Scrolling through Twitter the other day I noticed a post from a fiction writer asking his followers if 2020 had been their worst year yet. ‘Not even close,’ I thought.
It’s true. 2018 will forever be my ‘annus horribillis’, even though ‘horrible’ feels like a massive understatement when describing the loss of your mum, your family, your job and your faith in humanity.
In searching for any kind of silver lining, the beam of my torch always comes to rest on my new levels of resilience. As I frequently remind myself, even in the darkest of times, I still managed to re-build my businesses, consulting and writing for clients and even winning an award for my growing little holiday let.
My bereavement counsellor once told me that the weight of grief never lessens, we just get stronger and more able to carry it. I like the analogy and often take comfort in Nietzsche’s words, ‘that which does not kill us makes us stronger.’
I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience lately (hence the post). I start where I always do – with the dictionary. It’s defined as ‘a person able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. Flexible.’ It got me wondering whether resilience is always a good thing.
I had a small setback yesterday. Yet another ‘lifeline’ small business grant denied based on rules fashioned for maximum PR and minimum actual investment. I wasn’t surprised, but to my immense irritation with myself, I felt disappointed and let down.
As I read the email, I felt my resilience muscle instantly flex in my defence. ‘Never mind, it’ll be okay, you’ll see!’ it chimed, ever the optimist and as it did, I felt its weight. The very thing that was supposed to help me battle on, felt like an impossibly heavy burden itself. So, I set it down.
If resilience is strength, flexibility and elasticity, then I think that there are days when you should allow yourself to be brittle in the path of strong winds. Days when you can and should splinter and break and bleed a little as you sit uncomfortably with your vulnerability.
Days when you need to look the reality of what is and who you are, squarely in the eye. Unless you can, unless you can hold that gaze unblinking, you are not resilient but blind to truth. At best, willing to tolerate things beyond reasonable limits and at worst, in thrall to false-hope syndrome.
Today is such a day. I feel like a warrior putting down my sword and shield so that I can survey the battleground and assess my troops. That’s probably why I’m blogging and not working on the new book or my new business plans.
You know, thinking about it, I don’t actually think that resilience is about being flexible and never breaking, nor is it about bouncing back quickly. I think it’s about knowing that no matter how many pieces you shatter into, you’ll always be able to put yourself back together, stronger and better than before.