The Ugly Truth About Resiliency

resiliency is born out of painIt’s all well and good to talk about climbing mountains and learning to play the guitar in creating resilient lifestyles, but the ugly truth is that resiliency is born out of pain. 

The hero is always faced with tremendous adversity and a long, difficult journey that tests and molds them into a better, stronger person before they ever defeat their villain.

A friend I hadn’t seen in five years came into town about a week ago and stopped by to catch up over a glass of wine.

We’ve both been through a lot recently and it was surprising how similar our coping strategies were.

Both so hell bent on keeping it together and putting on a brave face that we won’t even face our journals when the cracks are showing; not until the entry has a tidy conclusion about how we overcame.

We retreat into ourselves when it’s unbearable.

When we let a tiny bit of the struggle show, it’s always with a quick reassurance that we’re working through it and everything will be right as rain soon.

It’s not just that vulnerability is difficult to accept, it’s also that we don’t want to be a burden. We are the caretakers, not the taken care of.

It’s an isolating (and ineffective) way to cope with pain.

Lately, I’ve been holding myself together with safety pins and deep breaths, but even as I write this, I am not really ready to admit it. I am so good at distractions.

Work and cooking and running and listening to my son read or my daughter hash out tween drama. Escapes.

I can’t tell you if those are healthy breaks from the uninvited toxicity that I cannot control or just band-aids that won’t actually foster sustained relief, because sometimes I have to go from one to the next in quick succession to keep from curling up in a ball.

It’s those moments alone that breach the calm where I find myself desperately trying to breathe through the cracks that begin to split open.

I was basking in a sense of peace this morning as I dropped my children off at school.

Quizzing my first grader on his math facts and spelling words for his end of week tests, I marveled at how much he had grown up in the past year.

But the second he disappeared around the corner of the school and I was alone in the car, I felt it rising up. That messy pain, and the hopelessness at not being able to cut the cancer out of my life that is causing it.

I white knuckled it for the 10 minute drive to the gym.

I normally tune in to a Macklemore-heavy Spotify station for a workout, but I accidentally clicked the Tyco-inspired station instead and Bonobo’s Black Sands started playing.

It’s a wistful track. Sad, but accepting. And somehow I found a groove, amping up the treadmill to a hard run just outside my comfort zone.

And that release I was searching for began. All the tension began to unwind and I finally centered back into my best self.

Pain and fear and anxiety distorts who we are.

This is the crux of what causes me so much distress.

I’ve learned the hard way that I cannot control what happens to me, but I do know that I am capable of controlling my reaction. I can choose to ground into peace in the midst of pain. These are not mutually exclusive experiences and the outcome of pain can be resiliency and a deeper appreciation for the relief that comes afterward.

And yet…it’s so hard. Healing takes time. And I am so impatient.

Unexpected trauma reminders open wounds that cannot simply be ignored or forced to close up until we’re ready to deal with them.

The storm of emotion rages while all of life continues on.

Work deadlines loom. School projects require attention. Meals must be prepared. Dishes cleaned.

I’m slowly forcing myself to sit in vulnerability and embrace self-care so that I might observe the pain for what it is. A lesson. An opportunity to practice and sharpen resiliency skills that don’t come natural to me, like sharing mid-struggle.

But I’m the worst at taking my own advice until it’s incredibly obvious what needs to be done.

I know I’m there when the pain shifts to anger. When backed into a corner and flight is no longer an option, that human reaction to fight provides a brief respite of perceived control.

But it is she who allows the pain to transform her into the villain of the story who loses everything, because she lost herself.

In those desperate and unpredictable stretches that take you back to the worst moments, may I (only somewhat hypocritically) invite you to be patient and kind to yourself.

Find the calm in the eye of the storm that brings you back to you.

Take space to nurture, be grateful, and forgive.

Find power and control in moving forward as your best self no matter what.

And maybe show a little extra vulnerability and allow the good people around you in.

The pain is a necessary part of the journey. 

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