Finding Resilience - Joanby Miracle Chasers on 05/17/20
Every morning as I wake I take inventory. First things first, so I make sure my fingers and toes still wiggle and then I say a quick prayer of gratefulness that I am fortunate to be able to rise and face another day. Like many mothers, I do a mental check in on my three children and their loved ones spread across the country. One on the front lines of COVID working as an emergency physician in Chicago, another ensconced in mid-town Manhattan following governmental orders not to leave, and one in CA able to enjoy the fresh air and arrival of a new puppy. I think of my mother fortunately still at home and the caregivers who attend her. And, I think of my socially active mother-in-law whose world has contracted to her neighborhood walks. I count my blessings that they are all well.
This time of the coronavirus is a defining moment in our lives as each of us is reduced to our lowest common denominator. How we procure food, paper products, and the staples of our livelihood. How we stay sane, between homeschooling, cooking, if we are lucky - working from home, if we are not, venturing out and trusting that others have our backs. None of us can escape the pandemic. What we can do is appreciate the small things we can still enjoy. I hope my daily walk is as helpful to me as it is to those I pray for along the way. Right now the problems in the world seem so overwhelming it is hard to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, I wonder if it really matters. But it does. Giving in to this devastating tragedy will only stop us in our tracks, it won’t make it disappear.
When thinking about tragedy I also think about resilience and how closely the two are tied together. Resilience is personal to each of us. For me, Paolo Coelho’s message of falling down seven times and getting up eight is a motto to live by (I just wish I didn’t take it so literally!). We are weighed down by events we have no control over, but that doesn’t mean we have to cede all control and be overpowered by them. In the some of the darkest days the world has ever known, even Anne Frank had her diary.
So how do we find this resilience, this ability to recover from difficulty? There are a multitude of techniques (shown in italics) that can help us build resilience of our own. One is to allow ourselves to accept our own feelings and try not to fear them. I strive to remember this as I think about my son in his PPE, funny to see him on Face-time without his usual millennial scruffy beard, now gone to facilitate a tighter fit of the mask he wears for hours on end. Letting go of judgment and blame is another recommended technique. With my years spent in the medical field it is hard not to become frustrated with our shortcomings from PPE scarcity to a lack of coordinated response. And yet, there is hope. Treatments, vaccines and new tests are all being developed at warp speed around the globe with an unprecedented level of cooperation and sharing. Another recommendation is to nurture a sense of humor. From late night TV to home videos, comic graphics, and soundbites, we now have permission to open these messages and take time to smile. Humor touches our core, feeds our soul, and keeps us human.
While Zoom and other web based apps facilitate working from home, they also allow us to reach out to others for sharing and support, which is another resilience technique. Many of us are getting creative in our online family time, playing games, doing puzzles, or in my family scheduling a virtual coast-to-coast wine tasting. Finding meaning in our personal challenges can be looking for the silver lining when it is not intuitively obvious. I see this resilience in my daughter as her wedding date approaches and will pass without the festivities she worked so hard to plan. But love is far more than a celebration and connecting to something greater helps to uncover the strength within us. Helping others whether through a donation, a kind word or deed, or volunteering to take over a task for someone in need are examples of seizing control over what we can.
One of my favorite quotes that Katie has shared with me over the years is from Henry Ford. “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” To be resilient we must believe in ourselves and in our ability to cope…not every minute, or even every hour, but in the end. It helps to think of other issues we have overcome. When I was first injured back in early February, thinking the pain would never end, the words of a friend that I was a great “heal-er” helped get me over the hump of self-doubt. Since then, and especially now, a gratitude journal or even taking just a few moments to think about what we are thankful for is helpful to identify our own good news (check out SGN with John Krasinski) and not be overcome by the bad news that surrounds us.
This time out forced upon the world has held many of us hostage, and its effects will be felt for years to come. Like everyone else, I need to be strong, help where I can, and find hope.