I Rock

Stability. We need stability. We need stable ground to walk on, we need stable ground to build our homes on, solid footing to set the foundation upon. We need stability in our lives, too. We are all looking for something in our life, as solid as the earth, to root into. Something solid to build from. Even those of us who crave excitement, experiences and spontaneity require stability in our lives as an anchor point. When a bird takes flight, supported only by the current of the air, they light upon something that will support them. When a bird builds a nest, it chooses a place it is certain will support the weight of the nest, the nesting partner, the eggs, and, eventually, the fledglings. We are no different, we need something supportive to light upon, to nest upon, something we are certain is secure, stable and sound, and this is in a metaphorical sense as much as a tangible sense.

Do you recall the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake near San Francisco in October 1989? Perhaps not. But I felt that earthquake over eighty miles away in Sacramento. So much more destruction occurred to buildings in one area than in others, not because of the magnitude of the quake, but because that area of the city was developed on fill, on ground that was not as solid as it would seem. The very ground that supported the buildings in that area of destruction pretty much just turned to Jell-O. The buildings that were constructed on actual earth fared much better. An illustration of how important it is to have a solid base before you build, whether building buildings or building a life

The mistake people tend to make, the mistake most people make without exception, is that we try to anchor to something, or someone, that cannot or will not offer us the stability we desire. None of us are immune from this shortcoming, myself included. And I know better, I know so much better, and yet, here I am.

Sometimes, to understand stability, we have to have the rug pulled out from beneath us. In the past five years I have lost my home. Two, actually. I’ve ended my marriage of over twenty years. Both of my children have grown and left home. My father passed away. My life, still, is extremely uncertain and lacks any sense of permanence in almost every respect.  And with nearly every conversation I’ve had in the past week with family, friends and those I allow close to me, permanence seems even more illusive. And I am fine. Through all of this, I have learned that you need to find an inner strength as your anchor, to provide you with stability, because no one and no thing will ever provide you the solid ground you need to support yourself through life. Everything in your life can, and likely will, change, and not always for the better. And I’m a glass half full type of girl, but this is reality. The inner strength you draw from may be the only solid ground, the only rock, you can ever light upon after having to take flight. I am my own rock.

So, you need to find, within yourself, your own rock to cling to, to land upon, to build from. No matter what happens, then, you have that solid footing, and no one can take it from you. And still, we tend to want to find other rocks, rocks outside of ourselves. Knowing this, and having done, I think, an exemplary job drawing from my inner strength through it all, I still find myself groping for other rocks in an attempt to secure stability. This is a facet of human nature, and of self, that I struggle to understand, that I vow I will never again fall victim to, and, yet, here I am again. But I am my own rock.

Have you ever crossed a fast running, cold mountain stream during snowmelt? You seek to leave the solid pathway on which you stand and find a way across a tumultuous stream on uncertain footing before finally reaching solid ground on the other side. Perhaps there is a felled tree or a log fashioned into a bridge. It may be narrow, or wet and slippery, or not anchored well on one side or the other, but it provides something solid by which you may be able to cross the cold, rushing water. If not a log crossing, there may be a series of boulders in the water that you can use as stepping-stones to cross the raging waters. Personally, I prefer rock crossings to log crossings, any day. But even rock crossings are not without peril, often the rocks themselves are not solidly anchored in the streambed and wobble and topple when you put your weight on them. You learn to stand on the shore, from the highest vantage point your can find, and look for rocks that are large enough and solid enough to support your weight for a period of time, until you can progress to the next rock. You learn to step, apply some weight to ascertain the stability of the rock, then, if satisfied, you shift your entire weight onto it, landing safely for a moment, before identifying the next rock to step to, again, testing it first.

And, so it is with life. We may have that solid rock within from which we derive the strength and the power to get us through the challenges life will present us. Think of the challenges life presents like crossing a stream, having to step away from the solid ground, your internal rock of strength, and venture across a carefully chosen and perilous path, before you are again able to stand upon your own, solid rock. Some of us seek to cross these streams, some raging rivers, some babbling brooks. Others of us find our path in life puts us in a position where we have to cross the creek. Either way, the water must be crossed in order to continue on. Look for the right rocks to provide you a safe crossing, back to your own, strong internal rock of strength. Be your own rock.

