Wise Women: On Resilience

01/07/2016 12:45 pm ET Updated Jan 07, 2017
Native American woman wearing sportswear
Native American woman wearing sportswear

A new year always seems to bring about a feeling of buoyancy. Though the first day of the new year does not instantly relieve us of yesterday's worries, there is a sense of renewal that invigorates our very being. We often act as if a timer has been reset.

But, what do we do in the in-between time? How do we call forth the strength to come back from otherwise adverse circumstances?

Any number of situations can reduce us to feeling like there is no way to return to wholeness--no way to even consider the possibility. But time and time again, we witness the resolve of the human spirit to pierce through the weighty blanket of devastation.

This month's Wise Women article asked the question, "What have you learned about the capacity for resilience?"

These five women have thrived beyond potentially damaging experiences: physical, emotional and sexual abuse, domestic violence, abandonment, murder, cancer, addiction (witnessed and experienced) and war. They are undoubtedly teachers on the art of the comeback. Here are their answers:

For much of my life, resilience looked like one of those plastic Bozo the Clown toys. You knocked them down and they popped right back up - and I followed suit, whether the blow was physical or emotional. Over and Over.

Now resilience manifests differently, with far more grace. It's clear to me that it is the ability, yes, to rise over and over again, no matter what life may bring - and more than that, the intention to choose living over stagnancy, light over shadow, love over fear. It is what allows us to heal ourselves, each other and the world.

Christa Gallopoulos
Creative at large

More than once, I've had to collect the remains of myself from the rubble of tragedy. Laying there half alive, in pieces and disillusioned, I learned many lessons about resilience. Perhaps the most important was coming to understand that it is not about "bouncing back to the original form" or enduring difficulty without being changed.

Instead, resilience is having the capacity to be scorched inside the inferno of red hot devastation and embracing - rather than resisting - the renovation demanded by disaster. Resilience is an unwavering rebelliousness to bet on the best while navigating the worst.

k. Neycha Herford
Project creator of The Badass That Hope Built™ and author of White Noise: The Underbelly of Traumatic Loss.

We rarely think about resilience until faced with a crisis. Cancer was my crisis. Yours might be a lost job, a lost love, a stubbed toe. Regardless, here is what I know.

We all have an infinite capacity for resilience. Resilience is not painting over the tapestry of your life with rainbows and unicorns. It's about looking beyond the surface to what lies beneath.

Resilience is the hard work we do every day to see something -anything-beautiful in the ugly reality of life.

Jenn McRobbie
Author of Why Is She Acting So Weird: A Guide to Cultivating Closeness When a Friend is in Crisis

The older I get the faster I bounce back - emotionally - because I have gotten to know my process between my thoughts, emotions, and behavior. I recognize when my thoughts and emotions begin to have a back-and-forth that sets in heaviness or doubt. I have found so many answers while being (not fighting to change it) with the discomfort of sadness, fear, and even guilt.

This space of recognition is ultimately what saves me. To listen, not react outwardly, only inwardly - and by inward, I mean life below the shoulders. Staying in your head can work against your resilience - find a way to get out of it.

Sahar Paz

War survivor, Author, Speaker

With any aspect of our lives--pleasure, pain, a relationship, work--each moment we have some power available to us. We can accept that our world is constantly changing or we can attach ourselves to a (mistaken) notion of control. When we see what we cannot control, we realize what we can control: how we respond to life.

Acceptance gives us the gift of resilience --fully joining the flow of life without being defined by what happens. As Maya Angelou said, "You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them."

Sharon Salzberg
Cofounder of Insight Meditation Society
Author of Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program

These women eloquently describe the combined beauty, strength, and grace of what can live on the other side of hardship. Resilience is evidence of the internal reset button-not a rewind, but a reset. The willingness to move through the world in one's current, altered form.

What have you learned about your own capacity for resilience?