TWIL (This Week I Learned)
This week: resilience. Resilience is a skill that takes a lifetime to develop.
The only way to develop it is to face adversity, lean in, and start working.
^^ Note that the above two lines are as much a reminder to myself.
What I want to focus on is the core human dignity that lies at the heart of resilience.
Weirdly, most of the time, the adversity we face comes from fellow humans. We need each other — we need to lift each other up, to support each other, to care for each other. I answered a question on Quora last week that stuck with me. A person was fired for calling their boss an idiot. Not to their face, but the boss found out. I answered that I felt that would stifle innovation and was not a smart way to lead a team — to fire someone for the occasional irritation with the boss.
I was schooled by people who said I likely had never worked in service or “unskilled jobs”
Oh for goodness’s sake — of course I have. I started in a tiny kitchen with a slightly unstable but brilliant pastry chef, who kept loaded machine guns in the kitchen alongside his knives. Later I found out that he had run away from home at 14, joined the French Foreign Legion, and parachuted into Beirut. Once I made dinner for him and my Dad. When we heard the doorbell ring, my Dad leaned over to me and said, just as we opened the door, “Don’t ask him if he’s killed anyone. It’s rude.”
Late at night, after guests had left and we were finished washing dishes (by hand), wet towels whipped through the tiny space and everyone would laugh.
I never once called him an idiot. I was too scared. And besides, he was brilliant and I was learning too much, too fast.
I have, however, worked for idiots. I have watched incompetent people high on having never faced adversity but somehow feeling superior (?how?) berate co-workers, etc.
I have, of course, been berated, treated poorly, etc.
Since I am old now, I can say definitively that none of those people who berated, talked down, tried to hurt, etc could have ever parachuted into Beirut.
When I am feeling like a puddle that is being sloshed in by a large muddy boot, I sometimes remember Fabrice, or by this point in my life, countless others I have had the good grace to know, who have faced adversity, created art and given back — become kinder, more real.
^^ Yes, it’s a Velveteen Rabbit reference.
“To be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity. The only people who lose their humanity are those who believe they have the right to render another human being powerless. They are the weak. To yield and not break, that is incredible strength.”
― Hannah Gadsby
But if you break a little…
“If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces."
[Blueprint for a Breakthrough (2013)]”
― Shane Koyczan
*I am including occasional links to books — if you purchase something after clicking the link, I may get a small bit ‘o cash…and you help indie bookstores. Yea.
Sometimes when I see stuff about resilience and I am feeling like a puddle I just want to scream.
On the other hand, we always feel better once we’ve gone to the gym, so…
Off we go :)
You can’t learn resilience by reading about it. You learn about resilience by parachuting into whatever your adversity is and figuring it out.
Importantly, the key to resilience is not “soldiering on” — though you will continue, the key is to recognize the adversity, then notice our own lovely “autonomic system” that is working so hard for us to keep us safe, keep us well, keep us healthy.
Notice our breathing — We’re breathing! Notice our hearts beating steadily. Notice our eyes blinking, our throats swallowing.
For people in Abraham’s Tent — Jewish, Christian, Muslim — We were breathed into life. God’s name is breath. Consider that for a bit as you breathe and slow your breathing.
So — What’s your adversity? Name it. Write it down. Acknowledge it.
Then realize that you got this. It’ll take practice. It’ll take time. But resilience is a thing you can build.
Building resilience is kind of like becoming attuned to seeking out safety — At first, you look around and everything looks scary and unsafe and hopeless.
Your heart beats faster, you can’t slow your breathing, all you see is burnt out landscape, terrifying zombie people where friends should be, and a foreboding sky.
Then, you spy a small yellow flower growing up in the rubble, next to your foot. You can see its roots literally beginning to change the landscape as they dig down, looking for water.
So — from that tiny flower, and there is always a tiny flower, starts hope. And from that craggy finger hold (yup, switching metaphors, hold on tight!) you can begin to climb up and out.
This week, once you have written down and acknowledged your adversity, begin to keep a written log book of hope. Hope is the beginning of resilience.
Notice that flower, that kind word, that sunset, that moon. Notice people who are kind. Begin to home in on kindness — seek it out. Give a little, even when you feel like it’s such a precious resource that if you give your last bit of kindness it’ll all be gone.
It won’t — That’s not how kindness works. Weirdly, when you start throwing it around with abandon, it often starts to seek you out and you end up with more kindness than you actually know what to do with — Seriously, don’t we all want that sort of problem right now?
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
Actually, and kind of strangely, the same often happens with gentleness, generosity, patience…
Give what you can, as you can. Rest when you need to. See what happens.
And, as always, seek out a trusted therapist, coach, or counselor, when you feel the need/want.
9. Hero: Viktor Frankl — Man’s Search for Meaning
Why? If you’re ever at a loss for heroes who have faced adversity…
10. Take Care of Yourself This Week and Share if you know someone who might like this. Please share with someone you think may enjoy this weekly.
Wild and Precious Podcast, the audio partner to 10 Things, is available everywhere you download podcasts.