Stability. What does that word invite in you? What do you see in your mind’s eye? It’s a word I’ve had a mixed relationship with all my life. I would crave it, try and find systems or plans that would get me it, and then as soon as I had it in hand, there would rise in me an overwhelming need to cancel everything and do something completely different. And then I’d start again. And again.
I know I’m not alone here because I’ve been listening to your stories.
So many of us crave some sense of stability – whether we define this in relationship terms, geographically, financially… That awful question, “Where are you from?” turns inwards and we whisper in our own ears, “Where am I?”
It’s the most basic human need, after all, to have grounding, safety, a sense of social location. So many of us seek this out – in different ways of course. Some of us return to mobilty in adulthood, there is a sense of stability in the familiarity. Some of us settle in place, stability in geography. Some of us bond tightly to partners, finding stability in relationship identity. And yet stability is rarely the straightforward anchor we anticipate.
We are people birthed in changing tides – we frequently antipate the ebbs and flows of life and a founding belief we carry of the world is “everything changes”. And this belief is often at odds with our search for stability.
Moreover, many of us have come to enjoy the shift of tides, happily exploring the way beaches become newly littered with treasures with each season shift. The experience of sameness often associated with stability can bring not only anxiety but also low mood, even depression. We find ourselves craving surprise, newness, challenge, transformation, and this can seem so at odds with what it takes to maintain stability.
This is where I find myself in my life, and in so much of my work – playing with the balance, the tipping points between stability and surprise. Where I have established routine, I seek ways to subvert it and introduce surprise back in to the picture. Where I have been doing a lot of ‘new’, I reach for the routines and stability that have scaffolded my life before. This balancing act used to resemble a circus swing, forming big loops between two points seemingly impossibly far from one another. These days, with practise and a heck load of self acceptance for both needs – stability and surprise – the balancing act is more finessed, more subtle. These days I don’t have to wait until I’m unhappy to recalibrate.
So what does this look like? For me, it’s looked like committing to a forever home, and constantly tinkering with it. It’s staying in place, and planning a lot of trips. It’s working to maintain relationship connections, and finding new groups of people to switch things up. It’s new hobbies and reliable recipes. It’s learning what is always good for me, and letting my needs change.
For the Third Culture Kids I work with, if stability is established but feeling like the walls are closing in, we are going to look for the fun, the life, the experiences that make you happy. And if it feels there is so much of you that you feel scattered and barely grounded, we are going to look for the things that make you feel solid, grounded, connected and healthy.
For stability to be a postive experience for TCKs it needs to be more than ‘sameness’. We don’t believe in sameness, typically, and we don’t trust it much. However, when we can get clear about what we need stable, and where we need surprise threaded in, we can build a life that meets our particular combination of needs, for delight and for safety.
Stability used to be a difficult word, a challenging concept to me. These days I think I see more our own ability to create from within, from our own self knowing.
These days what this word invites in me is less the image of concrete foundations, and more myself, beautifully balanced on the rolling tide with my strong core holding my body strong as the waves move beneath me. And I know at any point, where the beach is, should I desire a rest in the sun.