Last week I was in Scottsdale, Arizona, visiting my Grandmother. I still had something of a fire in the belly about the nature of resiliency, so I asked her about times in her life when she was faced with a crisis that she thought that she would not overcome. Mind you, this is a woman born in 1916. She has been THERE and chances are, she has done THAT. Without hesitation she recalled her early years of marriage. Her daughter had just turned two and her husband was gravely ill.
“I was told that Herb would not survive the year. Facing that, I made a decision to have another baby. I don’t think it was resilient, stupid maybe, because I had no idea how it would turn out. I believed Herb was going to die within six months. The decision was made on my own.”
Against all odds, Herb lived a long life, and their son is beloved. Jane thinks of it as the best decision of her life. She might not call it courageous, but it certainly looks like courage from where I am standing. It was something that she knew she had to do. No job, one young child, one dying husband, and Jane decides to have another baby. It seems uncharacteristic of this measured and deliberate woman that in her most trying moments she leaned on her emotional intuition. I’m not entirely sure she felt that it was even a choice. It was something she had to do to keep herself whole.
I’m on the cusp of that kind of moment in my own life. One that feels annihilating. My life as a teacher is coming to an abrupt end. But something is missing. Where did Jane find such clarity and sense of purpose? I don’t know about you, but when I try to pin down just what it is that would make me whole again I come up empty.
Jane’s resilient, almost defiant, act of self-preservation had an element of “calling” to it. Where does that come from? There was a piece of the impossible in Jane’s decision.
Resilience is a mystery to me, although I think I have some resources to call upon. One thing I can take away from Jane’s choice is that you don’t achieve the impossible by thinking about it. Courage, resilience, inspiration, these are unencumbered by the thought process.