A few years ago there was a popular tee shirt. I groaned whenever I saw somebody wearing it. The lettering proclaimed that the person who donned it was a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks. Lately, there’s been a word that keeps popping into my head- it’s resilience. At about the same time the tee shirt was a fad, I was in a doctoral program. While I was busy researching spirituality and health, I had a chum who was studying the concept of resilience. I didn’t connect the dots then, how could I think? I was too busy thinking. It never occurred to me that the two things were the same.
I was too busy scrambling up after being knocked down repeatedly, at least that’s the feeling I struggled with then. What I learned was that a person keeps at something if they want it hard enough. Sometimes the process can be pretty hard. It’s a bit different than ‘pulling your boot straps up.’ Unless of course, you are wading through something pretty unpleasant- if you know what I mean. Today, somehow this all began to make some sense. Okay, so, I’m a turtle.
A spiritual dictum seems to be that whenever we survive something unpleasant, uncomfortable or even downright torturous, it allows for us to grow. We develop. We create. We shed old skins and take on the new. Sometimes, if we are lucky enough we hold onto the hand of Something Higher than ourselves that tells us we can do it. Sort of like hearing “You can do it, Charlie Brown!
Lately, I’ve been witnessing a lot of folks show their resilient sides. I see friends walk through grief. I watch others take on physical challenges that they never in their wildest imaginings thought they could. I get to silently observe others set limits on another’s touch or unacceptable hurtful ways. The common theme I realize is that they’ve all said ¡YES! to themselves. They’ve decided to get out of the muck and to choose living life in a way that is more healthy, safe and, mostly, sacred. I’m a fan of that.
I’ve heard that one is known by the company they keep and I like to believe that I am resilient too. When I look up at the glorious sun in the mornings at this time of the year, I remember when I wasn’t so happy to greet its brilliant shine. I could only mourn the happiness I’d lost when I was pretty young and suffered a terrible loss. I spent days in a dark apartment during the summer of my eleventh year walking from the living room to the kitchen, allowing only the light of the refrigerator to shine in my face. Somehow over the years I managed, in my darkness, to reach out to the hands of and for the love of Something Greater than me.
I managed to earn a diploma, wearing a cap and gown, as I walked across the auditorium filled with the many of us who took courses in the School of Hard Knocks. I used my knuckleheaded ways to persevere, somehow, in what seemed to be an unmanageable situation. I eventually learned to surrender and, with that, survive.
I applaud the resilience that surrounds me. I know my PhD friend would have lots to say in the theoretical sense after years of studying the concept. I bet that she, as most of us, would also have lots to share from the heart. So, if I come across someone wearing that tee shirt, as I sometimes do, I will smile at that alum. We may have had different paths. Some of us crossed rocky paths and some navigated roaring waters but we’ve ended up on shore. When I look back, I see the obstacles that almost kept me from living a full life. When I look within, I find resilience-my friend.