By Libby Roderick, Roundtable Core Member
For me, resilience, on the personal level, involves the capacity to keep coming back, to keep engaging, to keep committing one’s life to love in all its forms, again and again, with an (at least relatively) open heart and undampened spirit, in spite of losses, blows, disappointments, missteps, misunderstandings, deprivations, and other hardships. Resilience means using defeat as a springboard for spiritual transformation (“Winning does not tempt that man. This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, by constantly greater forces.” –Rilke). Resilience involves a fundamental connection and commitment to the inherent joy of being alive, the joy of life itself. And to the sovereignty of reality. (One of my favorites by a modern spiritual leader: “Reality always wins. But only always.”)
Looking for what there is to learn from any situation or person, no matter how painful or foreign they may seem; using each new loss or change to try and make oneself stronger, more flexible, and more loving; finding in one’s own challenges an opportunity to build community with and extend compassion to the legions of others who suffer similar pains; seeing the beauty in and embracing what is, rather than stubbornly insisting that things be the way we wish them to be ~ these are all components of resilience in my personal experience. What other real choices do we have? To grow rigid and bitter? To constantly fight reality? And always lose?
As it happens, I have suffered some large losses in my life, beginning when I was quite young and rarely letting up since then. These losses have left some treadmarks on my heart and nervous system. (But not, I feel compelled to add, on my underpants. One of my favorite lines in modern literature comes from Anne Lamott, who said that any good writer needs to make peace with the fact that at some point a critic will publish a review that describes his or her work as “treadmarks on the underpants of life.” In terms of my creative life, I have so far been spared tire tracks on my lingerie. Something to look forward to? ) If I did not choose to greet each new loss as an opportunity for spiritual transformation, a chance to let my heart break open more widely and deeply to life and to love, to reach out to and connect with others, to soften the edges of my individual personality so that I merge more profoundly with the rest of creation, I can only wonder what would have become of me!
So, for me, on the personal level, resilience is about adaptation, humor, surrender, grieving, compassion, an awareness of our interdependency and mutual vulnerability, and a profound commitment to the inherent joy of life. How does this translate into resilience at the community level? Can’t wait to talk with all of you about that.