Choosing Resilience


This Easter Sunday, April 2020, I experienced something for the very first time. And on a day where we are calling on the hope of better days ahead all over the world, I can’t help but consider the fact that one of the things that I have learned to use in my life the most is resilience.

Ten years and nine months after first making a decision to be a family, I finally woke up in the same house in Canada as my daughter. The history of how we got here is filled with the stuff of bingeable, stranger than fiction docudramas. It has included everything from wrestling with an immovable bureaucracy, to global statelessness and poverty and the search to simply find a path forward. Then, in a crazy plot twist, it even culminated in the midst of a global pandemic.

But as I type these words, I am taking a moment to savour the fact that we still got here.

I have come to recognize that although resilience may be a word that we often use to identify a trait or state that is outside of us, the very essence of what it is can only be found through us.

Because resilience is more than a learned set of skills, tools or natural inclinations; it’s found in the choices we make, moment by moment.

And the first question I have learned to use on myself is, “How can I see my choices in this situation differently?”

Ultimately, it’s similar to Viktor Frankl’s call for us to seek meaning in what we are going through rather than the meaning of what is happening. It means to stop asking, “Why me?” and asking, “What decisions can I make in the middle of this about who I am and who I want to become?”

One of the (innumerable) lessons I have learned over the past decade as I have juggled two countries, two lives, financial destruction, personal loss, and new opportunities in life and love is that my ability to be resilient has rested largely on my perspective.

That perspective is not found in telling myself it could be much worse (that only seems to make us feel guilty for it NOT being any worse, don’t you think?). Rather, resilience is discovered through learning to step back and ask simple, honest questions of ourselves. Those questions are not about what’s outside of us, but they are a call to have the courage to go inside.

As our personal challenge dragged on, year after frustrating year, I would find myself losing the desire to talk about it to people all the time. Especially not people who held no help in the outcome. Not because I didn’t care - but because I cared so much about the journey of it all that I couldn’t get stranded emotionally in all the things that I was missing out on, had already lost, or that were still going wrong.

Instead, I gave myself permission to focus and live towards that which was fulfilling me and giving me a reason to see past it all.

I have made many mistakes on this journey. There is much to overcome in the days ahead, too. However, the contrast we live out, day by day, in our humanity, offers us more than just struggle. It also offers us the gift of discovering who we are capable of becoming despite it all.

I can’t make you more resilient. Sorry, it’s not my job! But, I can offer you some insights that others who have come and gone before us have shown. They have proven to be true in my own life, as well.

Here are five things I have learned through activating and nurturing my own resilience:

  •  Everyone has the same abilities to be resilient. You are not a special snowflake: you get to experience the contrasts of life and embrace it all just like everyone else.
  • Resilience is something we draw on right now and that it can evolve with us as we learn to be a little braver, day by day.
  • Resilience isn’t about getting it perfect - it’s about getting it done to the best that we can with what we have within our reach. 
  • We never lose the power of choice. We choose who we are and the lens of perspective that we will see our lives and situations through.
  • Let go of finding the best life...and simply live it right now.

I woke up this morning feeling grateful that I do finally get to live this chapter in our lives. It’s still complicated and there is still a long list of unanswered questions and challenges ahead. But I truly woke up grateful for all of the twists and turns that have brought us here.

We are all the authors and curators of our own story and we get to own it with all its ups and downs, amazing successes and epic failures. So... “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (Mary Oliver from the poem, “The Summer Day”)