"She stood in the storm
and when the wind did not blow her away,
she adjusted her sails."
Charles Krauthammer, who was a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Washington Post, died earlier this summer. He was by no means a political kindred spirit of mine, but I was drawn to read more about his life. I didn't know until recently that he was paralyzed in a diving accident when he was a first year medical student. With the help of many, but one professor in particular, he graduated from medical school and became a psychiatrist. He later became a political columnist.
The Washington Post opened their archives and I read some of his columns. One he wrote about resilience. In it, he talks about Roy Hobbs, the hero of Bernard Malamud’s “The Natural,” a baseball prodigy who tries to return to the game after being shot.
“No one knows why Hobbs is shot,” he wrote. “It is fate, destiny, nemesis. Perhaps the dawning of knowledge, the coming of sin. Or more prosaically, the catastrophe that awaits everyone from a single false move, wrong turn, fatal encounter. Every life has such a moment. What distinguishes us is whether — and how — we ever come back.”
I have been thinking more about trauma and how it changes lives. As Dr. Krauthammer says, "every life has such a moment.". I have had mine. You have had yours. I feel comfort knowing that, as Robin Roberts' mother told her when she was diagnosed with cancer, "everybody's got something". Knowing that bad things happen to all of us, that it is part of the human condition, somehow feels better than isolating with the idea that it only happened to me.
And I've been thinking about resilience too. Here's a simple definition. Resilience is being able to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens. Bouncing back. Getting back up and moving forward. Resilience is understanding that the future will not be like the past.
Learning from what's happened. Perspective taking. Staying flexible. Adapting to the reality in front of you. Remembering what matters to you and moving towards it. Connecting with others, we are not alone.
And at the risk of being a Pollyanna, life can be better on the other side of trauma. While it can seem so bleak in the vortex of the emotions that swirl around a traumatic event, I have seen how the very awfulness of the event, how when everything you thought you could count on was suddenly not there, that upending of what feels like everything, can become the very thing that allows you to start again. New and yet more you than you've ever been. Fresh but not naive. Wiser but not cynical. Allowing experience to make us more of who we already are, that's resilience. :-)
I love this quote from a 2006 commencement speech by Stephen Colbert at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois:
“Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything.
Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us.
Cynics always say no.
But saying ‘yes’ begins things. Saying ‘yes’ is how things grow. Saying ‘yes’ leads to knowledge. ‘Yes’ is for young people.
So for as long as you have the strength to, say ‘yes.’”
Open hearted. ♥ Try it. Take a chance. Experiment. Nice.
"I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become."
~ Carl Jung
"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."
~ Art Linkletter
At first read, I thought these two quotes were dialectics, that is opposing sides of the same idea. But reading them over and over, I think they are saying the same thing. That while we often don't control what life puts in front of us, we do control what we do with it, how we approach what life puts in front of us. Making the choice to focus on what we can control, even if it's only our response or reaction. Effective.
My name is Carol J. Tadeusik. I am a licensed psychologist in Durham, North Carolina. I invite you to read my blog and get to know me and a bit about how I think. And by the way, I love comments!
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