Resilience and grit – two words I heard quite a bit at the two day conference I attended this week. I don’t care for Webster’s definition of resilience because it states that it is “coming back quickly” – like no big deal. I like this one better – Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. How many of you hear that phrase or song “What doesn’t kill makes you stronger.” now? The words resilience and grit were woven through our workshops because we as teachers were encouraged to get our students to demonstrate this in our classrooms to which I totally agree. This year marks my 15th year as a teacher and this past year had to be the roughest ever simply because I had students who quit easily or wanted me to do the work for them. Plus – a host of parents who had excuses at the ready further enabling their child. However – these were not the faces that came to mind when they asked us to picture students who reflect this quality.
If you know me and my family at all, you know we are not strangers with pain, adversity – basically – going through hell at times. Notice the word choice – going through. It is active and paints a picture, in my mind, moving forward and not wallowing in self pity. We’ve had lots of experience – like it or not – to become resilient people. This year was no exception. It began this time in March 2017 when my older daughter’s now ex-husband decided he didn’t want to be married anymore – and walked out the door with no desire on his part for reconciliation. Their marriage had some bumps – like most -and work had been done to smooth them out. He was done with the work. Now I know why divorce is compared to a death because it is the death of a marriage – and you lose a family member who was your husband, son and brother and it hurts. My whole family experienced the pain differently. At least when someone dies, you don’t feel too awkward mentioning their name in conversation. In some cases, it helps in the healing process for those grieving process to share happy memories. I’m not seeing that being the case in a divorce. From this side of it, I wanted to erase any memories of her ex – our ex. Pictures were taken down, social network connections were broken, and the only mention of the name was in “what next” plans for her future without him. I think what has hurt the most from my side was helplessly watching our daughter go through this pain and feeling so inadequate because I really did not know how to help her. In reality – all I wanted to do was a mix of smashing things and holding her. Well – at the time – there wasn’t anything around I could smash, but I decided there was plenty of opportunity to help in other ways – practical ways. However, a few months later I did smash something – his Christmas ornament. Did I feel better afterwards? Not really. I mainly worried if, when, she would recover. I wanted to take the pain away and “make it all better” yet I knew that was impossible. Her world, as she knew it, had been destroyed like the ornament I smashed with the sledge hammer. I worried how she could fit the pieces back together again.
Over the past year, I’ve seen the pieces fall into a new beginning. My amazing girl metaphorically stood at the crossroads of her life and made a choice, and I heard in my head the words my Grandma often quoted to me – “Life has trials and you have a choice in what it does to you – it can make you better or it can make you bitter.” My daughter got back up on her feet and chose to move forward with her life – one piece at a time. She focused on getting healthy, going back to school to finish her degree, and helping others get back on their feet through her ministry. I know it has not been an easy journey for her. When I think of resilience – this is who I think of – my not so little girl who got knocked down, but got back up stronger. I can’t look at her through the eyes of the past when she was learning how to walk and collapsed on the ground in tears because it was too hard. Nor is she the little girl who took one look at my reading curriculum during our home school days and became frustrated thinking she’d never learn to read because it was going to be hard. (the manual was enormously thick and I’m sure daunting, yet she didn’t know we took it one day at a time!) She’s faced lots of other challenges in her life, and I know there is probably more to her story, but that’s just it. The rest is her story. I’m just the observer and the learner. I’ve learned that she’s learned how to become resilient at a young age.
Bottomline – I see resilience as a choice. I honestly have no idea how to teach this choice to others when I see it as a personal, internal choice one must make on their own. All I can see doing is encouraging others and standing by offering my hand to help them back up again when circumstances knock them down. We cannot do the work for those in crisis; however, we can be there for support. If there is any take away from this for me, it is just that.