Survival Skills



It may be some kind of affliction I’ve never heard of, but when things get really tough, I tend to get optimistic.


I don’t start there. In this recent life upside-down cake, I began in denial. “I can’t happen here.” (Remember that Zappa fans?) Then when to anger. “How the hell did this happen?” I’m starting to hit resignation, “This is going to hurt, and it is not within my control.” I’ve had a few melt-downs and pity parties too. I can feel the optimism starting to build. And yes, I realize how obnoxious that makes me.


When I’m under pressure, I get scared. I don’t like to be scared. At all. I will do anything to avoid it, including calling it other names, like “worried” and “stressed.” But it all boils down to the same thing – fear.


My old boss, Rick Goldberg

When I worked for Aveda, my boss had a saying, “Motivated by the fear.” That resonated with me. After a brief stint in the fetal position, the fear kicks into high gear to figure out what I’m going to do to tame the fear.


For some people, creating artwork or playing music brings them peace. For me, its problem solving, finding workarounds, and creative solutions. Maybe it makes me feel like I can control change, which I know isn’t true. It does change my attitude, though, and that helps.


When I can come up with strategies to try, I start feeling hopeful and optimistic about making changes. It gives me hope and optimism that things just might work out. That’s when I start getting all obnoxiously positive about things and want to share that hope.

Optimism is one of my happiest survival skills. This determination to keep going has served me well. I don’t know why, but I have a little light inside that can’t be snuffed out. I’m grateful for that and like to think it comes from my ancestors and the strength they had to face adversity.


I love studying the creative process and learning how to be more creative. I’ve learned that one of the myths of creativity is that constraints make it more challenging to be creative. We believe the more limited we are in options, the harder it will be to create something meaningful. This is a myth because, in reality, being confined in choices makes us more creative, giving us a direction to pursue, rather than unlimited possibilities.


Trying to work around what feels like being grounded as a child, is going to be an especially challenging and good exercise for our problem-solving prowess. We’re all going through a roller coaster of emotion right now. No one can stay optimistic all the time, not even me.


Sometimes survival means taking things one day at a time, with an eye toward actions that will help in the future. Since we don’t know what’s going to happen, that’s the tact we’ll have to take for now. Things are changing so fast we’re going to just have to wait things out a bit to see what happens. In the meantime, here are some things we can do:

Don’t pay attention to all the rumors.

There are lots of crazy rumors going around right now, online and person-to-person. I’ve got several messages from my friends on Facebook with dire warnings and no way to tell where the news came from. These messages are scary and may not be completely accurate.


We must be careful about passing along reactionary information about our current situation. Some factions want to keep us scared. Spreading misinformation is one of the ways they make that happen. Check sources to make sure they’re reputable and that there’s more than one source carrying the story.


It’s okay to disconnect.

It’s important to stay informed, but it’s also important to disconnect sometimes. Take a break from social media and the news. Read a synopsis of what was televised, rather than watching the whole thing. Believe me, if something important happens, you’ll hear about it.


Be gentle with yourself.

This is a super emotional time for everyone. Especially if your empathic, absorbing the emotions of people around you. At the Finishing School, we talk a lot about how there aren’t bad and good emotions; they’re all just emotions. They all have information to give us and lessons to teach us. We avoid the feelings we don’t want to think about by keeping ourselves busy, so we don’t have time to sit with our emotions and let ourselves feel and think about them.


Sound overwhelming? When there are many emotions to contend with at one time, it’s hard to know where to start. I’ll never forget the wisdom my neighbor, Cindy Watson, Senior Pastor of the First Methodist Church, gave me right after my friend Tanya Tandoc was murdered. When she asked how I was feeling, I told her I was going back and forth between sadness and anger and just didn’t know what to do with that. She told me, “Focus on the sadness. The anger will take care of itself.” It was good advice.


Dealing with all the feels is hard right now. It’s essential to look for resources to help in tough times. One of my go-to places is Mindful Magazine. Here’s a link to resources they’ve put together that covers everything from feeling isolated to stop worrying. I plan to spend some time there myself.


Try to have some fun.

It’s easy to get stuck in the gloom and doom. If we could change situations by worrying about them, it would be worthwhile spending our energy ruminating about what may happen. I know this is easier said than done. There is a lot to worry about right now.


I’m going to try to do something just for fun every day as part of my self-care during this time. Last night I joined some friends for a virtual cocktail party. We all logged onto Zoom Meetings with a drink in hand and just talked. As an extroverted introvert, this “social” distancing is not going to be easy, and I’m going to get creative to stay sane.

We’ll all get through this together.

We’re all in the same boat. This is going to be tough, but we are going to survive. The more we can come together to try to help each other, the better.


There has ever been a more critical time to support local businesses. We can’t dine it at restaurants, but we can get take-out. We can’t shop at local shops, but we can buy from them online, from their social media profiles, and by contacting them for private video shopping sessions. There are lots of birthdays in April, and we’re going to need presents. Us Aries are being punished enough by having to self-isolate.


Hang in there!

Headmistress Jill

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