I have a second definition for the term “core strength.” My definition refers not to the fitness of muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis, but to a characteristic that some might call resiliency.
I first tapped into my core strength as a teen enduring a period of sustained abuse. At the peak of abuse, I discovered what storyteller Brother Blue calls, “the Middle of the Middle of me,” which I also recognize as the part of me that nothing can harm. Tapping that core, I found the essential ability to fight back, which resulted in my being freed from that dangerously oppressive situation.
The building of my core strength from there was slow and indeliberate, but it served me well in the following years, helping me walk away from suicide, endure bleak times, mend a crushed heart, weather the grief brought by several deaths, and, most recently, withstand the painful dissolution of my marriage coupled with the daunting challenge of the enormous lifestyle change brought by re-entering the workforce, buying my own home, navigating a legal maze, and ensuring financial survival for myself and my children.
Now fully settled into a new life that I enjoy very much, I regularly hear feedback from friends and acquaintances who remark upon my strength, my resiliency, my joie de vivre. Yes, my core strength was essential through this transition, and as I drew from that strength during the shift, it increased. Examining this strength, I consider there are 3 elements to resiliency: knowledge that “this, too, shall pass”; an attitude of determination that says “I shall not give myself up to darkness”; and a strong connection to one’s self and to the larger world. These are things I have taught my children in their life without school. Being with me for long hours in their formative years, they saw how I handled the loss of three dear friends in the past decade, the way I faced the unexpected need to make myself marketable in the business world, and that I used challenges to clarify who I am, what I know about myself, and to define the kind of life I wanted to create.
Among my handicaps were the after effects of being raised in my family of origin, where individuation was strongly discouraged. My parents' house was a place where to be one's self was to risk being shamed, shunned or even banished. Therefore, it was relatively late in life that I discovered the simple truth of what sustains me as an individual: my circle of amazing friends, periods of solitude, regular physical activity, and spiritual connection. In keeping these crucial elements close during my change of life, I learned to love myself and to accept the gift of help from friends, acquaintances, and total strangers. These, too, kept me going.
My hope is that my children learned from my modeling how to nurture their resilience, that they know the value of recognizing and holding onto what sustains them, that they build their own circle of amazing friends, and that they love themselves. If they can master all of that while they are young, then they will be saved a lot of grief and early on they can create lives that exemplify their own definition of success and their own measure of joy, and that will be priceless.
Shay Seaborne is immediate past president of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, founder of the VaEclectic homeschool discussion list and Skipper of Sea Scout Ship 7916. She lives with her two daughters in Woodbridge, Virginia, where she writes, homeschools, rides her bicycle and sails whenever she has the chance, and improves her core strength a little every day.
(c) 2008, Shay Seaborne. All rights reserved.