Another Suitcase in Another Hall

by Monica A. Ross, LPC

There have been times in my life when I have had more money and less. And I’ve worked with clients who have been much wealthier than I and others much more impoverished. There was a time once that I was so low on funds that I stood in line at a church for assistance with paying a utility bill and for help with obtaining food. I can also remember times when I’ve had enough money to take vacations to Miami, Kauai, Tahoe, Europe.

But my earliest memories involved growing up in a family that lived below the poverty line. I had an aunt and uncle who were both counselors and who worked at a nonprofit helping families in need. They helped my family out with food, for instance, in our times of need.

I have to balance these memories with the memories of attending a very expensive private school in San Antonio that my grandparents paid for me to attend from Grade 3 to Grade 9. I sat in class with classmates who talked about their ski vacations while my immediate family struggled, as I said, to put food on the table at night.

I take stock of all these memories and moments. The moments when I was a sixth grader volunteering to open passenger side car doors for other students as their parents dropped them off at the school. I opened the Jaguars, the Porsches, the Mercedes, the BMWs as they rolled in.

And at the end of the school day I had to carpool and commute almost an hour in traffic back to my small hometown and listen to my mother and stepfather complain of money troubles. I moved over 13 times between the ages of 5 and 18 and all of those moves were within a 15 mile radius. And this was because my mother was forever chasing cheaper rent and different scenery and by my observation was forever restless.

Not only were we changing physical locations constantly, I would also come home to a house where the furniture itself was rearranged every few weeks. It was constant change and what for the better part felt like constant chaos. And somehow in that whirlwind of an environment I survived.

We all have our stories of times of ease and times of struggle on varying degrees. And because I know that, I feel completely comfortable sharing a bit about mine here. Today I just wanted to raise the topic, though, of restlessness.

How do we balance the days when we have $4 to our name and the inability to obtain loans or credit cards to the days when we are flying high and taking trips to Europe? I have had clients who have to balance the days of making millions on selling drugs to the days of homelessness—it’s not that much different.

I think one has to develop a strong sense of self and a strong core to weather that kind of change. One way of thinking of it is like tempering metal. Tempering metal is the process of increasing the toughness of metal by heating and then cooling it.

The purpose? It’s done to increase the metal’s ductility. The tempering process makes the metal less brittle and assists with the ability to stretch it.

And that’s my extent of knowledge about that. But the point is, resilience. That came up in the last post too. So maybe resilience is about going through all of those highs and lows in the hopes of stretching ourselves. The more we stretch, the more flexible we become and the greater capacity we have for adapting to differing environments and future change.

But this idea of restlessness, which Merriam-Webster defines as lack or denying of rest and continuously moving, with synonyms like anxiety, disquiet, edginess. What about that—the anxiety and disquiet? When you’ve lived in environments that have been breeding grounds for that kind of thing it’s good to do some work on bringing things to some kind of resting state, if possible.

It’s good to have spent some time doing some work on oneself, and sometimes for some people that means seeking therapy. And that doesn’t mean you have to lose the good things that come with growing up in a restless home like having a sense of drive and thinking on your feet and overall survival skills, but it does mean, I think, that it’s good to have the ability to balance that out with repose, with calm and quiet.

There are a few quotes that come from the Bible that I like and I think one of them applies here. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10