In my research for Aging as a Positive Project I discovered author Mary Piper: an encourager for navigating life and flourishing as we age. She referenced a short book: a legend of two old women’s resilience after being abandoned by their tribe during a brutal winter famine. Early in Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival by Velma Wallis, one says to the other:
So I say if we are going to die, my friend, let us die trying, not sitting.
You or I may not experience such ‘do or die’ circumstances to test our resilience – but for certain life is unpredictable and doesn’t come with a memo of what we’re going to be dealing with.
I’m suggesting three practices to help us bounce back from what life delivers. Reading inspirational stories like that of the elder women; seeking sound counsel from sacred texts (the Judeo-Christian tradition is my choice); and especially – putting resilience into action in the everyday-ness of living.
Present-day and up close, in the lives of people I love, resilience looks like this:
Bolstering an aging father in his struggle with depression, with forgiveness for oneself when compassion and patience runs low.
Trying a new sport or creative endeavour because of interest and curiosity. Not for expectations to be the best or maybe even very good at it.
Enduring not only the tough week of the cancer diagnosis but surviving in the painful journey that could continue with no end in sight.
Believing in the potential and possibility for personally fulfilling work; viewing course-corrections of the past as circumstantial growth.
Backpacking a long hike knowing allergies or chronic injuries might present themselves en route. ‘I’ll work it out’ over-riding ‘I’ll stay home’.
Back to the legendary story. After several physically gruelling days, Sa’- the younger of the two women – acquiesced, “each step brings us closer to where we are going. Although I do not feel good today, my mind has power over my body, and it wants us to move on instead of staying here to rest – which is what I want to do.”
If there is one thing at the core of whether we’ll resist or respond to life’s situations with resilience, I would say it is CONTROL.
We can not control our world. Circumstances are often not headed in what we believe is the right direction; we’re tempted to assume we know how it’s going to play out. Things are not going to be as expected. We quit, get upset.
We can control our choices. It’s within our power to choose a mindset to think of what’s worked for us before; to determine to stay in the game and refuse to write “The End” across our story.
Resilience helps us dare to risk living large, to navigate the unknown details ‘between here and there’. I’ve just started following Catie’s blog, a 60-ish woman from Scotland to cheer her on in the dream to cycle the world by the time she’s 65.
Resilience is greater than bearing down and forever gritting our teeth. It’s the path to growth, to rewards (think motherhood), to repetition (think motherhood), to overcoming – as in the legend of the two women – to restoration.
What does resilience look like for you? If it’s especially challenging in this stage of life you may find my free downloadable handout helpful in some area.
Love and gratitude,
P.S. For comments, requests for a complimentary chat to consider working together for accountable vibrant living – at any age – you are welcome to contact me here.