Resilience (or Lack Thereof)

Resilience is the “ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change,” according to the Mariam-Webster Dictionary. Many see it as a bounce back from something bad, like a tennis ball striking the ground and flying forward.


Even tennis balls go flat, though, and lose their bouncy potential.


I know there’s been times in my life where I didn’t get up quickly from the things life punches me with. I’ve struggled with depression for many years. It was hard to not be able to do the “pull yourself up and think positive” routine for a while. It was difficult enough just to get out of bed. So, I was not always resilient. Even when I did push myself forward, there was an anxious blowback that would incapacitate me for hours.


Resilience is only good if the misfortune is aired out. Releasing the pain from its infernal grip, talking to somebody or journaling, and practicing self-care relieves some of the sting.


It also helps to understand the trauma. Be it childhood abuse, stress from work, financial woes, or shellshock from war—these require different types of caring. It’s one thing to commiserate over a lost job; different than losing a beloved person or pet; still another to wash away the vision of killing a child because they were trained to kill you first.


These things take compassion, from others and from oneself. Most people know where their breaking point is. What do you do when you received the short straw? What do you do when the last shovelful of dirt hits the grave? Can you walk away and go on with life? Not easy, isn’t it?


There is no set timeframe for grief. There is no expiration date to suffering. It happens when it happens. Let the pain roll through.  I breathe it in and breathe it out. Then I pick up the pen or open that document. Let it all out. Write until I’m exhausted. Then pick up the phone and call or send a text. Find a pair of listening ears. Someone whose eyes can digest your words, and give a thoughtful response.  Even if I have to pay for it, find them.


Then look around. The birds are in the trees. Another car goes by. The dog barks, the people walk to their destination. Life is still happening. And I’m still a part of it.


I had years of therapy and dozens of medications. I practiced talking and drawing cartoons of my suffering. I am still working on that inner peace thing. Memories emerge and I wince, shaken out of my body. It’s hard to be doing dishes and suddenly I’m back to the abuse. I realize I’m not there now, that I am safe. Focus on the plate, the bowl, the fork. Focus on the warm water and the suds from dish soap. Being in the present. Finish and take the time to process it.

Put it down in words. What is it saying to me? I’m not stupid or dumb. I’m not a loser. Another rosebud of compassion falls on my lap. I did the best I could. It’s not all my fault, or none of it is my fault. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to stand still. Breathing in, breathing out.

I’m becoming resilient. Step by baby step.

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