The Gift of Resilience

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow’s a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”

Old well-known saying

If you’ve read any of my newsletter articles this past year, you know that I love defining what I’m talking about. This one’s no different.

Let’s first look at the definition of the word gift. The first definition includes a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present, as in “a Christmas gift.” The second definition is a natural talent, aptitude, or ability.

Resilience means the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Another definition of resilience includes the ability to bounce back from a situation or circumstance that doesn’t meet expectations. This definition implies the strength of character. There are other definitions, but these two apply to this present article.

And in what situations might the gift of resilience be most welcome? Among other places are Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, where we typically spend time with family members, many of whom we may not have seen for months or even years.

Think about it for a moment: isn’t our ability to bounce back from difficult situations or unmet expectations an actual gift?  What happens when this gift isn’t present? 

Roger’s experience might “ring a bell” for us:

Roger: This year, our family decided to get together for Christmas. There were about 20 of us: mothers, fathers, grandparents, and kids of almost every age. We planned to have dinner at my Mom’s house on Christmas Eve, followed by a Christmas Day brunch at Mom’s place. It was snowing, and my Uncle Mel lit the fireplace.  After dinner, we sat around, chatting about the magic of Christmas. Everything was going great until there was a discussion about when to open presents. Some people wanted to do it right then, on Christmas Eve. Others insisted that Christmas Day was the only time for opening gifts. I couldn’t believe how frustrated people were getting over such a trivial thing! But it was a meaningful conversation. My Aunt Mae started to tear up as she talked about her childhood and that they always waited until Christmas morning to dive into their surprises. 

Finally, after about 30 long minutes of back and forth, we decided to open half of the presents that evening and half the next day. Crisis averted! But I should have done something to smooth the situation out much sooner.

The gift of resilience would have helped family members to be flexible. They could learn to bounce back from a situation that doesn’t meet their expectations. You might wonder what “bouncing back” could look like in this situation. Consider the following:

  1. Most people in the family group above want to have a good time together: something they could remember in the years to come. However, for many people, it is a vulnerable time of year.  That’s because:
  2. This time of year, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or any other collective celebration, brings memories from the past. It doesn’t matter whether these memories are happy or sad. They cause us to create a “lens” through which we view what’s happening now. 
  3. The gift of resilience allows us to be open to the possibilities of creating new family rituals and expectations.

Here are some suggestions for creating a Holiday Season filled with joy, appreciation, and love.

Consider that you and I don’t have control over how other people feel. For example, have you ever tried to talk someone out of experiencing a painful emotion? Did it work?

We only have ownership of our experience and what we can bring to any situation. However, you might be surprised that our energy can affect those around us. If you’re interested in looking into this further, go to HeartMath.

Here’s a little of what they are studying:

“In recent years, we have conducted a number of research studies that have explored…the degree to which the heart’s magnetic field, which radiates outside the body, carries information that affects other people and even our pets, and links people together in surprising ways.“  HeartMath Institute

The bottom line is that our goodwill and open-heartedness can positively affect the people around us. Suppose you’re interested in conducting your own experiment. In that case, you may want to try this:

A. Look for ways to express your love or appreciation for any gathering in which you find yourself. Are you willing to be grateful, loving, generous, attentive, enthusiastic, flexible, kind, open, present, supportive, gentle, or receptive? These are known as Qualities of Being. About thirty-five years ago, a group of women and I spent nine months ferreting out words promoting a sense of “All is Well.” Each word is a gift because it’s a way of contributing to other people. You might adopt 3 to 5 words by preceding them with the phrase: “I am willing.” It would sound like this:

I am willing to be supportive, generous, and kind.

Write those words on a piece of paper and look at them during the meeting or group event.

B. Ask yourself the following question: When I reflect on my experience of this Holiday Season, what do I want most to remember? Write your answers so you can review them from time to time.

C. Are there some people I want to appreciate for being gifts in my life this past year? Who are they? When and how will I acknowledge them?

D. In my last article, I referred to gifts that cost little or no money but which last long after the Holiday Season has passed. (Read the decorated box idea). You might review it to see if it gives you ideas for creating a meaningful “present” and “future” for someone.

In summary, whatever you choose to focus upon will create the reality you most desire. You’ve heard that saying enough times! Try out these ways of focusing your brain on what you wish to contribute to others. I guarantee you’ll receive the gift of resilience yourself!

Hugs,

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