Bouncing Back! (Resilience)
I’ve entitled this season’s ezine ‘Bouncing Back’ which is just another way of explaining resilience and in this edition we will explore what this means and how we do it. How can we be resilient and bounce back from such things as pain, illness, hurt feelings, disappointment, failure and loss?
Any of my friends and relatives who have been chatting to me over the past few months will know that I have been suffering with a severe attack of shingles. It is a horrible illness that I would not wish on anyone and although I had heard of it before, I had no idea how awful it could be and it ‘floored’ me physically for 3 months. My resilience has been tested to the full and I don’t ever want to be in a position that I will be tested in such a way ever again! In saying that, and in looking back, I can see how resilient I really am, physically – yes, but I would say more so, mentally and emotionally.
Part of this is due to my own stubbornness and determination not to let something beat me, some of it strategies that I’ve learned, thankfully helped with the support of others, but in most part it’s because of my faith, which has grown stronger over those months. I’ve been told by the GP that it could be months before I am ‘normal’. One ‘friend’ told me that they didn’t know how that was even going to be possible, because I wasn’t ‘normal’ before I took the shingles! Ahem! You may ask what sort of friends do I have?
Lovely ones actually, especially the ones who cheer me up with their ‘cheek’ and humour.
I also want to take this opportunity of thanking friends and family who rang me and texted me, gave me gifts, and sent me cards, poems and flowers, chocolates, an Easter egg, books, who made me meals, vacuumed and one lovely friend who even did my ironing! Thank you also for your patience, to any clients who had to be cancelled or postponed during this time. It is very much appreciated.
Resilience is something I talk about in lots of workshops and I suppose I have always seen it as a mental strength. The past few months I’ve thought about it from all sides: emotional, mental, spiritual and physical. The way our bodies are created are amazing; the body’s resilience in recovering from the onslaught of something attacking it from the inside, when the body is actually fighting itself. Shingles comes from the chicken pox virus. This virus can lie dormant in the body for decades and nothing may ever occur, but for some people, something triggers the virus and causes shingles to attack the nerves of the body. It comes unexpectedly with little warning and causes havoc!
Threat and Pain
It made me think of the ISIS terrorist attacks that have struck people down throughout the world: you may put some protective measures in place, but life has to be workable on a day to day basis – what defence can you really have? You can’t just put up fences and walls all around you. You don’t know where it’s coming from. It may come from the side, from above you or even from within. You don’t know where it is going to hit and who is going to suffer. You don’t know when or how it’s going to happen and it may never happen to you. However, if it does occur you have to deal with the aftermath.
Now these are words that I don’t even like to read, never mind write. Especially as I like to plan everything and create schedules and teach self management and have things in order. I really don’t like chaos. But the world is not naturally tidy. Life is messy. Problems are by their very definition not orderly. If they were straightforward, there would be no problem. We can’t always prevent something from happening.
With our health we can take measures to look after our bodies and minds, by such things as eating healthily, exercising, resting, spending time with others etc. We can minimise damage but we can’t totally prevent it. We live in a world of illness, trouble and an earth that is decaying. Our bodies too are dying. This all sounds very morbid, but sometimes we need to face the truth, to take time to reflect on what is important and what to prioritise in life. Our time is limited. Looking after ourselves is something that some of us are not very good at ‘doing’. Or I should say ‘being’. We are called human ‘beings’, but most of the time I find myself as a human ‘doing’. Being sick forced me to just ‘be’ for weeks. I could do practically nothing but just ‘be’, listen to my own body, listen to others, and listen to God.
If you are a ‘doer’ it’s very difficult to just ‘be’. Our lives are full of activity. But part of bouncing back is sometimes about listening to and taking heed of the warning signs, of resting and of taking care of ourselves. I can be too keen to bounce back, before I have the bounce in me. That’s almost as dangerous as the person who lies down and sinks into a depression, because if you start doing things too soon, you go backwards. Sometimes we need to learn the wisdom to know when to wait. Part of well-being is resting, waiting, listening to God, our bodies and healthcare professionals. For those who know me best, patience is not my greatest virtue!
But if you take a lesson from nature, you only get the chicken by waiting for it to hatch, not by smashing the egg!
Resilience is not only endurance, perseverance, and coping with the situation, but bouncing back from our everyday mess, trouble, sadness and loss and continuing on.
As I write this I think of great examples of resilience, but one that is right in the forefront of my mind is that of a little refugee boy who was interviewed and filmed for the channel 4 documentary on refugees “War Child”. I can’t help thinking about the amazing resilience of Emran. This eleven year old boy (the same age as my niece) made his way by himself from his home city of Kabul in Afghanistan to Germany over a period of months!
The decision of his journey taken and encouraged by his distraught parents, torn between keeping him at home where children were being shot at on their way to school, and the treacherous sole journey to join his older brother in Germany, but with the hope of a better life.
Such determination, strength, perseverance and resilience is shown here by a young child who fought his way through hunger, loneliness, violence, escaping trafficking and bullets and knives. A lot of the time he was full of fear, cold, pain, enduring poverty. He walked through all kinds weathers, soaking wet, dirty, tired, travelling with smugglers, losing his friend he had made on the way (not knowing if he were alive or dead for over 2 months). He faced multiple obstacles in his path and yet he has made it. He has amazing resilience for one so young, but one who has overcome so much in his eleven short years on this earth, and what struck me (and the journalist) was his wonderful smile even through his tears and suffering!
Resilience is a result of pushing on through trials, failures and disappointments and coming out the other side with a stronger spirit. You may even come to the point of brokenness, a place or wall where you think you can’t take any more or go any further, but then after a while you take stock, you gird yourself up and go on, slowly at first but with increasing strength.
Resilience can also be strengthened by failure. It is the act of not giving up.
J. K. Rowling’s first book was turned down by 12 publishers. Can you imagine the effort of writing a whole book and one by one being told that no one would want to read it??? I would think by the 5th publisher they must be seeing something that I can’t, but she didn’t give up. She bounced back from their negative comments. She continued to present her book because she believed she had something that would sell. And her perseverance paid off. Now her books are read all over the world, translated into several languages and movies made on each book. She’s gone from being unemployed to a multi-millionaire.
Resilience is also coping with sadness and loss and continuing on, but only when your mind and body are ready. Bereavement is a good example of this. When you lose someone very close to you, you need to allow yourself time to grieve that person. You need to acknowledge their loss, to deal with feelings of sadness and possibly anger or guilt at not having said all the things you feel you could have and then to start remembering all the good things they brought in to your life, all the good memories. Remember the times they did or said something that made you laugh and were there for you, giving thanksgiving for their life, and to build on that so that you can continue with your own life. It can be a long process. Bouncing back is something that we think of as instant, and sometimes that is the case, but with deep loss or continual bouts of illness this is not so easy to do.
The strange thing about resilience is that the more you have to deal with actually has a tendency to strengthen you. And it reminds me of the saying ‘ what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ and there is some truth in that.