I have never done very well with change. Planned change of my own design is acceptable perhaps, but a tumultuous upheaval of my life by outside forces? Suffice it to say that I prefer stability, thank you very much.
Unfortunately for an Enneagram Type One like me, life is predictably unpredictable. In contrast, my mother is rather predictable in her response any time my plans are upended: “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
My mother grew up as one of eight children and, though not the oldest, from the stories recounted at family reunions, everyone agrees that she demanded the role of bossy big sister, taking charge and looking after the others – a role she has continued into adulthood. Stubbornly independent, my mother put herself through college by working three jobs, and she navigated a difficult young adult life through seeming sheer force of will. Pulling herself up by her bootstraps served my mom well. However – though we are similar in many ways – in this instance, “like mother, like daughter” does not apply.
When challenging circumstances arise, Mom sets her face like a stone and soldiers on, giving no hint as to any internal turmoil. I, on the other hand, am deeply reflective and an external processor, so I struggle to move forward without first talking out or at least thinking through all of my varied and often intense emotions. Mom likes to go it alone, and I tend to lean on community, which is possibly why her ever-ready “bootstraps” command has never sat well with me.
Bootstraps are loops sewn onto boots to allow the wearer to pull them on. To pull yourself up by your bootstraps means to lift yourself up without any outside assistance by pulling up on your boots – a physical impossibility in the literal sense. Another person can pull on your bootstraps and lift up your whole body, but if you are standing in your boots and try to lift your own feet off of the ground, you will just get a good arm workout. Or maybe pull a muscle in your back. And look really silly doing it.
Figuratively, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps means elevating yourself without anyone’s help; being an independent self-starter who relies on no one else, most often relating to the overcoming of disheartening circumstances. While independence is important, I think when difficulties arise (like, hypothetically, moving away from friends and family to a small West Texas town with a new baby and a fledgling marriage), having strong community is important. No one wants to be around a complainer, but keeping a stiff upper lip and refusing to share your burdens with loved ones seems rather isolating and lonely to me.
Ironically, it’s the anticipated loss of community that has me in desperate need of community – people to come alongside me and pull me up by my proverbial bootstraps; pulling my boots out of the muck and mire of instability and isolation as a new wife and new mom in a new town where my new husband has a new job and then comes home to our new house where we are establishing our new routines and new normal.
It’s a whole lot of new for this old girl! And while I may not be the best at pulling myself up by my bootstraps, you can bet that through it all I will remain