Maybe it was waking up to an email that another uncle passed away; maybe it was the recent anniversaries of deaths; maybe it was the ring of the phone rousing me from a deep, dream-state, sleep, but whatever the cause, my untethered thoughts spiraled off in this direction:
At this moment, life is on cruise control with very few bumps in the road, but…. It only takes one text, one email, one blood test, one summons to the boss’s office, or one second to freshen lipstick in the rear view mirror, for the light from the sunniest day to get sucked into a black hole. Life can spin us off our axis faster than a hurricane can fell a tree, and every time we retell the story, we’ll say something like, “But the day started out so well. It was just an ordinary day…. I never saw it coming….” Even years later, the disbelief will resonate in our voices.
I don’t know about you, but when my phone rings before 7:00 a.m., my guts contract like I’m being laced into the 18-inch-waist of a Victorian corset. The absolute worst omen of disaster is being blasted from sleep by the shrill sound of the telephone. I don’t react well. I can’t breathe; my heart races; and my mouth dries out like the Sahara Desert at noon. Why? Because too often disaster has struck in the early hours of the morning.
New Year’s Day, many years ago, I awoke to the call that my future husband’s mother passed away in the wee hours of the New Year. Three weeks later, the very day I was to arrange hospice care for my grandmother, an early morning caller urged me to rush to the hospital; my grandmother was near death. A year later on the Fourth of July (my husband was overseas on a business trip), I answered a frantic 4:30 a.m. call from my stepmother. She’d arrived home from a night shift to find my father sprawled on the bathroom floor. He’d died alone. And the story continues—my mother rushed to the hospital with a heart attack, a gut-wrenching betrayal by a close family member, a cancer diagnosis….
Each time my life was diverted off course, I rallied. What other choice is there but to suck it up and do whatever has to be done? But once the heartbreak was handled and the end of the tunnel was in sight, I promised myself and the heavens to begin living more in the moment, appreciate every day, and never take anyone or life itself for granted again. Blah, blah, blah.
My vows are always sincere enough, but my attitude adjustment usually lasts about as long as my dedication to my last diet. Complacency quickly sets in. Little irritations and minor aches and pains grow into major annoyances, and I fall down the rabbit hole, forgetting to be thankful and count my blessings. I think I’ve finally come to accept this as who I am, but I’ve found a more practical approach to handling the inevitable catastrophes. Resiliency!
I’ll continue trying to pull joy out of every day, but I don’t have to (and can’t) morph into a drippy PollyAnna, with rose-colored glasses nailed to my face. I must, however, continue to develop resiliency. This is something tangible, something practical and real. Resiliency is defined as the mental reservoir of strength or the ability to cope with a crisis and return to pre-crisis status quickly. How about this one: Resilience exists when the person uses mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors. How each one of us develops this mindset is, of course, up to us.
I can’t ignore the fact that life will continue to throw curve balls and sometimes they’ll smack me in the face. I still have a landline with a handset on the nightstand by my bed, and bad news also has easy access to emails, texts, Facebook messages, and posts. There is no avoiding it, but there is a way to lessen its effect on our cortisol levels: we work on our resiliency until we can rebound like a rubber ball. It’s doable. Sounds like a plan to me.
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