Updated: Mar 20, 2022
I recently spoke at a conference and during the question and answer session I was asked how I would define 'Thrivorship'. Thrivorship is the word that I use in opposition to Survivorship because I simply believe that the bar for a quality life is set way too low for us post-trauma. Systemically, we're supposed to believe that simply escaping a setback with our lives is somehow a standard we should not only be forced to accept - but one we should be grateful for. I believe, however, that trauma survivors deserve much more than simply existing and that it's a toxic message to communicate that you aren't absolutely entitled to an incredible, rich, full life after a major (or minor!) setback.
But, when asked to define Thrivorship, I couldn't offer a succinct definition.
In a 'good news-bad news' reveal, 'Thrivorship' is an absolutely personal venture. The truth is, I have no idea what Thrivorship looks like for anyone other than myself. It cannot be defined explicitly as a set of skills, a particular lifestyle, or a certain accomplishment. What I can tell you for sure about Thrivorship is what it isn't: it isn't settling for a life smaller than the one you deserve simply because you've had loss. It isn't reducing your joy, or accepting lower standards because 'things are different now'. It isn't sacrificing yourself or giving up dreams in the name of making room for the 'surviving' you have to do now.
The only thing I can say about what Thrivorship is, in certainty, is that it is fully embracing that you are worthy of this one, full, beautiful life and that you do not need to live in the shadow of your suffering.
It's a really nonspecific answer, isn't it? But doing life isn't specific, or at least I don't think it should be. There isn't a formula and every single time I come into contact with a book, a podcast, or any other media where they promote that they've 'found the answer' to living life, to having success, to reaching an accomplishment, etc. by just following these certain steps, I tend to get very suspicious. I don't necessarily doubt it's worked for the authors but I doubt these over-generalized statements that because it worked for them, it is the answer for all of us. The more prescribed and limited the view - like getting up by 5am or always making your bed - the more oversimplified and therefore more unlikely to work for a lot of us: And, the less likely it is to take into account your own reality. I remember yelling out loud at the book, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg because the advice was so out-of-reach for single parents who were also professionals. [Sandberg later listened to a lot of the outcries of women who correctly identified her method applied only to a limited set of privileged women, owned her oversights, and began to address the intersectionality needed in the workplace.]
We're habituated to live a certain type of life. In the US, that tends to very much be about our careers, our money, our homes and it's driven largely by a white, cis-gendered, patriarchal system that doesn't take into account life's traumas. We're defined by a set of standards that have resulted in significantly skewed perspectives of what success looks like and it very often doesn't leave much room for healing, for peace, or for any type of non-material thriving. We're sold these ideas so that we, too, can join the ranks of the 'successful' by following someone else's rules.
While I don't believe in easy, one-size-fits-most solutions, I do believe in frameworks to help us get perspective on our trauma and also to help others understand what we've endured. I think a framework that is driven by you, that honors your unique experiences and your unique position in the work is powerful work for growth. But how you fill in the framework - how you define the spaces in your life that will help you feel whole, healed, and able to leverage your setbacks so that they're now catalysts for transformation instead of roadblocks to your own, unique version of the Thrivorship - that is entirely yours.
So make your bed everyday - or don't. Get up at dawn - or stay up til dawn. Surround yourself with a network of people and habits that work for you and find your own definition of Thrivorship. It's the only definition that really matters anyway.