I can’t pinpoint when exactly I decided to look into ‘resilience’ as a concept. What I do know is that once I did, I would spend hours Googling it, looking up books, articles, academic papers and anything else I could find about it.
Resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”, according to the Oxford Dictionary.
My interest in the idea of resilience stemmed from my absolute belief that I didn’t have enough of it. Not only that, but the pursuit of resilience would lead to the end of all my problems, that I would be the woman I deserved to be, if only I possessed enough resilience. I was therefore determined to discover how to gain more of it.
I may have made it sound as though I was on a hunt for something like the characters in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ were as the skipped along the yellow brick road. I believed that by the end of my quest, I would have buckets of resilience, in the same way that dieters expect to be transformed at the end of a fad diet.
No one had ever said I lacked resilience, so why was I so convinced that I did?
It was because when I looked back over my life, I saw events and experiences that I hadn’t “recover[ed] quickly from”. Things such as illness, accidents and bereavements had, in my view, swept me off my feet as though I were a feather. I remembered days spent under the duvet, social invitations that I rejected, tears that wouldn’t stop falling. The rest of the world was merrily going out every night and not getting down about anything at all. The rest of the world was thick-skinned, energetic…. Resilient.
Then pre-lockdown, I began to think from a new perspective. Yes, other people might be smiling and constantly on the go, but were they happy? Did they envy me my evening with my duvet? How did I know that they didn’t have their own worries, deep down?
Plus, when I thought about the experiences which had caused me so much pain… Who wouldn’t retreat and cry and feel like the stuffing had been knocked out of them? That was the normal response. It didn’t mean I lacked resilience. In fact, I came to think that it meant I HAD resilience. I had experienced hard times…. But I had developed ways to cope.
Coping might look like a pyjama night next to the tissue box sometimes, but it still counts. On other days, it looks like smiles and laughs with friends, as though I don’t have a care in the world.
I’m learning to accept that yes, I might take life at a slower pace most of the time for my wellbeing… But what’s more resilient than that?