Little Soldiers

This is a blog about Little Soldiers. Not vertically challenged members of the military but the 100 Little Soldiers that each of us has inside to handle the details of our lives.

The Little Soldiers are not fighters but rather they are more like the National Guard, dispatched to handle disasters and emergencies as well as just keep order in the camp, so to speak. You can think of them as your Resilience Team or your Coping Resources -- it works for me to imagine them as 100 Little Soldiers.

A member of our community recently suffered a big heartbreak. It is so big that 85 of her Little Soldiers have been dispatched to hold together all the shattered pieces. So 85 of her 100 Little Soldiers are working overtime to keep her together -- that is all they can do right now and they are exhausted.

That means there are 15 left to do what 100 normally do! Yikes. Do you see the problem? Fifteen Little Soldiers have to manage everything else because 85 have been dispatched to the disaster, and it doesn't matter how well trained and conditioned those 15 Little Soldiers are -- they still cannot do the work of 100.

All of us are constantly dispatching our Little Soldiers to this or to that -- small things and big. It might take three Little Soldiers to make a difficult phone call, and it might take ten to receive one -- but when Little Soldiers are dispatched on a mission (big or small), they cannot be used elsewhere. This is super important.

When Little Soldiers are managing an emergency, they cannot do their normal work. This is the value of thinking in terms of 100 Little Soldiers -- understanding that our resources are limited, and cannot be used twice. This means instead of exhausting the remaining Little Soldiers until they have collapsed in small, sobbing heaps, we let go of the need to send them running off in every direction trying vainly to have 15 do the work of 100 -- it just is not possible.

Disasters and emergencies mean diverted troops, and that means we must suspend some of their normal missions. I know it is so tempting to think, "Oh -- it just takes one Little Soldier to pick up the dry cleaning -- we can manage that" but STOP!! Dry cleaning can wait -- that Little Soldier is needed on the Home Front right now.

And so we must be realistic about the demands on our Little Soldiers, and not take on more missions than we have troops. In times of disaster, small details of life must wait. Nothing terrible will happen if the rug is not vacuumed, the dishes are not washed, and you don't take a shower for three days. Your Little Soldiers can only do so much -- and that is normal.

Crisis will end and the Little Soldiers will come back, and everything will be okay again -- but right now it is not, and so we must be very kind and understanding to those overworked Little Soldiers that have stayed behind to help us get out of bed. No unnecessary missions -- just the essentials right now. And lots of kleenex because overworked Little Soldiers cry a lot.

When people are in crisis, there are things we can do to help. First, we can avoid judging. None of us know how many Little Soldiers are off on disaster relief, and so we should assume it is a lot and that is why our friend cannot do her usual things. We need to be understanding and supportive, and not even suggest she should do anything extra -- like brush her hair or load the dishwasher or act normal.

Second, we can shout encouragement to the troops. "You can do this, Little Soldiers!" "Great job!!!" And we can remind them that their assignment is temporary -- Little Soldiers can do a lot if they know it won't be forever.

Third, we can send our own Little Soldiers to help. We do this when we take dinner, or give a hug, or send a prism to make rainbows, or send a note that says "you are loved" -- or write a blog. A humanitarian relief mission is something Little Soldiers love to do -- and there are so many ways to do it.

Thinking about our personal resilience as 100 Little Soldiers is a way to acknowledge both resources and limitations, and when we do this we can use the Little Soldiers wisely and with purpose. Further, imagining how a crisis demands a big Little Soldier response helps us be gentle with our remaining troops -- with ourselves -- while the crisis is being handled. Finally, thinking in terms of 100 Little Soldiers invites us be kind and understanding with others as we recognize their experience of trying to manage "normal" with very limited troops.

Don't overextend your 100 Little Soldiers but don't be afraid to share them either -- they always come back bearing gifts.



by Favorite Auntie... on Mon, 04/28/2014 - 07:51

M-A, this blog is SO timely...I think so often about your analogy and how it makes so much sense to me! My LS are almost all dispatched right now, too (caring for mom after a stroke and through rehab to her "new normal", whatever that may be).

Thanks for the prescient blog post today...

by Julia S ( Anna) on Mon, 04/28/2014 - 08:35

We have never met-for referance i am the one person with whom Sharon Montville has placed a puppy that turned out to be a show dog. Although i have never posted here i have been an audience for this blog for years-i discovered it when we first began an online search for a Bernese Mountian Dog breeder a few years ago. Although an odd twist of fate led me to Sharon and Finn, i have continued to follow this blog. While i might not read it daily i do make sure i catch up at least once a week. We often share a faily similiar perspective on things, perhaps because of similiar educational backgrounds for althoug i am an IT geek by trade i am an anthoropologist by education, or pehaps just a similiar mindset. Your post today has been particularly timely-and helpful to me. Your analogy of little soldiers is more than apt in my situations
My husband is a member of the Wyoming National Guard and i am a contractor with the active duty army in Colorado. I frequently find my self in situations where my soldiers-both literal and figurative, are overtasked trying to meet mission requirements. Deployment and its after effects are a daily impact in my life, personal and professional and resiliance in the face of adversity, particularly of the emotional sort is a survival requirement. Recently a friend of mine has experienced a loss of a particularly horrible nature-combat can take soldiers lives well after the fact even if the wounds are not visible. Your post today helped to remind me that sometimes we need to reach out in ways we might not have considered and lend our own soldiers to others as re-inforcments. There is little i can do to ease my firends pain-but i can share it for a bit, let my own soldiers who have been 'driving on' take thier rest and cry with her for a bit. Shared grief has value i think. Thank you-for this insight -and for many others you have shared without even knowing it.

by Karen F on Mon, 04/28/2014 - 09:17

I sighed with some relief in reading this, Thank You. My mother was diagnosed with a large aggressive glioblastoma brain tumor last week, surgery tomorrow will be a long day and difficult days to follow, and then there's the fact that even with chemo/rad it is never cured = I'll be spending as much time with my mom as possible for however many months she has left ... and ignoring the insignificant little soldier jobs if it means more time for her. Thanks for making it feel more acceptable, sigh again.

by Julie & Faith on Mon, 04/28/2014 - 20:43

for re-posting and sending some my way. I'm feeling better. Much love to Kaibab and our army of soldiers.

by CA Heidi :-) on Tue, 04/29/2014 - 23:52


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