What is your rock, your internal rock of strength? The type of rock that will anchor you in the worst of storms, one you can cling to when the waves are crashing hard and fast, one you can sit on as the flood waters rise, one you can use as a wind break in a storm, one you can bask in the sun on after a cold night. Your internal rock is made up of many things; things you can draw from in your journey through life. Your internal rock is made up of things you use for strength; your values, your guiding principles, your faith, your hope, your independence, your integrity, your commitment to self, your self-confidence, your motivation. You decide, but at a minimum, at the core of your rock, you need to know your values and your guiding principles, the rest will follow, the rest will just make your rock larger, providing you more solid ground to stand on. Be your own rock.

With such a formidable base to stand on, then, why do we seek to cling to other rocks? Again, a facet of human nature, or self, that I wish I understood. I have just caught myself jumping onto wobbly rocks in a perilous stream and wondering why I felt so off balance. Now that I have tested the rocks in the center of the stream, and I know they are not solid, I must decide whether to continue across this stream, or retreat to safety where I will cling, again, to my core, the solid rock within. I am my own rock.

What are your wobbly rocks? Have you identified them, or perhaps they will take you by surprise. Relationships? Career? Material possessions? Any of these can seem to provide you with the security and stability, the strength you need, and without warning, each and every one of these may wobble and spill you into the stream.

Relationships. How many friends have I heard tell me the same story? It’s like reading a book written by a very popular and prolific fiction author, it’s basically the same plot, the same story line, with a different geographical setting and slightly different characters. The story remains the same, like a template or a boilerplate.  “He cheated on me.” “She came home one day, handed me divorce papers and said it was over.” “I do love you, I’m just not sure I can do this.” “You’re great, it’s just me. “I just suck at relationships.” Sometimes after a month, or maybe thirty years, and we are always taken by surprise. Or are we? We didn’t see it coming. Or did we? The rock wobbled and ploink, in the cold water we go, to be swept downstream by the current, looking for something else, or someone else to grab on to. I’m not saying we should go through life lonely, that we should not dare to enter relationships, for there is much joy that comes from the loving another. But, in relationships, never anchor yourself to that other person to the point where you rely on them to fulfill you, to make you happy, or to support you. Don’t cling to that other person because you can’t imagine life without them, because you may have to some day. Be your own rock.

Career. Layoffs, downsizing, bankruptcy, consolidations and other business failures, rapidly advancing technologies, regulatory requirements.  In my career as an auditor I have to assess the risk of any or all of these, and a million more, as they pertain to the businesses I am auditing. If you think your position within a company is going to provide you with the strength and stability you require throughout life, you have been very, very, very lucky, and perhaps a bit ignorant, up to this point. Your career should be rewarding and fulfilling, but it should never be your cornerstone, your bedrock, because one little conference call, one little form letter, one little pink piece of paper and the rock has toppled and ploink, you’re in the cold, cold stream sputtering for breath. Be your own rock.

Material possessions. No matter how large or small, expensive or affordable, material possessions can never, ever provide us with the security we require. A turn in events, in the economy for example, can put you in peril of losing that which we most often identify as our most solid base; our house. Perhaps you seek self-expression and identity with the car you drive, or the clothes and shoes you wear, the boat, the motorcycle, the RV, the vacation home. All are great, but certainly are not the foundation on which your life should be based. One poorly timed lane merge, one freakish storm, one shorted wire can find you flailing your arms as you slip from that rock and ploink, into the river, swimming against the current to the shore for safety. Be your own rock.

Do you remember the story of the three little pigs? They had to go out into the world and build their own homes. The first pig built their home out of straw, the second out of sticks and the third from bricks, or stone. The first two pigs looked for the easiest building materials they could find, materials that would require the least amount of effort, and in both cases, their houses toppled. The third pig was very selective in his building material and applied considerably more effort in erecting his house. And it withstood. Build your house from stone. Be your own rock. And like the little pigs, when the unthinkable happens, you are safe and secure and you may even be able to provide strength and stability, temporarily, to those you know who are in need.

