Life Is Messy – Debunking the Myths of Resilience

How does one become resilient from all life throws at us?  Isn’t that what everybody wants to know?  How can I maintain my integrity, growth, spirit, humour….what I inspire to be as an individual when life keeps throwing things at me that I don’t expect? That I don’t think I can handle?  Things that make me feel vulnerable, weak and alone

The past 6 weeks have been everything in extreme for me.

I have had a birthday and tried to embrace the opportunity of still being alive and well after losing several school friends this year to cancer – yet I still struggle that I am getting older?

I went to smaccUS the most amazing and inspiring conference that focuses on the use of social media to promote all things educational for those who work in critical care.  I was fortunate enough to be a keynote speaker and join many talented and people much smarter than myself as we provided education and hopefully challenges to the 2300+ people who attended.  An audience who are motivated and inspired to make vulnerable peoples’ critical care experience the best it can be.  The smacc community left Chicago almost ‘untouchable’ – connected, invigorated, ready to work and put into place everything they had learned when just six days later one of the most respected and adored members of the smacc and FOAMed community Dr John Hind who I had just shared the stage with was tragically killed in an accident, bringing death right to our doorstep.

I have returned to work while my children were still on holidays to meet family after family struggling with illness, death, mortality so that when you come home each day you have to marvel at the luck and blessing that your own kids are well and safe.

Spending seven days away from family and responsibility demonstrates how altered life could be if you had made different choices.  Talking with other mothers yesterday we spoke about the unrelenting challenges and demands of parenting.  Yes children are a gift but they are also hard work and kind of selfish and certainly make huge demands on your time that can strip you of your sense of self.  How do you balance all of this and work like mine?  Feeling blessed yet trapped at times?

The reality is, is that every day is a choice.

The reality is, is that life is messy.

Life is messy.  If you want to live a full and creative life it is always going to be messy, and hard and glorious and frustrating and wonderful.  If we love others – at some point we will hurt, if we put ourselves out there for others to make comment they will and we will have to ride and live with that, if you are passionate about work and life then at times that passion has the potential to wear you out, make you disillusioned.  If you want to be engaged  in life than we have to be prepared for the good and the bad.

Resilience is not about never feeling pain, anguish, anger, sadness and frustration.

Resilience is experiencing all those things and then dusting yourself off at some point and making the choice and conscious effort to keep going.   Sometimes you have to fight your way back from grief and pain …that is all still resilience.

If I could take a series of photos of what resilience looks like it would be

  • Hiding under the doona
  • Crying until you are really ugly
  • Drinking too much
  • Making poor decisions
  • Not getting to the gym
  • Having that third piece of cake
  • Sneaking out of a bedroom of someone you can’t remember

As well as many other messy and confronting images.

Life is messy.

We experience painful and heightened states because our bodies and brains need to warn us when we are in danger.  When we are overloaded.  When we are in need of a holiday or a few days off.  When we need to slow down. Pain, fear and grief are our safety valves to make us stop and think and maybe do something different.

The true key to being resilient is being SELF AWARE.  To have insight. To sit quietly with yourself and think what is it about this situation, this person, this life, work, my partner whatever the case may be that feels like it is destroying me?  When you can answer that question you can start to find a solution.

The positive psychology movement has done wonderful things to bring balance back to the research into the benefits of life but we have to be careful that we don’t become as equally jaded into believing that we must always be happy.  Being in a place of constant happiness and fulfilment probably means you are psychotic or addicted to something.

The primary principle of Buddhism as I understand it, is we must all suffer.  If we can accept this as a fact we will paradoxically all be happier.  We will learn to ride the ebbs and flows of life

The great Hugh Mackay said “the greatest sponsor of happiness is sadness”, it’s true.  Sometimes we don’t realise how blessed we are until something truly awful happens.

To be resilient is to be aware.  To be insightful.  To be prepared to feel flawed and human and keep going.  To live a mindful life, aware of our engagements and reactions.  This is the challenge.

Personally I am not that evolved….

I am still struggling, trying to sit quietly in my own busy mind and work it all out.  One thing age is bringing me though is the wisdom to know what helps.  Sunshine, water, nutritious food, quiet, surrounding myself with people who enhance and support me, making better choices some of the time.  Learning to live and occasionally love the chaos.

If you want to be really resilient be prepared to hurt, learn and grow because life is messy and glorious and exhausting.

Take care x

Recommended Reading:

The Upside of the Dark Side – Why Being Your Whole Self Not Just Your Good Self Drives Success and Fulfillment by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener

Any of Hugh Mackay’s books

Recommended PODCASTS:

Keep an eye out for the release of the smaccUS talks and two wonderful men talking about vulnerability and recovery.  Though there are many others to be found in the smacc archives and the talks to be released from 2015.

‘All Alone on Kangaroo Island’ Tim Leeuwenberg

‘All in a Day’s Work’ Iain Beardsell

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2 thoughts on “Life Is Messy – Debunking the Myths of Resilience

  1. Thank you Liz….I’m sorry….but are you inside my head, my heart…? Thank you for sharing your self and your thoughts. Life is, indeed – messy, crazy, beautiful, touching, hard, delightful and full of surprises. Thank you for for holding up a mirror of life and how it is ‘warts and all’.

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