I recently attended a conference about resiliency, which got me thinking about what that word really means. By definition resilience is the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens, or the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed or bent. Beyond the definition, it is sort of hard to describe what it looks like in real life.
Are you born with it? Can it be developed? Can it be learned or taught? There are so many questions that surround resilience, but one thing is for sure, it is a key to surviving the struggles of this life.
I personally believe that it can be taught and learned, and I believe resilience has a direct link to taking action. It is often hard choices in very difficult situations that create, prove and develop resiliency. I can relate tangible actions that I have made in my life that have created a strong resiliency within me, being able to bounce back time and time again after a tragic event, I see many examples of others around me as well.
As I’ve watched myself, Scotty and other people I admire display resilience, I really think it comes down to 4 things:
Being able to make hard decisions that may be unpopular, misunderstood or unchartered, but you know is the right thing to do, or something you have such a strong conviction about. In these moments, you listen to your “gut”, despite what feels safe.
You have to be extremely vulnerable to find resiliency and you have to realize vulnerability is not weakness, it’s simply being tough enough to face the truth. It allows you to be honest with yourself about the situation you are in and the reality of how you are feeling. It helps you to see the whole picture instead of whatever obstacle is currently in your way. Vulnerability was a huge part of me finding resilience in my life. It took me a while to realize how to do this.
For Scotty he realized very quickly that he was not going anywhere if he did not open up and share his brokenness and his fears, while at the same time sharing his innermost hopes and dreams. For me this process took a lot longer.
It was easy for me to be vulnerable about Scotty, but vulnerability for myself was a whole other story.
For me, it ultimately came from a break down. I had dedicated my life to seeing Scotty get back on his feet and fully recover. Once he reached that point, everyone assumed since Scotty was better, Tiffany must be better too, but that wasn’t the case. I was stuck in the denial phase of the 5 stages of grief. I was breaking at every point, I could not make sense of the chaos in my head, I prayed God would take it away and in his wisdom, He did not. I pleaded, I bargained, and ultimately I gave up and started over. Starting over led me to a breaking point, where I admitted I needed help, I voiced my side of our story. I was in such a fragile place that I could not be left alone for months, how humiliating for such a “tough girl” who had just survived so much, but was I really? I quickly realized that being vulnerable was my new tough and strong.
I remember at one of my lowest points a mentor and friend said, “Tiffany you are going to come back from this stronger than ever.” At the moment I thought “yeah right, that’s impossible. I can barely function through a day right now and you’re telling me I will come back stronger than the last 10 years I’ve just lived.”
As I began to process through my stages of grief, I started to see my strength come back. The hardest part for me was feeling misunderstood and not knowing how to communicate all my feelings effectively. On one hand I felt like a weak, unstable pathetic version of my once tough self, and on the other hand, I knew great change was about to take place.
Change is essential to resiliency. At that point in my life, change was a refreshing breath of fresh air because I knew a lot needed to change. Scotty and I needed change, we needed to hash through our thoughts, struggles, ideas, hopes and dreams. I used to hate the idea of change. Now Scotty and I embrace change, we see it as a gift not a curse and welcome it. Well hello change, what are you going to teach me through this? What are we going to accomplish through this change? Resilience starts with a choice and ends with change.
We both set out to find mentors and counselors who could help us better our marriage, better ourselves, and begin to work towards our hopes and our dreams.
I was soon able to see that I had never accepted blindness for my life. I had accepted it for Scotty, but not for myself.
Once acceptance took place, I began to make small steps forward, though very small, at least I was moving in a positive direction. The words that Coach K said about resilience rang in my head, resilience is just like offense, at the time, I was always playing offense for Scotty and defense for myself.
Realizing you can’t do it alone is another vital part to finding resilience. It does not matter how smart, successful or rich you are, you cannot accomplish much all by yourself. To be resilient, you must be able to find those key people in your life that can inspire and motivate you, the power people who are there to help you along your journey. After realizing I could not play offense and defense at the same time, I began to play offense for both Scotty and I, and he began to play offense for me too. It took a village to get us where we are today.
Where do you need some resilience? Maybe in your marriage or home life, or maybe you lost your job and are wondering what is next? Maybe you’re watching a loved one suffer or are suffering yourself. Whatever place you find yourself, please realize that the path to resilience is always open.