"Make sure you look out for each other, make sure you’re resilient and kind and supportive of each other…”
Great words indeed from our Western Australian Health Minister. But the test we all face has exposed the cracks in my resilience.
Like almost everyone I’ve lost work and had every meeting and conference cancelled, and so my livelihood and ambitions for the future. All my social and exercise groups have been abandoned.
Holding on to my familiar life even as it ebbs away, I wonder what to do with myself. I over-react and get frustrated. I get stupidly busy, yet anxiety saps my effectiveness. And we haven’t even begun a lockdown here in Perth!
My mentor said we’re all experiencing loss and fear of what’s to come. Being resilient today is the capacity to adapt to adversity by bending not breaking, like bamboo*. Instead of trying to control life and fill my head with information I must allow myself to feel the loss and fear, let it go and live in the now. It’s about who I’m being more than what I do.
My Italian brother-in-law Lorenzo, locked down in Rome, is living this reality. He’s mourned his lost life and now sees his forced confinement as an opportunity to reflect. It’s like the ancient story of Jonah who’s swallowed by a whale and in the silent gloom forced to confront his life. Spat out after three days Jonah uses his second chance to complete a crucial mission.
Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King demonstrated even prison can be a time of inner growth as did writers like Viktor Frankl, Vaclav Havel and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. They suffered but used their second chance to emerge from the crucible as great leaders**.
People on the margins in my city are also ‘confined’ by poverty or illness, yet they display great resourcefulness and courage.
My brother-in-law has a lot of cred right now. Confinement is his new reality but offering the same opportunity as it did to Mandela. We will all face hardships – financial stress, loneliness, caring for kids, feeling trapped or bored - but we’ll also have the opportunity, as if we’re in a far-away place, to connect to loved ones, develop patience and grace, read, relax, watch films, meditate, write, paint, make music, garden, play, sort through old photos or start that big project. Maybe reinvent our lives.
Confinement also demands hope. Lorenzo’s 88-year-old mother has used her time indoors to prepare and freeze a feast for the inevitable day of celebration when this ordeal is over. She lived through Mussolini and Nazi occupation, so she knows.
Resilience now is acknowledging my loss, letting it go and flipping around my perceptions. Foregoing the company of others is protecting them. Confinement is an opportunity to ‘be’ in the moment and grow. As easy as helping a neighbour, reading a book, calling a loved one and simplifying life.
What about the current situation do you find most challenging? Who could you talk to build up your resilience?
*Bend, Not Break: 9 Powerful Traits of Resilient People by Faisal Hoque in The_Blog, HuffPost, December 6, 2017 https://www.huffpost.com/entry/bend-not-break-9-powerful_b_4719513
** Borrowed from a fantastic sermon by Peter Greig: Trembling at a Time of Shaking https://www.emmausrd.com/series/off-script/
I also really recommend the following (because you’re going to have a lot of time to read):
Awareness – The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony de Mello, Image Books, 1992
Consolations - The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words by David Whyte, Many Rivers Press, USA, 2015.