Resilience: what does it mean to you?

Resilience what does it mean to you?  

When a friend of mine was graduating, he was offered the job as a director of a small factory. He met the incumbent who took great pains to impress him (picking him up from the station in his Jaguar, taking him to an expensive restaurant). Sleepless nights it caused him: should he accept? In the end he decided against it: he was about to become a fully trained engineer and the technical part of the job didn’t bother him. He was not so sure about managing a company though and there was this bell ringing in the back of his head that this was the tricky bit with this company. 


He foresaw the outfit’s bankruptcy and he couldn’t bear the idea that his actions or lack of experience could jeopardize the staff’s livelihood. He told his roommate who looked at him incredulously. So what if the company went bankrupt, surely that wouldn’t be his fault! And even if it did, what’s wrong with moving on and try something new elsewhere?


To me this story is as much about proceeding cautiously as it is about resilience, specifically about your norms and values. My friend felt he couldn’t see himself or the company’s staff in the eye if it were to go bankrupt. His roommate, on the other hand, didn’t have such qualms or even regarded it as his problem. In his confident outlook of the world, he thought any problems with the factory or its staff had nothing to do with him. So, while this prospect seriously troubled my friend, it didn’t affect his roommate’s resilience in any way, because this was how he thought he ought to behave when facing setbacks.


Before I started writing this blog, I asked some friends what resilience meant to them. And this was one of the things that they mentioned: there comes a moment when you are facing setbacks that you have to ask yourself what really matters in your life. Call it norms and values, call it staying true to yourself; but however you call it, the outcome of this struggle can change you or the course of your life. It also gives you a feeling of taking back control and makes you confident that you are, to a certain extent, pulling the strings in your life and not fate or anyone else. On your terms.


There is, however, something else that proceeds this stock taking of who you are in the event of setbacks. Ignoring your grief is not the way forward, though tempting. And face it: some things cannot be repaired. Some things must be lived through with the risk of losing control but you must trust your ability to survive. I believe everyone is resilient in his own way though it may come easier to some than to others. And it always takes effort, you can’t take it for granted. 


A recently widowed friend spent weeks on end watching Netflix following her partner’s death. The pain was numbing, too much to bear. But she survived. When you are in pain, you must also heal. My friend is like a spring that carried a weight for too long. The spring will be out of shape when you remove the weight and it takes time to get back in shape. But most of us, like the spring, eventually will. And that’s what’s called resilience.


That is not to say that you can just sit and wait for your resilience to kick in. Be kind to yourself and compassionate, don’t lock yourself up, share your feelings with others but don’t complain; we all have our crosses to bear. Find something to distract you. Do something that feeds you. For me, it used to be walking the dog (he died) and now it’s a very complicated type of knitting. I can’t think of anything else when I’m knitting and the world around me disappears. It gives me energy. 


And so here we are, COVID-19 has been a setback for all of us. We can’t bring back the people who have died or repair those who still suffer the consequences in any shape or form. But for some of us, e.g. the hundreds of volunteers who work for Resilient Society, it has also been a way to do something positive. We all want to contribute to a society to be resilient because that’s what we believe in. And so each of us made the choice to do what we can to make that happen. 

Just to cheer you up: : Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head - BJ Thomas (Lyrics ...