I believe in the power of resilience. Not just one’s ability to bounce back after tragedy but in how the experience washing us, humbles us, brings us to our knees and in the all consuming darkness leaves us empty enough to know of nothing else but to begin again. My personal tragedies are small compared to what I know of others’ journeys but they are mine alone.
When I was nine my mother died of cancer and I allowed that event to define who I was for a very long time. The definition of me was resentful, dark and sad which clouded my whole existence. Then at age twenty-two my father died of cancer. My miserable grief dropped me to a level of despair I did not believe I would ever fathom or rise from and to that end, I thought I should take my own life because I honestly figured that if there was no one left in the world to keep my baby pictures, then why be in the world? I know that may seem an abstract and a difficult mental leap to follow but for me the formula was quite simple.
Somehow, I reached out from the abyss and a life vest splashed just close enough to me that I managed to attend counseling once a week for a long, long time. First, there was the nine year old girl who physically ached from missing her mommy; then, there was the young woman who wanted nothing more than her father’s approval and neither one would be satisfied. Beyond the two of them there was me. Without parents who’s child was I? Without the need for my father’s approval what motivation was there to succeed? And since my definition was one of misery, I had no fertile soil in which to grow.
Days – weeks – months – years – drugs – boyfriends – jobs – apartments, past through my life until one day when a young woman at a school I was working at had a bloody nose. I tended her nose and stayed with her, we talked and laughed, in the end she thanked me and hugged me. I was startled to realized I had given her a piece of me when I thought there was nothing – nothing to give.
From that very moment, the power of resilience grew within me an ability to integrate the nine year old and twenty-two year old with who I might be; I felt for the first time, a possibility of being.
I now believe all tragedy to be a blessing. I know that sounds horrid given what tragedy there is; but I do; because I believe it is the beginning of rebirth, of recreation, an opportunity to redefine only what is left, even when we believe there is nothing – nothing left. It is within that darkness that resilience is born.
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