Into Shape

Barry - New Haven, Vermont
Entered on September 1, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

Into Shape

Last year I left my best friend. Leaving her brought my deepest loss in twenty years. Then—in an abrupt change—I had to move yet again. Now I have a year to get back on my feet, to learn the things that come more easily when I have to start over. Parts of me have died, and I must find other sources of life to renew myself and make the loss count.

The word is resilience. It derives from the Latin resilire, which means “to recoil” or “jump back,” as does the word resile, which means “to abandon a position or course of action.” Resilience, then, is the ability to change course or bounce back into shape after strain. It develops from the cycle of stress and recovery that builds strength, endurance, and flexibility. More crucial to success than talent or inspiration or discipline, resilience means getting back up, time and again, and getting back in the game.

For me, resilience begins with seeing the problem and soothing myself. The word soothe comes from the Old English word sothian, which means, “to show to be true.” To soothe is to calm the stress, to comprehend the situation and verify what counts. Then I can bounce back. Then I can move from the torpor of fear and grief and confusion to the vitality of creative advance.

But I cannot foresee what I will need before a loss occurs. In this case, though my lifelong passion is drumming, I have not wanted to play or even listen to music. My heart just has not been in it. Some day this muse will return. Still time alone does not resolve loss; it is what you do with the time. What helps me is to forget about myself. And nothing pulls me through the tunnel of self faster than helping others. On occasion, though, I just need time, quiet and alone, for introspection. Either way to cope is to connect: with meaningful work, a familiar routine, a fun distraction, a restorative place, or, most importantly, with loved ones. In many ways resilience is connection. And yet, it is also the capacity to cope with disconnection, or, when need be, to disconnect—even if others consider it betrayal. My goal is to connect and disconnect, to couple and uncouple, throughout the day, with various sources of vitality, without losing perspective.

It takes time to hatch a new life. Studies find that people need two to four years to recover from a major breakup—usually closer to four. Studies also suggest that resilience is the primary characteristic for a happy, well-adjusted person. But resilience is not resolution. As I move forward, I am trying to bounce back enough to sustain both the clarity to choose well, and the conviction to fulfill my choices. Perhaps then I will have an enduring emotional home. Maybe then I will return to the studio and soar.