Resilience: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness (the dictionary) or “I get knocked down, but I get up again” (Chumbawamba).
When I need a book, it appears. I can’t think of any exceptions. This time, it was Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resistance And Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. https://www.forbes.com/sites/francesbridges/2017/05/27/5-ways-to-build-resilience-from-sheryl-sandberg-and-adam-grants-new-book-option-b/#4799276d4115
So, here is how I felt before the book (read to very end for the turn-around):
Remission: a peculiar state of being.
Remission is kind of grateful and fearful and mixed up and present and remote. The after-effects of cancer take different forms, like a band of bad elves, dancing through my life leaving footprints on my body and soul.
Yes, in the future, cancer and its draconian management will be viewed like the plague and its medieval cures. But that is not now. However, it is the beginning of then. Yes, I am grateful. Beyond measure. Everyday. Yes, I am aware of the legions that participated in my recovery. Yes, cancer has changed me. Yes, there have been many gifts. They poured through me from the moment I was diagnosed, and they continue.
But cancer also still wants its due, now, in remission. It extracts payment every day. But as a friend commented, “paying is staying” and so I pay the price it asks each day, and sometimes there is nothing left over for anything else. But sometimes there is.
At the Roche Harbor Mausoleum, I am transfixed by the symbol of the broken pillar. Clearly, this is how death takes most of us, in the midst of what we doing… the column breaks, and that’s the end of your story. But remission has no such representation. We are all partly shattered by life and we all live in precarious but often mysteriously beautiful circumstances. I think the difference is living in remission means you are aware of that. Many people aren’t. And it is not a truth easily expressed.
The future is precarious
But then, life has always been dangerous. I know this much. We do not live in the country we once imagined we did. Our foundations of democracy have been seriously challenged and injured. We are being challenged at a deep level. The person in the White House is a would-be dictator. We don’t want to talk about it. We barely want to know it. It’s all too much.
The news hurts us but also we are starting to understand how we have grown soft, made cozy with white privilege, and basically just want it all to go away as we pull up the covers and rest in the benefits that are in such danger of being stripped from us. (Yes, I see all the positive actions as well. I am, however, very concerned about our inability to get out of our bubbles).
Meanwhile, climate change approaches. I am reasonably educated in the science but honestly, I can’t really imagine it. The changes throughout the earth and the changes in the ocean are incomprehensible to my animal body sitting here, typing these words in the sweet hygge of my living room.
What I do know is that I love the things that are even now changing. The trees I adore are in the line of fire, quite literally, of the coming changes. Trees are interesting beings. Their very essence is to stand still, no matter what. They stand outside in the rain and scorching sun, they stand until they break in storms, and they stand until the wildfires that are all over the news surround and burn them down. Trees whisper one strong message to me… stand today. Do your work. Live in community. These silent voices instruct me how to live even as climate change approaches, like smoke on the horizon, with a growing orange glow.
Meanwhile, this day, this moment… learning to imagine it all the way out to what I know is coming is to learn to stand, because as it grows, none of us will be able to get out of the way. It is also a vivid reminder to love this moment with a sweet intensity.
The Turn-Around: Option B
So, there you have the dark of it. The discouragement and side-effects are real. But. Can’t stay there. Mary Oliver’s eternal question still stands: “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”
Sandberg and Grant write that resilience is like a muscle, it can be built-up. Life is never perfect, and doesn’t always go according to plan. Sandberg’s husband died, leaving her with two young children. She had to figure out how to live in Option B.
In our own lives, and now on the planet, and in our country, we are always on the brink of the broken column. Building the capacity for resilience is our task.