Resilience

“A butterfly whose wings have been touched, can indeed still fly” J. Raymond.

Today’s post is about the subject of resilience, which has been playing on my mind for a while now. To put it into context, the last 6 months have been without doubt the most difficult I’ve ever experienced (so far).

Without going into too much detail of my personal life, think relationship separation, suddenly finding myself living alone with a mortgage, potentially losing my visa to stay in Australia (because of separation), and now the prospect of my employment contract not being renewed in just two months time.

Testing times… and I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been struggling on a daily basis to keep my shit together, not only in a practical sense but also an emotional one. There have been days when I can barely make it through a day at work, sitting at my desk fighting back tears and trying to just keep breathing. During my extended periods of ‘alone time’ recently I have been pondering who I am and how to cope with my current situation. And this got me thinking about resilience.

IMG_3609There are a number of meanings to the word resilience. In scientific terms when considering a particular material, it is the ability of that material to absorb energy when a force is put upon it and then release the energy when the force is released, without being permanently deformed in the process. So a rubber band stretches (deforms) and stores the energy when you stretch it between your fingers, then releases that energy when you let go of one end and flick the elastic band at your mate sitting next to you, hitting them on the arm and leaving a big red mark.

The term resilience can be applied to biological ecosystems to refer to their ability to withstand stresses and recover – something that is being sorely tested in many coral reefs around world at the moment. Resilience has also been applied to human communities. The Transition Towns movement are working towards reducing our reliance on the whims of global economic systems and generating vibrant, resilient communities that can persevere and survive in the face of adversity. And I have to say, when looking around me and considering who would be on my crew in the event of the zombie apocalypse (or global collapse), I doubt that many people would survive well, so dependent we have all become on the global systems and frills of our modern lives. A little more independence and resilience would be a big benefit to most communities I would think.

What I imagine most people would think of when hearing the word resilience is the idea of psychological resilience. This is what got me started – my lovely dad saying to me on Skype one day that I would be OK, because “his daughter was resilient”. In psychological terms, resilience refers to the ability of a person to ‘bounce back’ after life’s setbacks, preferably without being permanently damaged by them.

Recent events have really tested my resilience and I have to admit I haven’t felt very resilient most of the time! But luckily, resilience is not a set-in-stone personality trait, but something that can be developed through behaviours and coping strategies, and arises not just from within you but as a result of your interaction with your environment and other people. So there’s hope at least!

With so many negative influences in our lives—the impending climate catastrophe, Trump, the Australian government still pushing to build a huge planet destroying coal mine, human rights and environmental abuses the world over, the list goes on—maintaining a positive outlook and being resilient is tough. Despite the often huge effort required in the face of the negative emotions I have been feeling, I’m taking some small steps to try to increase my resilience. And I have to admit, some of these things are working in almost imperceptible ways – I’m slowly realising that I have more to offer than I thought I did, and am starting to feel a little excited at the possibilities that could exist in the future.

Overall, I’m trying to figure out who I am now, and who I am becoming as I deal with the changes that are happening in my life. I’m hoping I’ll come out the other end a stronger, more resilient and not too damaged human being, hopefully having made some positive impact on the world along the way.

And I’ll leave you with these words by poet J. Raymond, which I saw a while ago on a Facebook post about career change, and have stuck with me ever since.

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