BEHOLD, THE RESILIENT IVY! | #02
(AKA, the Official Plant of the Building Resilience newsletter)
Photo by Alicia Mary Smith on Unsplash
So maybe you’re wondering. . .
What’s Susan gotten me into with this Building Resilience newsletter and why is that ivy growing through that yellow and purple wall? Shouldn’t someone call a landscaper?
What the hell is resilience anyway? And what’s it got to do with a plant?
Is this newsletter going to be fun, Susan? It better be fun. And funny. If I get one more boring email crowding my inbox I’m going to—Isn’t anyone going to do anything about that ivy?
Yes, it’s going to be fun and funny. Now about the ivy. . .
The ivy is cool. You can cut it back and it bounces back. You can rip out the root, and it still manages to return, thicker, fuller, greener than before. Go ahead. Call a landscaper. The ivy will have the last laugh. Why? Because ivy is one of Mother Nature’s most resilient creations. No matter what trauma, adversity, or tragedy befalls it, it bounces back.
Our goal is to become like ivy.
The essential meaning of resilience.
Psychologists define resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.” These could include the death of someone you love, losing your job, learning that your forty-year-old son wants to come live with you. While these situations are tough and painful, not to mention terrifying (What do you mean you’ll live in your old room? That’s our sex den, er, sewing room now!) they don’t have to define the rest of your life. That’s where resilience comes in and helps you survive the situation, bounce back from it, and grow.
Think of resilience as a muscle.
I used to laugh at these 97-pound weakling ads for Charles Atlas. Worse still, since I spent every summer of my youth at the Jersey shore, I used to sit on my towel and point out people who could use his help. No wonder God made sure I was always sunburned. I was a brat. But really? Some program or pill was going to develop muscles on the skinniest of souls? Turn a string bean into a beast?
I’m sorry. If you want muscles, you have to work for them. And that includes your resilience muscle. Like other muscles, building your resilience muscle takes time and intention. It also involves focusing on a few core components, the first of which is:
Fostering wellness – in your head
Meditation, yoga, prayer, practicing gratitude, all of these are excellent ways of maintaining and restoring hope which is crucial during those times that require resilience. I do a bit of all four, though I’m particularly passionate about practicing gratitude. In fact, there’s something I like to call:
Survival of the Grateful-est
Survival of the Grateful-est is kind of like survival of the fittest, but better. It’s good to be fit, but it’s crucial to be grateful. It’s particularly crucial to be grateful at those times when it seems there is absolutely nothing to be grateful for. Your house burns down, your spouse is diagnosed with cancer, you lose the job you’ve given your life to. Dear God, what could you possibly find in any of those situations to be thankful for?
Your family was out of the house at the time.
Your spouse has a good oncologist.
You’re free to make a fresh start.
I know from personal experience how hard it is to see the silver lining in such clouds, and I know how angry one can get at the mere suggestion of looking for a positive in a tsunami of negatives.
You want me to find something good in the fact that my spouse is in the Oncology ward again, Susan? Are you serious?
In the midst of the crisis, we’re certain there is nothing to be thankful for so we cry, we can’t sleep, we curse God or the Universe for the shit that’s befallen us.
We exhaust ourselves at the very moment we most need strength.
The way to that strength is gratitude. And the way to find something to be grateful for, is to look for it:
You awaken in the hospital next to your husband’s bed after what feels like and probably is an entire 45-minutes of sleep, and the nurse hands you a fresh towel, toothpaste and a toothbrush and says, “Go, freshen up, I’ve got him.”
Right there, that’s your moment to be grateful – for the nurse, the toothpaste (thank God for the toothpaste!), the chance to take a quick shower and get your shit together. Don’t miss that moment. Stop and see that moment, absorb it, and be thankful for it.
Such kindness gives us hope.
Hope fuels resilience.
Your resilience muscle grows.
Your resilience building exercise for the next 7 days:
Work on fostering wellness in your head by trying any or all of these practices. Each fosters hope, and hope, as we just learned, is essential to building resilience.
You don’t need to sign up for a class, unless you want to, of course. If you do, you get the added benefits of getting out of the house and being with other people, both of which are mindfulness boosters. Of course, with Covid still running rampant, it might be safer to head to YouTube and check out Yoga with Adriene. My dear friend Jenn turned me onto this woman and her stuff is great. Plus, it’s free. Just pick a video (anyone will do) and start. Go ahead. No one’s watching. But I would like to hear how it went!
Again, the talented Ms. Adriene has some excellent meditation videos – for inner peace, calming anxiety, etc. They’re located here.
There are also dozens of free apps like Calm, Headspace, and Aura that are worth looking into. Each has its own approach, but the end goal is the same: to leave you feeling centered, calm, and refreshed.
You can also meditate without any kind of outside assistance. Just find a comfy place to sit where no one will bother you, find a spot in the distance to look at (or close your eyes) and, keeping your back straight and your breathing even, try to clear your mind. It’s difficult at first, so be patient with yourself. Try it for a minute, then two, etc.
Praying is very personal, so if you’d like to try it, please do it in the manor that feels most comfortable to you. As with meditation, find a comfortable place to sit away from any distractions, and close your eyes. (Or not. Up to you.) Say a prayer you were raised with or just talk to God or the Universe in your own way. God or the Universe may not get back to you right away, but the act of praying is, all by itself, restorative and calming.
Finding things to be thankful for comes down to one thing: looking for them. This requires us to stay present and open. It also requires a willingness to adjust our perceptions of things.
Let’s say you wake up tomorrow morning incredibly sore from all the gardening you did today. Rather than grousing about your sore thighs or aching shoulders, try being thankful for the fact that you are capable of working hard. Do you see what I’m suggesting? Spin your perception.
Trying taking a few minutes each day to jot down the things you’re grateful for. The act of writing down what we’re thankful for helps us get into the habit of gratitude, which helps build resilience.
That’s all for this week, friends. I’ll be thinking of you as you work toward increasing your resilience over the next seven days, and I will absolutely see you next Saturday!
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