Resilience has, I think, a bit of a Pollyanna rap. For those of you who didn’t grow up with either the book or Disney movie version, Pollyanna was a young girl who was irrepressibly optimistic. Yet in a crisis or traumatic situation, always looking on the bright side-as Pollyanna found out-can feel unbearably hard. Sometimes, before you move on or bounce back, you might just need to throw a pity party first.
I don’t believe that resilience means you never have a bad day or that you accept everything that comes your way with a blithe smile and a song on your lips. During the three year stretch that my family went through one life threatening illness after another, I hosted a few pity parties – some of them fairly spectacular. At the time, the extra glasses of wine or spirals into dark thoughts seemed a logical outcome, given the fact that two of the men I loved most in life both had cancer.
The real question is, after you’ve had your pity party, then what? Do you stay stuck in victim thinking? It can be pretty cozy, snuggled up in the cold comfort of feeling mistreated by the world. But for me, staying in that gloomy spot didn’t seem to get me anywhere. And, frankly, I didn’t like my own company that much when I was dining on negative thoughts and crooning over my hurts.
That’s when I would find just enough energy to rummage around in my heart and remembered my goal – who I wanted to be—even when things were lousy, even when I felt just a little bit neglected by the Divine, and even when part of me wanted to crawl back under my comforter stuffed with victimhood and whine a while longer.
I had decided, when my son was first diagnosed with lymphoma, that the only way for me to keep it together, and be who he needed me to be, was to have a plan. Since I couldn’t control the outcome of his diagnosis, I decided to focus on who I wanted to be during that journey. My answer had been that I wanted to trust in the Divine, believe that growth, even blessings come from hard times, choose generosity of spirit over pettiness, and stay positive. With those intentions as my anchors, I always found the next step, the one that took me back towards courage.
Having a goal, and taking those actions-however small-is one of the ways I believe resilience is built. Making one small movement towards your goals or intentions – even if it is only washing your face or taking a walk around the block-is a step away from feeling overwhelmed or impossibly discouraged.
To get back on track with your goals or to find just a bit of courage to keep going, ask yourself:
- Who does my best self want to be right now? What are the qualities and characteristics I want to demonstrate in my life—even if I don’t feel like it right now?
- What is one small step I can take that will get me moving in that direction again?
Good luck and don’t forget to clean up the mess from the party!