I was an Assistant Scoutmaster for a Boy Scout troop for many years, the only woman leader for most of the time. I was on a backpacking trek with a group of boys and men in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We were training for an upcoming ten-day trek in New Mexico. I was new to backpacking, though I had hiked for many years. I was managing quite well though I had packed more in my pack than I needed, weighing it down much more than necessary, and I, myself, weighed about forty pounds more than I do now. I was able to keep up with the boys, the men were hiking behind me a good quarter mile, so I was pleased. It wasn’t cardio or endurance that was my issue, it was balance. We found a flat piece of ground to sleep on our second night out, it was across a stream and there was not a makeshift bridge made of a log, nor were there any rocks to use as stepping stones in order to cross. We were going to have to leap across the stream. The boys all bounded across without any trouble, leaping off of a large boulder on one side and landing on the bank on the other. My turn came. I stepped up onto the boulder and my full and over-packed pack shifted ever so slightly. In slow, slow, slow motion, I lost my balance. I was in a war with gravity for what seemed a full minute, I could feel the pack pulling me backwards and no matter how I tried to correct myself, I could feel myself tip further and further off center. In a second that seemed to last for hours, I was on my back, on my backpack, wedged helplessly between two boulders. Three men pulled me, and my pack, upright. I suffered no injuries other than a sound blow to my pride. I was relieved of my backpack and easily leapt across the creek, my pack was tossed across safely thereafter. I laughed the whole thing off, of course, and from this I started “the turtle club”, an exclusive club that only awarded membership to people who fell in some unceremonious and embarrassing manner. We ended up with several members over the course of the months that followed. So, I guess the lesson here is to be very careful when you select a rock to leap from, make sure you are well balanced, perhaps lighten your load, and be certain you aren’t overestimating your ability to land safely on the other side. Be your own rock.

I was also a Girl Scout leader for many, many years. My girls did not just sell cookies and burden their parents’ refrigerators with tacky arts and crafts projects, my girls hiked and biked and snowboarded and rode roller coasters and camped. And rock climbed. Some of the girls were attending the local council’s rock climbing camp and one of the activities was going to be rappelling into a cavern, which was a little troubling to a couple of girls, my daughter included. We were fortunate enough to have a very experienced rock climber among the group of parents involved with the troop and he volunteered to teach us to rappel down a cliff in a remote canyon in the Sierra Nevada foothills. I have always been a little nervous about heights and took advantage of this opportunity to confront my trepidation. If you have never rappelled off of a cliff, you should, with the proper instruction, supervision and equipment, of course. There is nothing quite like taking that first step off the ledge, walking backwards, focusing on the rope, the knot and the anchor as you descend. Will it hold? In rappelling, you hold your own rope, you lower yourself down at your own pace, you hold your fate in your own hands. And, really, life is no different. You hold your fate in your own hands and every day, you are stepping backwards off the cliff, rope in hand. And as you step bravely off that ledge, remember, your feet are solidly planted on rock, it is stable, and that’s all we want, that’s all we need. Be your own rock.

Let’s rock and roll, then. You absolutely need to build your own solid core, your internal rock, consisting of your core values and your guiding principles. Spend some time identifying these, like the third of the three little pigs and his wise and careful selection of building materials. Read books on the topic if you need guidance, but identifying your core values and guiding principles is the first, most critical step. In identifying your core values you are likely to determine that certain traits or characteristics are important to you, for example, health, fitness, independence, self-confidence. Add these to your rock, embody them, and draw from the strength they provide. Once you have your solid internal rock, nurture it, never let it crumble against the tide, against the current. That rock, that base, becomes your vantage point for identifying stones to test, to step upon, to cross any streams you may encounter.

Once we have identified our core values and our guiding principles, once we have that solid rock deep within, we are more capable of handling whatever the world throws at us. That rock, that base, will always be there. With a solid base, our own touchstone, if you will, we can actually explore options in life that we may never have had the courage or confidence to attempt before. Remember, that with every new experience, every new adventure, every fear faced, we become stronger, wiser and more confident. Our rock is fortified. I am my own rock. I rock. Be your own rock. Rock on.












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