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My brother Jake spent a few years living in the Philippines, and has since traveled back there many times. Each time he comes home, he brings back a string or two of opaque pearls; small, misshapen, gleaming like the moon. And this is what I think of when I think of pearls, my brother Jake and his kind and generous jeweled soul. #seewhatididthere

A pearl is formed in a sea oyster when a piece of grit gets inside and irritates the hell out of it, like a sick husband or a five year old with a party blower. As a protective measure, the oyster secretes a substance called nacre, or mother-of-pearl and covers everything. It’s a defense mechanism, to wrap the grit with layer upon layer of nacre, which in my mind I imagine being something like snot?

To be fair, I haven’t actually tried this snot covering defense mechanism, I mostly just opt for emotional eating. But it’s on my bucket list!

The thing is nacre has no real value, until a grain of sand or grit gets inside the shell. Otherwise it’s just ordinary snot. Not to mention, it takes 5-6 years to form a pearl.

The creation of a pearl is pure genius! It just doesn’t get any more poetic! I mean, come on, it’s the metaphor meca.

And sometimes I think I am becoming the MECA of all pearls, and not just because I am wrapped in a lot of snot, or chubby, but because I’ve had to learn to wrap around discomfort, and hold it not move. This turns out to be as hard as forming an actual pearl.

As a side note, I prefer the term, pretty plus to chubby. I mean that was a marketing genius who created the phrase for the beefier girls in the Sears Rhobock Catalog She’s not just pretty, she’s pretty plus!

You must be the pearl my young padawans 2018

Lessons I’ve learned from grit

It’s easy to look at other tightly sealed shells and think they have it all together. Look at the curves on her lips? I mean she had to have her scallops enhanced. But you never know what’s going on inside another person. No one is immune to adversity or setbacks. Even small irrantants like a stressful work environment, can be that little grain. Or maybe you’ve been trying to wrap around a freaking boulder like childhood cancer. No one ever has enough nacre for that.

According to experts, people who thrive in tough situations shared three key beliefs; Commitment to showing up, and staying engaged in life instead of letting hardships isolate you. Control, or the drive to resist passivity, you know, playing the victim, and embrace the belief that you can influence the outcome of your life. AND Challenge, those who are best at forming pearls see new and stressful changes as learning opportunities. *Side note, the term learning opportunities triggers my twitch* I can personally attest that pearl forming SUCKS, but we are built to be resilient, we were created to adapt, and we have the power to embrace change and accept the gift of transformation. Queue singing fairies, mice who’s side gig is sewing ball gowns, and forest animals that like to help tidy up your living space. It’s gonna be magical!

Spencer surveying the whole of the Boston Harbor 2019

But it couldn’t have happened without that piece of grit. Without the teenager who won’t get up in time for school. Or that coworker who keeps trying to trip you when you walk by, you know who you are…Gary!

Without the piece of grit, the nacre would have nothing to wrap itself around and you would stay a slimy snot covered oyster instead of a rare, beautiful plump pearl. Which is to say, you can thank your sick husband for making your life so miserable, because jokes on him, you are becoming a freaking jewel!

The thing is, the knowledge that you are evolving and becoming something opaque and shiny, doesn’t help when you are in the midst of trying to create a landform project with your child, or reminding your toddler not to flush tennis balls down toilet. Or trying to find the missing soccer cleats for little Cleadus, while your husband calls from the back bedroom that he’s out of tissues, and could use some juice. Fresh squeezed if you have time. Because everyone knows, no one gets better on pasteurized juice.

And that’s where another version of grit comes in, and yes, if it helps you can imagine gritting your teeth. This kind of grit is when you want to give up, but keep going anyway. Having grit is when you want to throw the glass of OJ at your husbands head, and don’t. That would have stained the carpet. Throw the toilet water soaked tennis ball instead.

Grit is making courage a verb instead of an adjective. It’s showing up and not giving up. Grit is knowing pain and failure and the hopelessness on a first name basis, but trying again anyway. Grit is not giving up, no matter how long it takes you to get there. It’s being the tortoise when you want to be the hare.

Angela Duckworth is a psychologist who studies grit, not gritts. To be clear, she studies the behavior, not the food. I was listening to her book Grit by practicing my own grit; ie seeing how long I could take my teenagers complaining about me making them listen to the book without jumping from the car.

Turns out not that long.

Ducksworth defines grit as passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement, with no particular concern for rewards or recognition along the way. It combines resilience, ambition, and self-control in the pursuit of goals that take months, years, or even decades to accomplish.

You can watch her .Excellent talk on grit here.

Atychiphobia is the fear of failure. Not that I’d know, but a friend was telling me about it 😉 FOF often shows up masked as anxiety, mental blocks, and perfectionism. Your predisposition to FOF might be due to genetics (thanks mom) brain chemistry (thanks dad) or just the trauma level of your life experience. So, basically I’m screwed! Or, I mean, my friend is.

The good news is courage is the vaccine to protect you from a terminal case of atychiphobia. Courage is a muscle that unless excised daily will atrophy, just like my muscles when I stopped working out. Dammit.

Courage is the fuel grit feeds on to keep going.

“A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life…if we have not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl.” – Stephan Hoelle

Yeah yeah, Stephan Hoelle. One pearl is one thing, but when you start to have a string like Jacqueline Kennedy, the uninjured life sounds like the way to go; let grief swallow me whole, like an oyster shooter instead of the Chinese water torture drip drip drip of becoming.

And this is why a diamond is a girl’s best friend!

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