Thoughts on Resilience


One of my favorite bloggers (and humans) returned with a post after a three year absence. Go ahead and read Bodega Bliss’s take on how past wounds both hinder her, but also help keep her moving and hopeful. Then come back, if you like.

The passage that really jolted me awake is this:

Even if you have support in the form of your partner or this community, it’s still solely on you to come out the other side.  You are the one responsible for finding the strength to continue.  To somehow find a glimmer of hope in the depths of your hell.  Others can love you and be there for you, but you are the one that has to reach inside of you and figure out a way to keep breathing.

So very true, and wise. And I think this realization is valid for anyone who has gone through any major type of loss or setback. There’s nothing like failure and grief to make you feel completely alone. We always are, of course, alone but there’s a specificity to pain which reinforces this reality.

There is no upside to an awful experience like loss, but in my case this alone-ness made me a lot more independent. I slowly and in small baby steps dug into myself and pulled through challenges both small and large. And there was something empowering about knowing that I could.

I gradually realized that this independence was indeed something else: resilience. I know I’m lucky to have become resilient, but I think many who get to the other side, no matter how it is “resolved,” DO find resilience.

This is my take (not applicable to others, YMMV, disclaimer alert) on what resilience has taught me:

  • Self-pity is toxic. Avoid wallowing, and try to problem solve.
  • At the same time, when things are bad, acknowledge it to yourself. Sit with it. Then, try to release it.
  • Avoid enablers, and try not to enable. This behavior can lead to a static state where nothing improves.
  • Contact those you know going through tough things who are quiet. The quiet ones are often not getting the help/attention they need.
  • Don’t expect anyone to be what you need. YOU are the only one who can be what you need.
  • When you are what you need, your marriage, friendships and family relationships become so much easier, richer and better.

By the way, none of this was easy to figure out, and I am still figuring it out. I still make mistakes all the time.

But if there is one thing I want my husband and I to teach my children, it’s how to be resilient. Because while they are lucky, beautiful, smart and funny, none of that will protect them from life’s realities. However, resilience will allow them to deal with the bad. And hope for the best, even in light of the worst.

As Bodega says:

I have a confidence in myself and what I can do, that was never there before all of this.  I’m proud of the woman I have become. The battle gave me that.  Surviving the war gave me that.

May whatever battle you have fought or are fighting give you resilience.




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16 responses to “Thoughts on Resilience

  1. Mo

    Great post, and I love the way you frame resilience. Very poetic. I think I may just steal it. 🙂

  2. You are what you need. Yes … the tricky part is finding that. We’ve talked a lot about resilience at work lately because students are, quite frankly, LESS resilient than they used to be. Fragile. Worrisomely so. They don’t expect others to be what they need, but they find themselves inadequate. It’s hard to know what to do with that.

    Great post. I’ve missed you, too.

    • Justine – that is SOOO interesting! We all keep hearing that today’s college students have a lot more problems with self esteem. Usually, it’s in an article talking about how helicopter parents have ruined their kids lives – because subtlety doesn’t make FB feeds. 😉

      But I am curious – why do you think students at the world’s best colleges are fragile? You are well-placed to know. I totally believe that they are, but you would think the Ivy League kids would be poised to take over the world…but maybe that is because I know a bunch of Ivy League grads obsessed with taking over the world. Heh.

  3. I tried to read her post when it popped up, and again, just now; I can’t do it right now. Today was another day of proceedings that seem tailored specifically to remind me that we used to parent and don’t now.

    Thank you for the excerpts, and you’re right; resilience is the key to self-reliance and the cornerstone of coping.

  4. So happy to see you <3.

    Love your list, each bullet point. My mileage doesn't vary much, if at all.

  5. So wonderful to see you❤️ her post was gorgeous. I absolutely agree with your dot points. Especially self pity. Which is sometimes easier said than done but the longer you wallow the more toxic you become

    • Thank you!!

      It can be hard not to wallow, but I totally agree that the longer it goes on, the more ingrained and habit-forming it becomes. And what can make it worse is when you surround yourself with people who enable the feeling that you are a victim (of whatever it may be). I really do love that Nora Ephron quote about how we all need to be the heroines of our own lives. It’s a great ideal to live up to, even if incredibly hard to achieve. But worth the trying.

  6. YES! RESILIENCE! The perfect word. I, too, feel so lucky to have learned resilience.

    And I appreciated this — “Self-pity is toxic. Avoid wallowing, and try to problem solve.” So true. Even if getting out of it feels impossible, it’s so important to try. You will not be able to grow if you are stuck in yourself.

    I would also like to add to the comment about reaching out to the quiet ones…absolutely. But also be respectful if after reaching out, they ask that you give them space. Being one of the quiet ones, just the act of having a friend reach out was all I needed.

    p.s. You’re one of my favorite humans, too. 😉

    • Oh, self-pity. Interesting that so many agree it’s toxic. It really is.

      Good point about not hounding people when they are quiet. It’s not like “the quiet ones” necessarily need a lot from their friends/family, but just a nice text or email can go such a long way. There’s nothing quite like someone just listening without talking (and not making your problems about them!) and simply saying “I care.” That’s my take as a quiet person anyway. 🙂

  7. Oh, great post! The thing is, when we’re going through this we don’t feel resilient, even if that is what we are learning! I like the distinction between wallowing and allowing yourself to sit with your feelings.

    My favourite point is not expecting any one person to be what you need. I’ve seen many many women struggle with that, expecting their partners to understand everything about them and to always say and do the right thing.

    • That is a great point – I didn’t feel resilient while I was learning – that feeling came much later.

      Agreed – I also think a lot of people expect partners (and friends, and family) to read minds and always do and say the right thing. But if WE can be what WE need, that is such an empowering feeling.

  8. So agree with all of your observations, JJ. Sitting with the ‘badness’ may be the hardest of all, but in doing so we can explore what’s needed to get to the underlying strength necessary to push ahead. Would add another particularly as it relates to infertility: be extra patient with those who don’t understand the complexities. This particular life experience goes beyond well beyond personal challenges to social ones. It’s one thing to operate and heal in isolation, another to be among those who lack context at each successive stage of life. That’s where the resilience really comes in handy.

    • Ooh – love this: “Be extra patient with those who don’t understand the complexities.” So true!

      Thanks, Pamela, You have always struck me as being a very resilient person. 🙂

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