with that.
The fact of the matter is, we are all acting at the best capacity that we can, and the choice may or may not always be available. I’m not saying that everything in life is choosable. This book is geared toward empowering us to choose within the moments, within the scope of what’s possible, the things that are within our realm of control or our power to change or to choose.
This book’s purpose is not to discuss macro-level issues, even though I understand that they are very important. I believe systemic solutions are possible to those larger challenges, but I feel called to speak to the individual, for whom I do believe choice is possible in most moments. I assume that if you’ve picked this book up, then you are one of those people who has the ability to choose, who has power, and who has responsibility. And I believe every one of us has a choice not only every day, but with every single breath.
We need to think of stress, resilience, and posttraumatic growth less as treatment and more as opportunities for training. Because let’s be serious, the veteran mind-set is not one that responds well to victimization or pathologizing of their problems. We need to be more proactive. We need to help soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines up-armor ahead of time with tools they can take with them anywhere in any situation. All Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) does not come just from combat. It comes from those other battlefields too. Even for those in treatment settings, if we can design it to be more like training so we can destigmatize health practices to be presented as mindfulness and resiliency building toolsets that “bulletproof” our brains, we’ll be speaking the language of resiliency, of awareness, of agency, of connection, and ultimately of CHOICE.
What if my peer group and I had been taught to respect the waves of anxiety, depression, and stress that surely come as a survivor of chaos, sexual trauma, or combat just as a surfer is taught to respect the strong waves of the ocean? To revere them, train for them, and honor their wisdom? What if I had understood things that way?
What if our warriors today can cultivate that understanding?
To be able to respect and honor our minds and bodies instead of feeling betrayed by them is a game changer that mindfulness fuels.
Intuition, agency, connection, and awareness are all choices. They don’t just happen. We can choose to act, even little bits at a time, and we can choose to connect, one breath at a time.
And so this is what I would say to veterans seeking posttraumatic growth: choice is powerful. We don’t have to choose life or death; we can choose to honor the rising and the falling of the waves. It’s like saying, “Should I inhale or exhale?” We must do both. Just breathe.
Breathwork is action.
Breath is the instigator of change.
Breath transforms, empowers, and renews. Breath is our very life force.
Breath has the power to create, to destroy, and to transform.
Breath unites. Your exhale is my inhale. Breath is an avenue to spirit.
Breath makes space for choice.
Even when all else is raging around us, swirling in our respective battle zones, the one thing we can always choose is our breath. It changes our brains, our bodies, and our hearts. It’s always ours. It’s on the house—it’s free! No one can ever touch it. It’s the one thing we all do all the time whether we want to or not. It unites us to our strongest self and helps us connect to others.
Our lives begin and end with breath, and in the space in between, intentional breath helps us make intentional choices.
So, again, why this book? Why now?
Because we need more faith, connection, and self-care in our lives,
we need deeper and bigger breaths,
and because we need to believe in the power of our own intuition, agency, and awareness.
We need to know who we are, and then actually act like it!
We need to embrace humility and humor more than pretense and perfection.
We need more love, friendship, and compassion.
We need to reflect without ruminating, and then move on.
That is what it means to Just Roll With It.
(end of excerpt)
So this is my offering to you – veteran or civilian – this holiday season.
And if you have a veteran in your life, a month after Veterans Day, consider doing more than saying “Thank You For Your Service.” Consider reaching out your hand in some way.
God bless, and happy holidays! Semper Sarah Plummer Taylor
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