If I’m lucky, I’m halfway through this life on earth. And a LOT of stuff has happened! Much of it amazing and beautiful and outrageously good, and a lot of it pure suffering. I know many people who just don’t bounce back after traumatic events happen to them- who get frozen in time after a divorce or an illness or a loss. Or who put a little bit of themselves into cold storage year after year, growing more slowly, if at all- living a half life.
So, what makes some people able to bounce back and try again?Throughout our lives, there are fundamental opportunities to ask: does this thing that traumatized me break me, or does it create a unique place from which I can serve? In response to difficulty do I say “I am such a victim”, or “Wow, I think I never want to have that happen to anyone else…how can I make a difference in that, how can I help stop this cycle from perpetuating?”
Resilience isn’t automatic or a single one time decision- rather it is an ongoing choice of how to respond to suffering and setback.
I lived the first part of my adult life in the echo of the anger and violence of my youth, but it just eventually got so uncomfortable that I started looking for lifelines. But once I saw that there was one lifeline – then suddenly there was another out of the corner of my eye – and then another appeared. And pretty soon it was evident that I could take the steps needed to fix anything that was causing pain in me, or pain between me and someone else- that there was always a solution available. Thus, a virtuous cycle appeared. The willingness to seek solutions and to keep growing – to keep noticing and grabbing onto those lifelines- made the difference. The minute you make one positive shift others become available.
It also helps to know, somewhere deep in your being, that you are unassailable and can’t be hurt- even in death. All these layers that make us think otherwise add to fear and create a more limited life.
Even though I will likely experience pain or suffering again, I also know this: Life is an intrinsic good. To live fully and bravely is the ultimate gratitude what we’ve been given, not squander it in fear and holdbacks.