Resilience (In The Age of Dumpster Fires)

One could say that I’m an embodiment of it. .

Resilience, before I could even comprehend it.

And yet, trying to harness it in 2020 feels like a joke. For most of us anyway. 

Cliche? Kind of. Overrated? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely, yes. 

It feels weird to say this, but in a way it’s almost as if the pain from previous years has prepared me for this one. 

What Hurt You Isn’t Going to Heal You. 

My early twenties were full of anger and angst, mostly regarding transitions where I felt neither protected nor validated. There was some resurfacing of past trauma, and then retraumatization all over again. I spent a lot of time stuck in my head, which brought on intense loneliness and fear of abandonment.

I thought I needed an apology to move forward, and pursued it with reckless desperation. I longed for a kind of nurturing and assurance that I wasn’t going to get from those around me, and it would be a while before I learned how to set boundaries and have reasonable expectations. 

A few months ago, an ex (whom I’ve referred to as Ben) tried to come back into my life. While grateful to finally have answers, his explanation regarding the circumstances didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t want to be with someone who attributed a serious situation to bad luck, rather than taking responsibility for his actions. It was emotional, bringing up a lot of what I had already closed the door on over a year ago. I had to mourn the end of that relationship all over again, and for what? 

My point is, apologies for causing pain aren’t always the balm we think they are. They have to come from a genuine place of contrition, rather than manipulation or lip service. But to demand or wait for one is almost always going to hold you back, rather than push you forward.

There Is Room For Both. 

It’s becoming one of my favorite sayings, especially when it comes to dealing with feelings versus logic, or many all at once. Anger, sadness, frustration, and the like can equally coexist with relief and hope for the future. You’re allowed to acknowledge hurt and pain, while recognizing that everyone involved was doing the best they could with what they knew at the time. 

I can remember a sit down conversation that was a long time coming, and afterward my mind went blank. It was partially due to emotional exhaustion, but additionally I wasn’t sure how to feel. At the time, it seemed like I had to be completely at peace in order to put the situation in perspective. And then as I was sharing it afterward, somebody whom I admire and trust dropped a truthbomb.

“You don’t have to decide anything; feelings come and go, and what’s more important is how you deal with them.”

It was life-changing, and I wish I had grasped it sooner.

Reframing Helps.

Moving forward is tricky, especially in regards to when and how to do it. Ruminating on anything takes a lot of energy, and eventually I get tired of being pissed off or upset. Yet, it seems like the modern-day definition of letting go is to do so and never talk about it again, let alone think about it. But what if there was a better way? 

A different viewpoint does go the distance. The things that happen to you might actually  be happening for you. A relationship that ends is painful, but it can also be a freedom or a catalyst for much needed change. Job loss doesn’t mean that you’re not enough, or that you’re not cut out for your field. What might be right in one respect could turn out to be wrong in another. 

Life happens in seasons, and not all can be there to walk with you through each one of them. It means you’re growing and evolving, and that is more than okay. 

How I carry on often comes down to these two questions: What do I have control over, and what do I not? Occasionally it’s what other choice do I have? I’ve had my heart broken, and despite the passage of time, am still triggered by a song, a place, or an event. The bitterness and sadness resurfaces, where the best thing I can do is acknowledge it and then let it be.

However, there are definitely exceptions: I will never tell a parent who outlives their child how to grieve, and vice versa. There are no silver linings when it comes to abuse and/or assault, and putting that on survivors is a slap in the face. Yes, there is healing, but that and the tragedy should be treated as separate circumstances. 

Practice Real Self-Care.

It sounds like a fluffy little buzzword, but taking care of yourself is a combination of doing the work and also seeking out joy. I’m an advocate for taking time to reflect through therapy and writing, seeing what role I played in a situation and what I’ve learned from it. Books and podcasts are like an extension of that, but in the sense of soaking in and meditating on it. As human beings, we should always be striving to grow and improve ourselves, even when it’s incredibly difficult. I don’t like realizing that I’ve hurt people, or most likely I contribute to a problem. But the work never hurts as bad as the wound itself. 

Like working any muscle, you have to allow yourself time and opportunity to rest. Go for a walk. Blast your favorite music and throw a dance party. Eat your favorite foods. Dress up merely for the sake of doing so. What makes you feel alive is just as important as crossing things off your to-do list. Whatever you do out of love and enjoyment is never a waste of time.

Staying grounded, particularly on a spiritual level, is important to me. I’m learning to turn off the news and put my phone down, even at the risk of missing out. While necessary to be informed, it doesn’t help if I’m in a constant state of anxiety and distress.

As I write this, I’m experiencing what is now being called pandemic fatigue. I understand the need to follow the guidelines, but from a mental standpoint, it doesn’t make it any less tiring. I’m now just getting comfortable asking, “can I cry with you?” while holding space with loved ones who are struggling. When I’m being vulnerable, it’s not always about looking for comfort, but wanting to feel connected and close to people. It’s unfortunate when real, honest expression is mistaken for negativity, and it bugs me. 

It’s one thing to be independent, but another to do so where you’re afraid to need anybody entirely.

Many of us are in the same storm, different boat scenario right now. We all want something to look forward to, and a light at the end of the tunnel. 

And we keep going; one day at a time, one foot in front of the other.

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