Resilience: No Cement Required


I have always prided myself on my resilience. . . .I am strong. . . I have lived through a lot and survived. I have come out on the other side and on the other side I have found myself. This has been my story for many years-- I am resilient and sometimes that has made me hardened, but I am okay with that. That is until months before my 35th birthday.

I was sitting in one of the most blessed experiences of my life-a six day immersion in the science and research of positive psychology, launching a year of study in this amazing field. I was listening to a lecture by a world renowned, former Harvard professor on authenticity and resilience and as he spoke about resiliency there was disconnect in what he said and what I had known. The disconnect was so unsettling in my mind and body, that in a room full of 200 people I asked if he could speak to how the hardened parts of resilience played into the idea of authenticity. AND to be honest a year later, I don’t remember his answer.

BUT, I do remember what followed the lecture. After the lecture, one of the most beautiful human beings I have ever met approached me. She had a hesitant smile and tears gathering in the corners of her eyes and she asked me if she could share a story of her own experience. She shared with me the lessons she had learned about resilience and hardness. . . . she shared with me the images of resilience as flexible and adaptable and open to new experience and the lessons she had learned of being hardened and heavy and breakable.

Her words and her imagery sat with me, it led me to write and reflect and talk to others and explore these ideas in great depth. Her words wove themselves into the very fabric of who I am as a person and who I will be moving forward in this life.

There are times in the last year that I have been walking with my kids and seen statues that are hardened cement with the idea of preserving and honoring the idea of a person for decades to come, but when you look closer you see the erosion and the fragility of something made to be so solid, yet unable to adapt to the elements of the world. If this was hardened, it was not for me.

Last month, I was back in the same lecture hall with the same 200 people, feeling like a return to where we all started from, yet I was a different person. I was still resilient, but I was less hardened. I had learned the value and the strength of being vulnerable, flexible, open. I found that same amazing woman in the crowd and as I hugged her and cried and thanked her, I felt the strength and growth and resilience of the lessons I had learned in the past year.

Yes, I am resilient; life and experience and survival and growth have made me that. Yes, I am strong and authentic and determined. But today, I am no longer hardened. Hard was something I made myself; hard was something that would have been broken down and eroded over time, but instead it has become something I chose to shed.