Healing your gully, Part 2 — The Nifty Algorithm

Today we start looking at the gully-healing process. It’s a detailed, specific, and lengthy description. Just so you know.

I haven’t been able to figure out a way of simplifying it — but at least healing gullies IS doable. The results are not only a relief after the pain of eroding, but they’re lovely.

If you’re wondering whether or not you’re a gully, check yesterday’s post about gully traits and why gullies aren’t always, necessarily, a bad thing.

We begin by gathering information:

  • Find your reference reach.

What did you look like back in a joyful period before the erosion started? Click here for some help.

  • Figure out your pre-erosion Stream Type.

Hold those “Days of Joy” in mind while you take the Stream Personality Quiz, or look at Stream Type descriptions/pictures to see what resonates. You can start by clicking here. If you want to do this step later, you’ll still be able to follow this post.

  • Specifically consider your old floodplain.

Consider what allowed you to spread out and cope with overload in the Days of Joy. That’s the human equivalent of a floodplain. Was it certain friends, pets, family, alone time, access to nature, or maybe city life?

We’ll use your research to decide on one of four restoration options*:

Option I. Return to your original environment and re-connect with your previous safety net by abandoning your current life and either:

  •  re-inhabiting an old version of your life or
  • building a new life on that same playing field.

Option II. Broaden yourself so you can build a healthy life here in your deeper new world — one that is different than your old life but basically still similar in shape and “type.”

Option III. Change your “type” to keep your current location and stabilize by adding only a tiny bit of width but a LOT more interest to your life.

Option IV. Remain a gully, but stabilize yourself so you don’t erode any further.

The Nifty Algorithm!

Question 1 – Is a floodplain still available on your old stomping ground?

Look around there — at where you used to flow in the Days of Joy. See if your old safety valves OR a suitable alternative would be available to you if moved yourself back to that psychic place. Get creative here! Your new space-givers don’t have to be the exact same helpers as before.

  • If your answer is YES, you could pursue Option I.

Example: Sarah descended into herself after her son left for college, expending little effort to meet with the other mothers that she’d known since their kids met in preschool. When she looked back at her Days of Joy — the active phase of mothering — she realized that what had helped her through all the crazy times of motherhood had been not only those other mothers but the feeling of a shared mission. They were all working to nurture the development of young people. “It’s like touching the future,” Sarah mused. “And so often they really need you for something, whereas adults really can and should be more self-sufficient.” Sarah could not go back to the daily life of mothering like some of her friends who still had kids at home. But once she described her floodplain very accurately, it was easy to see similar “ecosystems” where she could build a new but similar channel and reconnect with the world of nurturing youth — working at a school, volunteering with a youth organization, or teaching Sunday School.

  • If your answer is NO, go to Question 2. There’s no point expending the huge effort it takes to go back to your old ecosystem unless you’d have access to the extended network of a floodplain. Without it, you’ll destabilize again the very first time that life hits you with a flood. (And make no mistake, floods are inevitable.) I realize that sometimes there’s just no going back – maybe developers built shopping malls and subdivisions on your old floodplain. But “lower” doesn’t have to mean “worse.” Think of it as “deeper. “Revisit my friend the Colorado River if you want visual proof.

Question 2 – Do you have the ability to broaden your current life significantly AND was your original Stream Type C, D, E, or F (i.e., were you something other than the kind of stream dominated by swift waterfalls, cascades, or rapids)?

You already know your life is narrower than in the Days of Joy, but is it possible to move your walls out and get more lateral breathing room – right here where you are? It takes a lot of effort for sure. And I’m not saying the end result would have to be identical to the one you used to have. It could be qualitatively different — maybe now you’d have lots of exercise time rather than the huge amount of partying you used to do. I just want the new floodplain to be similar to the old one in terms of how much relief it would give you when you’re flowing fast and furious.

  • If your answer is YES to both parts of this question, you could pursue Option II.

Example: Like Sarah, Liz’s gullying started when her son left for college. But when she looked back at her Days of Joy,  she realized that what had helped her through the inevitable floods was the spontaneous silliness and outright unexpected laughter she’d experienced with her son (and his friends) even into their teenage years. “Grown-ups can be so serious.” she told me. “I even — maybe especially — miss the bodily function humor/mishaps!” There was no going back to daily life with her child, so she looked around and considered ways to connect with other children (for an Option I type of restoration like Sarah). But nothing re-created that +10 feeling on her Body Compass. “It’s funny, but I feel like I’m permanently in a sort of deeper level,” Liz commented. “Like I’ll never go back to how I was as a mother OR even before because at this point in my life I value individual moments and just plain fun more than any long-term ambitions I used to have. In a way, I find spontaneous giggles to be deeper and more sacred than anything else.” As soon as she clarified this, Liz started wondering. Always a good sign. She wondered if she could find other sources of surprising belly laughs. She stretched herself a tiny bit and began watching funny movies in the middle of the day… which led her to broadening herself even more and investigating comedy/improv events…  which led her to branching way out and joining her local little theater. Actors, she found, can be very unpredictable. And gross! She’d moved her walls out and created herself a new floodplain, right down at her silly, sacred new level.

  • If your answer to either part of Question 2 is NO, go to Question 3. You can still build a joyful, functional, and stable life for yourself, but you’re going to need a new type of lifestyle. An awesome one.

Question 3 – Do you want to convert yourself to a new kind of life and live like a resilient, highly scenic, rapid-dominated channel? OR were you one of these B-type channels to begin with?

  • If your answer to EITHER part of this question is YES, then you could pursue Option III.

Example: Jim’s best friend died in a car wreck. It was the third funeral he’d been to in two years — all young adults like him. After that, he went into full gully mode. He also moved to a new and completely different kind of community. He doesn’t know any hard-word-hard-play people, he doesn’t want to find them, and in fact he has no interest or ability in “broadening” himself in any way. “I like my focused life, as weird as that may sound,” Jim confided. “My new job is intense. I like it. But I would like to feel like my own foundation is stronger. I know what you mean by that ‘eroding’ feel , and that I don’t like.” Jim is a perfect candidate for an Option 3 Restoration. By stretching himself just a little within an existing passion (in his case, work) he can add challenges. The resulting ride will be fairly thrilling, very beautiful, and incredibly stable.

  • If you need just the bare minimum effort for now, go for Option IV. Most Type A, waterfalling or cascading folks can restore health with a simple patch. And it’s a fine place for anyone to start when they’re not sure how to proceed but need to stop falling apart.

Example: Rachel’s whole family underwent trauma when her daughter was involved in a violent crime. It felt as though their world dissolved under them, and — six months later — it’s still falling away. Quickly. Inexorably. She is exhausted. Going “back” in any way feels out of the question. Her old life, in fact almost the whole world, sounds almost alien to her. Unlike Jim, she sees no passion she wants to develop. Not that she’d have the energy anyway. In Rachel’s case, it’s imperative to find the exact spots where she’s in pain and STOP THE DOWN-CUTTING.

That’s why we’ll start with Option IV as we begin looking at the “nuts and bolts” of repair — although in stream restoration we use “boulders and sod” instead! That’s why it’s so fun AND so pretty. So I’ll see you…

TOMORROW: Healing Gullies, Part 3 – Immediate Stabilization

* This four-option approach, as well as the Rosgen Stream Classification System, were developed by hydrologist Dave Rosgen. Not that he’d advocate using it on people!

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