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I was reading Option B by Sheryl Sandberg a couple of weeks ago. A book about resilience and it made me think. It made me really wonder if resilience is something within us, like a reservoir ready to be tapped into when required? And I realised that most of the times the answer to that question is yes. It is. The truth is we are indeed much more resilient than we think we are. Well, at most times. The fact surprised me, honestly, though it shouldn’t have.
Throughout history, we have seen how during the most trying of times ordinary people have risen up to the occasion to face adversities head on. Why I have been reading about the second world war so extensively in the recent past myself and every story that I touched upon has been about resilience. Take for example the resistance in France or the fight to survive in concentration camps. Or, the lives of the hidden children during the war. All have common themes of survival and fighting back against all odds.
The will to endure and fight even if it was to live one day at a time or just one extra day. Note the difference for it speaks volumes of resilience.
Human beings are extraordinary when the time calls for it. The extraordinary courage to save someone going against all logic or even risking yourself. Listening to the heart and being true to humanity. All of it speaks of the vast reserves of resilience that we just need to reach for. Easier said than done, I know but I have seen it comes naturally when there’s no other way forward.
Closer home, the fight for Independence from the British Raj. It wasn’t an easy fight but the freedom we enjoy today is a gift from those freedom fighters who had so many strengths one of which was resilience. It has to be. The sheer will to stand up each time they were beaten both literally and figuratively is worthy of a million accolades. If that doesn’t speak of the strength of character while facing obstacles then what does?
I think it was Nehru who had written a letter to Indira Gandhi on her 17th birthday which contained these lines.
“Ordinary men and women are not usually heroic. They think of their bread and butter, of their children, of their household worries and the like. But a time comes when a whole people become interested in a great cause. Then history helps even simple, ordinary men and women to become heroes.”
It doesn’t always have to be a cause that defines the course of the history of a nation. It can be something that you do as an individual. It can be something which might seem trivial but is not. It can be facing that difficult client at work every single day. Or, maybe holding on to your individuality while immersed in all the different roles you play. Facing misfortune or difficult times and coming out of it. Just taking one step at a time, that’s the resilience in everyday life and I see so many of us doing it all the time.
A couple of years back when both my parents had to undergo scary medical procedures, I didn’t know what to do. While in front of them I did put up a brave face, I was shaken and possibly even broken within. Depressed too probably. Some mornings I remember sitting in the hospital lobby crying. But in spite of that I faced it, we faced it as a family. We were resilient.
Facing misfortune or difficult times and coming out of it. Just taking one step at a time, that’s the resilience in everyday life and I see so many of us doing it all the time.
I wish that no one has to go through a low phase in life or be in situations that are far from pleasant. But the fact of life is that nothing is permanent. It’s a cycle, day after night and then again night after day. It goes on. And it’s the same with joy and adversity. But whatever be the challenge we somehow seem to summon the strength. That’s the beauty and the wonder of the human spirit.
As Sheryl Sandberg says, “Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. It comes from gratitude for what’s good in our lives and from leaning into the suck. It comes from analysing how we process grief and from simply accepting that grief. Sometimes we have less control than we think. Other times we have more. I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.”
Here’s to doing that whenever needed. Here’s to kicking against the bottom, breaking the surface and breathing again.
Tell me, when do you think you were at your resilient best?