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The Fortress

This is my space. A space that needs to be protected. A space that cannot be seen, but must be felt - deep from within.

This space can carry me through difficult times, and can also take me down old paths that are destructive and unhealthy.

This space is ‘My Fortress’ - brain space and heart space. It lives inside of me. It speaks to me when I’m in need, challenges me to move closer to my truest self, and helps me float on unruly days. I often speak about it when I’m in conversation with God, my family, friends, and teammates.

It is precious and I’ve learned (the hard way) that I can protect it or destroy it, given the circumstances and my state of health. My fortress looks like a swirl of colors - mostly blues, purples and pinks with a hint of yellow shimmer - similar to this photo. I can see it, I can feel it and I can tap into it at any time. But when I don’t take care of it, I go sideways. If I fill it with too much, or overwhelm its capacity then it begins to unravel, leaving me feeling undone and completely jumbled.

The areas in my brain space are typically practical, logical, and simple:

  • When to pay our household bills

  • Scheduling a dentist appointment

  • Grocery shopping

  • Have I peed in the last three hours?!

But it can include larger pieces too:

  • How to create operational efficiencies for our team

  • Changing the trajectory of our retirement strategy to meet our family’s goals

  • Determining the best age to send our child to Kindergarten

  • Repairing our house following a derecho

The areas in my heart space are typically emotional, love-driven, and overall fun:

  • Dates with my spouse

  • Practicing spirituality

  • Writing my thoughts, emotions, and ideas

  • Attending yoga

But it can include more complex things too:

  • High empathy for the challenges facing people and planet Earth

  • Determining how much to give through volunteerism, charitable contributions, and talent

  • Team cohesion and how to create a supportive, safe, enjoyable environment for all

  • Parenting. Enough said

There are certain aspects of my life that I guard quite closely and protecting My Fortress does not come easy. There are lots of external and internal drummings that try to enter: media, people, work project challenges, my ego, natural disasters, and my past.

The reason I protect my brain space and heart space carefully is because I’ve witnessed the ramifications of ignoring it. When my brain is too full…

  • I’m tired

  • Frustration sets in

  • I’m overwhelmed

  • The list of To Do’s seems endless

  • I’m grumpy

In these moments I’m still learning how to recognize it and know when to say, “Stop. Too much.” I now understand that my brain needs a hefty amount of challenge, but does not (and cannot) be overflowing with information, projects, or requests from people.

Interestingly enough, it’s quite the opposite with my heart. My heart needs to feel full of goodness because when my heart is empty…

  • I’m sad

  • Guilt or shame start to creep in

  • I’m easily shaken by small things

  • The world looks gray

  • I’m not my true self

I vividly remember a specific time in my life when I allowed My Fortress to be overtaken: After my second child was born I was sleep deprived and listened to a lot of noise - unnecessary clutter from my teammates and employer, too many tasks and not enough delegation, spinning my wheels in what I “should” be doing versus what I wanted to be doing, and everything in between.

During this time I lost my spark and energy for doing good in the world and caring for myself. I worked long, pointless hours, I spent money on stuff that didn’t matter, and I was caught in a sad situation with my employer. They asked me to return to a job that no longer served me and would require me to utilize my Achiever self to earn revenue for the company which ultimately would create undue pressure, travel away from my family, continued tiredness, and overwhelm. My Fortress had been breached and I allowed it. This could not go on. So I quit. I left my stable, thriving career and started over with no leads to anything that I truly wanted to do. Whoa. Talk about rocking the walls.

I ended up landing in the nonprofit sector which was a blessing. It played well to my strengths of compassion and quality of work. My Fortress was under repair.

Then, six months after our third child was born I was heading out of town on a weekend away with girlfriends and I realized the internal strength I still carried and how much I cared about rebuilding My Fortress. On the drive to the cabin weekend, I happened to be pumping breastmilk in the passenger seat. My cell phone rang, it was my husband. Our six month old baby had a fever and terrible cough and needed to be picked up from daycare. I remember taking a long pause and saying calmly and firmly, “Pick him up now.” Pause for response from husband and another pause from me. “You cannot wait two hours. Simply stop what you’re doing and pick him up. I’m out of town with friends and you got this.” Fast forward through the cabin weekend and my six month old baby was fine. The group of girlfriends that I was with are now some of my closest friends. They still talk about me pumping breastmilk in the front passenger seat, directing my husband on what to do while he cared for our kids because I needed that weekend with friends. I needed the time, the conversations, the walks, the laughs, the space, the freedom, the uninterrupted ‘think time’, the smallest of moments to sit, the passing of a weekend without a full set of (life and parent) responsibilities…the whole thing.

And from there My Fortress went from repairs to remodel:

  • I met a dancing chica that introduced me to the world of ‘Boundaries’ and she said I had them, even though I didn’t know what they were or that my approach had an actual name.

  • I released a lot of things that were causing me time constraints, stress, and fuzziness in my brain space and heart space. Examples: networking events that were not significant to me, volunteering as a ‘check-the-box’ item, committees that didn’t have the momentum and cause-driven piece for me, work projects that were not impactful, and meeting up with friends that were not close to me. Released and reset them all

  • I shifted my time to more stillness, twirling on the sidewalk, spiritual renewals in nature, and artist dates to grow my creative self.

  • I involved God and the Universe in my steps and asked for direction when I felt lost, support when I was crying, bravery when I entered uncharted waters, and clarity when the situation seemed blurry.

  • I practiced asking for help from a multitude of people. Examples: I asked my non-profit employer for a unique work schedule. I asked for help from a babysitter to spend consistent evenings with my spouse. I asked for help launching my entrepreneurial adventure by reaching out to a good friend to seek client leads. I asked for help from my family to assist with “three kids and logistics is hard” days. I asked for help from my Counselor to listen when I simply needed to talk out loud, no real answers needed.

  • I started embracing small pops of joy: listening to the birds chirping out of my window in the mornings, lighting a candle at my work desk, taking an extra lap around the block during exercise, and writing a small stream of non-conscious thoughts each day three sentences or less.

  • I exited the traditional path that was no longer a match for my stage of life. With a husband and three small kids, I had a strong desire to create meaningful impact while working for myself and not a company/organization. It was clear that my time and energy were better spent elsewhere.

  • I held any and all moments and tried my best to accept them for what they were. Now I look for the lessons, feel the vibrations and absorb the waves because I know that my life will not be like this (name any type of challenge) forever. I hold the power to make changes.

All of these moves created a beaming ring around My Fortress. It has been fully remodeled for what I need and where God intends my path to go. Now, on the best of days I smile inside knowing My Fortress is protected and I’m showing up. On the hardest days I also smile inside, keeping faith that My Fortress will withstand the tough moments or the missteps I encounter when I’ve let too much in. Goodness knows, I can always rebuild. I’ve done it before and learned that nothing is permanent, and everything is possible.

You too can have ‘The Fortress’ in whatever form you choose. Make it your own. As always, if you need help - reach out. We’re here and we’d love to help you construct, repair, remodel or rebuild your Fortress.

Written by: Sarah Watson, Creator of Calm at The Restoration Project

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