Fractures and Fault Zones

The daughter of a geophysicist and a long-time Houston resident (which if you’re not familiar with the city, has a massive fault zone running through it), I’ve always been intrigued by fractures and fault zones; of the seismic shifts that can occur over time and why some foundations can withstand the shifts, perhaps even becoming stronger over time, while others crumble in the wake of a single tremor.

In any team or long-term relationship, whether familial, romantic, professional, etc., there is the almost certain inevitability that at some point, sooner or later, fracture lines will form — cracks that form in the wake of too much pressure or perhaps the revelation of some fact, truth, or behavior that lay hidden just beneath the surface. Sometimes these revelations are the result of unforeseen triggers or unresolved business that may surface in our memory. Sometimes they are the result of people, events, and circumstances that we simply cannot control.

Whatever the trigger; whatever the cause, over time, too many fractures can eventually form fault zones that threaten the very stability of our foundation. Over time, too many fractures can cause us to question the integrity of intention, too, causing us to reactively look outside ourselves for answers (or blame) instead of taking time to look inward at our own role, choices, and behaviors.

So what do we do when we first see them surface? How can we create enough spaces in our togetherness or teams to allow for the natural expansions and contractions that occur over time? How can we practice self-care and cultivate the strength and resiliency needed in the event of a sudden quake or seismic shift? How can we do a better job of communicating our needs, fears, dreams, and hopes, while creating a safe space for others to do the same?

One answer is to take responsibility for our own choices, feelings, and behaviors, while establishing healthy boundaries that both honor the self and others; boundaries that reflect and defend our core values and truths, enabling us to form our own solid foundation even as we live and work in community and relationship with others.

Another strategy is to practice letting go of our need to both know and control outcomes, while allowing Faith to be our guide. So often we assume we know what is ‘best’ in any given situation — whether for ourselves or others, though this need to know or control not only damages others, but prevents us from being fully present in our own lives too. It robs us of the mystery of the moment and erodes our capacity for living from an inquisitive point of view — essential for continual learning and growth.

In the end, we cannot always predict a tremor or quake and we certainly cannot control the outcome. What we can do is take the time to build a solid personal foundation that can withstand the tests of time,  while cultivating the personal readiness and resiliency needed to navigate shifts, expansions, change and disruption, when they inevitably come our way.

Our Own Best Advice

Why is it that we so often have wisdom for others, but ignore our own advice when it comes to ourselves?  We offer a sympathetic ear, weigh the person’s dilemma with a heady dose of objectivity – our friend’s best interests always at heart, and present morsels of insights…bits of wisdom or advice that might help another through their pain or struggle.

The problem is that we rarely do the same for ourselves – whether the mundane or the serious.

“You need carve out time to take care of yourself” (even if I don’t do the same for myself);

“Don’t eat that cookie” (but I’m going to sneak one when you’re not looking);

“You need to do what’s right for you and your family” (even if I’m forgetting to put those things first);

“You need to take care of your schoolwork and chores first, and then you can play” (even though my own chores and bills are stacked up);

“Don’t let the situation get the better of you – you have the power to choose a different course of action” (even though it’s easier for me to slip into feeling victimized by my own struggles).

The last few months of my life have felt like being in a fun house, chock-a-block full of mirrors hidden behind smoke screens, all of which seem to reflect a distorted version of what I know to be true, housed in a maze that has left me feeling lost, confused, and disoriented.   It is also fair to say that sandwiched between moments of hope, enthusiasm, and the promise of what could be, I have felt angry, disappointed, and at times victimized by a series of unfortunate circumstances that I could not have foreseen.  The memory of the good, and at times even amazing, has been overshadowed by the weight of my own emotional response to the rest, the capacity to remain rationally objective compromised.

I could see it, but I couldn’t step out of it.  I kept fighting what is, yet going nowhere.

And then it happened…

Someone hit a button.  Flipped a switched.  Gave me pause to reflect instead of react.

In that space of reflection, I was reminded of all that I already know and write about…that we needn’t be a victim in life and can always choose an attitude of ‘what ifs’ and ‘only ifs’ over ‘if only’; that ego is always rooted in fear, which we should never allow to stand in the way of the light of love; that it is the struggle itself that contain’s life’s lessons and enables deep growth; that an attitude of gratitude can carry us through even the most challenging times and often opens the door to new paths and possibilities; that the hallmark of real leadership resides in the true spirit of service above self, though sacrifice towards no meaningful end is simply another form of vanity; that deep inside of us, we all have the courage to handle whatever comes our way, and the integrity to do what is right; that we must honor the gifts we have to offer the world as a reflection of our most authentic selves.

In a moment of grace, I remembered to let go.  To surrender to what is.  To live and love fully in the moment.  To embrace the uncertainty of all that is yet to be.

I’m curious…

Have you ever found yourself ignoring your own best advice?  Have you ever found yourself needing to step out of the muck for a while, so that you step back in, a wiser leader and learner in the process?  What is the best piece of advice you offer others but routinely ignore yourself?