Being Resilient


Written Summer of 2014

I looked in awe as I watched my mother and my aunt turn and walk to the door at Souderton Mennonite Homes, compassionately leaning on each other, yet also steadying each other. My mother has struggled with congestive heart failure in recent months and my aunt has been receiving chemotherapy for cancer, but off they went, finding the support and encouragement they needed together.

We all need to feel needed. I’ve recently realized this as I have been searching for a new job that uses my 50 year old gifts and helps me cope with an empty nest. I realize it’s not an easy place to be…plenty of educational degrees and spunk to last a lifetime, but nevertheless…over 50. How do I continue to feel like a vital part of life when my daughter, my last child, travels 1000 miles away to study architecture at Iowa State University? That distance alone has my heart reeling. What if she needs me? What if she gets sick? What if she feels alone and desperate and yet is so far away? I could use a stimulating job to distract me.

So what keeps people like my mother and my aunt going when they’ve experienced health issues and have lost husbands and other loved ones? Resiliency seems to be what keeps the newly ousted New York Times executive editor, Jill Abramson, moving forward. She touted in a speech to Wake Forest University, “It meant more to our father to see us deal with a setback and try to bounce back than to watch how we handled our successes. Show what you are made of…” In a recent article from the Boston Globe, Deborah Kotz suggests tips on developing resiliency:
1. Have a sense of realistic optimism. Stay positive in the face of adversity.
2. Rely on a social support system. You need friends and loved ones to buoy you in times of distress.
3. Work from your strengths, not your weaknesses. Write down the five things that are best about you and let those things lead you, rather than listing deficiencies that need to be overcome.
4. Set goals. Research indicates that people who establish goals are more resilient.
5. Be mindful. Acknowledge that opportunities abound. Part of being mindful also involves being authentic in how you handle the situation. Knowing that you are staying true to yourself throughout can make you more resilient.
6. Embrace the small rough patches. See minor challenges — like dealing with a new boss or a flood in your basement — as a way to build your resiliency over time.
7. Adopt an attitude toward gratitude. Rather than dwelling on all the things you don’t have or used to have, think of what you do have that you can be grateful for.

These are things my mother and my aunt must have learned a long time ago…because at ages 96 and 91, they certainly are resilient.