“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” — Maya Angelou
Do you ever wonder how you’ve made it this far with everything life’s thrown at you and continues to toss your way?
You might credit your staying power to luck or to chance. You might thank divine intervention. Maybe all of the above.
Regardless of why, you’re still standing. Take a moment to celebrate that. Because by the time we’re 60, we bear the scars of countless situations that have tested our resolve. Through them all, we remain resilient.
Bouncing back might be innate, something we carry in our DNA that’s linked to our survival instinct. I’ve known many young people with unshakeable steadfastness that they surely must have brought with them into this world. Bouncing back is also a decision, something we set our minds to despite the odds.
Resilience is a muscle we develop over the course of our lives and strengthen every time a soul-searing circumstance gives us an opportunity to use it. I was certainly made stronger by three simple lessons that continue to inform me today.
Remember the meme that circulated a while back of a butterfly tied to a boulder, trying to drag it around? The caption said Note to self: let stuff go. (That’s the G-rated version, but you get the idea.)
This lesson took me years to embrace. I used to have a hot button for needing to be right, especially when I was convinced the other person was wrong.
I’d rewind events or conversations in my mind on a loop, playing alternate endings and changing the dialogue to what it “should” have been. Surprise… that didn’t change anything except how soundly I slept at night. Such a waste of energy and time.
Letting go still takes practice. Fortunately, each new day brings another chance to accept rather than resist those things we can’t influence or control. The baggage of what used to be or what should have been were just stories I told myself. Releasing their heaviness lightens your life.
Even though it often feels otherwise, you really can’t lose what you never had. In my youth, this lesson played out in all the jobs, relationships, or opportunities that I almost had or that almost happened. The ones that got away. How I’d mourn those losses!
Except that was a myth. Those people or situations weren’t mine to lose because, for various reasons, they weren’t really mine to start with. I wasn’t grieving things that slipped out of my grasp but rather those things I’d never been promised in the first place. I made myself miserable over “almosts.”
That bitter pill has become easier to swallow with the passing years. Mourning what might have been and resisting the need to let go are cousins, and they’re no match for my resilience these days.
Bouncing back from anything is easier when we believe that all will be well or that all is happening for the right reasons. It’s impossible to develop elasticity if we can’t develop trust.
Sometimes we trust a higher power. Knowing the universe has your back is a comfort in troubling circumstances.
Sometimes we trust in another person. Asking for help or sharing our burden with someone else plays a big part in strengthening our resilience. It’s only in recent years that I’ve become comfortable doing that.
Self-trust is essential, too. Often, as a young person, I fell in line behind someone else’s plans for me rather than listen to my own inner guidance system. So, sometimes I needlessly learned my lessons the hard way.
Self-trust is partly a feeling of no longer caring what others think, a feeling that takes root in this stage of life. Self-trust is also a certainty and an awareness that develop over time.
By the time we’re 50 or 60, we know ourselves better than anyone else knows us. We’re self-aware and understand what we truly need. And we trust ourselves to make our own best decisions.
We’ve also learned that no decision ruins us. Given enough time, support, and trust we usually rebound from our mistakes with new wisdom. That’s resilience.
Helen Keller’s words are inspiring: “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
Whatever lessons or practices have helped us come this far, we’re still here. And we’re stronger for all we’ve been through, flexing our resilience muscles along the way.
What life lessons taught you about your resilience and your ability to bounce back? Let’s have a conversation!