When I google* the word of the year for 2021, different dictionaries cite allyship (supportive association with another person or group), vax and vaccine. But Arianna Huffington
Just as we can benefit from mentors in our working lives, we can look for individuals who display resilience and try to learn from them. In my younger years I had no idea one person who would fill this role was my mom. It took my aging, gaining a bit of wisdom too, to recognize it as one of her anchors. In fact I sometimes misinterpreted her behaviour. When she didn’t don metaphorical ‘widow’s weeds’ after my dad’s sudden death (at age 62), I thought her callous. But as she often said, “life is for the living.” Mom’s resilience enabled her to enjoy another 22 years.
Cultivating resilience takes time, determination and practice. What measures to take, you may ask?
- Identify a purpose which, in our later years, can be challenging. In retirement I’ve volunteered at a museum, guided walking tours in West End Vancouver, become a Wikipedia editor, tested my skill on the piano at a community centre for further study (no), attended a course on suicide prevention to find out about serving as a crisis services responder (no), and more. Last summer, breaking out of 16 months of pandemic restrictions, I went on some trips — and devised a new purpose: to make family and friends feel better after spending time with me. Although I can’t evaluate my performance, my aim continues in this new year.
- According to an article in Mind Over Matter “acknowledging our special talents and abilities can … promote resilience through higher self-esteem and confidence.” I’ll add: if we’re too modest or uncomfortable to acknowledge ours, then ask someone who knows (and likes!) us to name a few.
- Our son planted sage advice in my mind from oft-quoted Winston Churchill: “The pessimist sees the difficulty in every situation, and the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Striving for a positive perspective when dealing with problems, large or small, is integral to resilience.
- Even though ‘self-care’ may now be deemed a buzz word, we must pay attention to it — through proper nutrition, adequate hydration, regular exercise, ample sleep and so on.
- Reframe our stories of past hardships to present as active not passive participants, as survivors not victims.
- The pandemic has proven the necessity for us to maintain strong, social relations. Connecting with understanding people (knowing a shoulder to lean or cry on) ensures we won’t face difficulties alone.
Resilience will not not free us from trials and tribulations or shelter us from trauma. We never overcome deep grief, for instance; it ebbs ands flows within us forever. But well-developed resilience aids us in pursuing satisfactory lives even under extraordinary circumstances.
As with most beneficial behaviours, including resilience, an ‘allyship’ with nature helps. •
* At the end of each decade, the American Dialect Society chooses a Word of the Decade: ‘web’ for the 1990s, ‘google’ as a verb for the 2000s.