Updated: Mar 9
If you were to ask me what a strength of mine is, I would say adaptability. When life hands me lemons, I can quickly make lemonade, lemon meringue pie, lemon water... because my mind quickly adapts to change. It was a great tool for me in teaching because I could have one lesson plan prepared and I could adapt to the various needs of my students. As a parent this came in handy preparing meals or dealing with discipline. This strength, however, can become a bit of a distraction because it really doesn't always force me to stick with a decision. Adaptability allows for a constant flow of wiggle room that can leave me feeling dizzy with whiplash when I start adapting in ways I don't like.
Professionally, it might show up in allowing a staff member to skirt responsibility, only for it to become a habit down the road. Relationally, it can become an issue of passive aggressiveness when I adapt so often, I lose who I really am and become emotionally removed. Personally, adaptability became an area of incompletion. Rather than really take myself seriously, I would just duck and keep on rolling with choices. Adaptability created a sense of insecurity that actually left me feeling bereft of meaning and connection to myself.
I know when it began. It was the first time I wasn't honest with my dad about a missed call or visit. It continued in my marriage when I would adjust myself around my husband's likes or needs. I carried it into my parenting by losing myself in my kid's needs over my own. In my faith, I would adjust my personality and intelligence to meet the expectations of spiritual leaders. In my own life, I developed the habit of cutting myself off right before I found success-- a diet, a project, even something as simple as making my bed. At some point starting over for my own growth felt more like a chore than an opportunity.
Back in January, I signed my daughter up for a basics in drawing class. The class really wasn't a great fit for her, but in true adaptability form, I decided I would take the class. I had invested money into the class that couldn't be recovered so I went the next week. The first couple weeks went pretty well. It was skills that I had naturally. The next couple of weeks I found myself feeling frustrated. The instructor would give us tasks that did not line up with my strengths at all. All of my adaptability skills were waning and began to want to give up.
Art felt like an oxymoron to me: be creative, but do it this way. The feelings that message sent left me in a place that was not fun anymore. I began to have these unfamiliar emotions of discouragement and frustration. I couldn't avoid what I couldn't understand. I couldn't adapt around such a confusing message. I wanted to give up. I started the class feeling like I was really something special and now I felt like I was getting no where.
During our last class, everything came to a head. We were given a picture and told to start with the nose. We had to draw it upside down, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out the exact location of the nose on my paper. I figured I would just adapt to what made sense to me and keep going with the drawing. I was really getting into the flow of my drawing and then the instructor stopped to look at my work. "Wow, you're just jumping right in! Are you sure that the nose is in the right location? It seems like it might not be quite right." I felt deflated, angry, and wanted to quit. I seriously felt like packing up my stuff and never looking back.
Instead I picked up my blending cloth with a bit of immaturity and wiped away all of my work. I looked at the location and looked at my paper and tried again, and again. I found the art of starting over was actually rather empowering. Instead of just adjusting to what was given to me, I wiped away what didn't make sense and tried again. I didn't make myself adjustable, I just did it until it made sense to me. Finding the location of the nose it turns out was important. Taking the time to find the right spot allowed for me take my time. I was worth the effort of starting over. I didn't have to stay stuck. I could decide how and when I would start over.
You can start over whenever you want. Being adaptable lets you do that as well. You can decide where you will go or what you like. You can adjust your preferences around your likes and abilities. It's ok to try again and again. It's ok to let others do the same with you. You can give them the opportunities you give yourself to try again and start over. Finding hope to rise again in starting over is just another way to grow and heal in your own journey of hope.