Glass half full

Growing in the face of Adversity!- Regardless

Here is a short excerpt of memories by two siblings:

M1: I remember my first time coming into Kingston on a truck. We had to get up really early in the morning and walk the five miles to catch the man going into town. The truck ride was the best! I remember I was only 10 years old at the time and I was excited about moving from St. Mary to Kingston to go to school. I remember going to stay with a woman who boarded people with my brothers and sisters. That woman used to do some really horrible things to us but I think I came out the better for it because I learnt how to survive. I remember being glad when my mother came back for all of us to take us back to the country.

M2: I remember walking down that parochial road to walk all that way to catch the man with the truck. Man that road was awful, it was made of white marl and had nothing but stones on it. I was only 12 but I was wearing a nice pair of shoes and by the time we walked that hell of a distance in the pitch black of night, those shoes were ruined! so were my feet! then we had to climb into the truck and I had to sit in the middle seat which was so uncomfortable! This was only made worse by the fact that the truck had no shocks and so every bump I felt it. Every lump i felt it. I felt like I was going to vomit. When we finally got into Kingston it was then the trouble began! boy that woman mamma had us board with was awful. She used to starve us even though mamma used to send money and food to feed us. She used to have other boarders and she used to take the food mamma sent us and feed the other boarders and give us only soup. Everyday soup! we used to go outside and eat the green fruits off the trees just to survive – green cherries, green mangoes, Oh god it was awful. I remember the day I complained about getting soup again and she threw a plate in my head! I wanted to go home so badly. I was happy when mamma came and took us home, we all were so skinny. Boy Life can be so hard and we were only children.

I had heard the story from M2 many times and thought that journey must have been hell on those 3 siblings that went. It was only last Sunday that I heard the same journey recounted with a different outlook from another sibling who made the same journey on the same day with the same sibling.

You would believe from their vastly different stories that these two people were on two different trucks going into town. So whats the difference you may ask? In order to get at the root of the difference I asked these siblings in their sixtieth decade on planet earth what would they change if they had to live their lives again?

M1 said: nothing my life has been great! I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my experiences good and bad. I’ve learned that everything happens for a good reason. He then proceeded to give detailed examples of this particular lesson.

M2 said: Oh lord! there are so many things I would change but it wouldn’t matter because life would still be very hard, that’s just the way its supposed to be..sufferation, that’s what life is all about. She then proceeded to give a detailed account of all the trials and tribulations.

And that ladies and gents is the difference.

One person sees the glass as broken and all the water is on the floor the other person is too busy drinking out of the glass to notice where the water level is.

In one word the difference is: RESILIENCE. According to Psychology Today: “Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes…. some of the factors that make someone resilient, [include] a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after a misfortune, blessed with such an outlook, resilient people are able to change course and soldier on”

In my years as a psychotherapist resilience is the one human quality lacking in persons with psychological disorders, especially those who are depressed, or anxious and even in persons who suffer from more chronic problems including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The underlying issue is FEAR, with a belief that misfortune is always on the horizon and if anything bad can happen, it will. This fear causes the focus of the senses to hone in on experiences and perceive them in a negative light and then store these images and feelings for eternity. From the white marl ruining her feet and her shoes to the truck with no shocks, at no point was the memory of the journey filled with anticipation. M2’s journey was filled with fear, missing her home and paying attention to all manner of “crosses”.

The effects of long term stress on the body and mind is well documented, from emotional distress to developing back pain and even cancer. The effect of this fear is in essence the gradual wearing down of coping mechanisms as they are replaced by trepidation and failing organ functioning.

But don’t get it twisted! This article is not to saying being aware of possible danger is a bad thing, but rather being aware of all possibilities works out better for you in the long run both physically and mentally.

So How do we develop this skill called Resiliency?

Its not an item in a drug store that’s for sure but there are ways to strengthen this ability to be flexible. Basically, this ability stems from the persons inner security and sense of self. Resilient persons tend to externalize failure and internalize success. In other words, they don’t take failure as a personal attack on their being but rather use external events to help guide them in better decision making in the future. They don’t take things personally. Resiliency may be based in confidence, ability to take risks, a sense of spirituality, learning from mistakes and optimism even in the face of seeming adversity.

The discussion we had reflecting on lives lived one sunny Sunday morning in Jamaica revealed, in astounding ways, exactly how resiliency helped and hindered the development of two individuals journey through life. One sibling was able to reflect on a life well lived and the other seemed to be held captive in a world of worry, fear and a distinct sense of getting the fecal end of the stick.

So when you look back on your life, whether you are near the end of it or in the middle or just beginning to appreciate it, how do you see yourself bouncing back from adversity? how do you see yourself appreciating the moments in your life, good or bad or indifferent? Do you see the moments at all or do you spend them inside yourself afraid to come out?

I spent that last Sunday reflecting on how great life is and I laughed incredulously when I finally “got it”, got off my butt and reminded myself to seek out and “fulljoy” my passion and all the experiences – the butterflies, the sinking feeling, the exhilaration, the slack jokes, the teary eyed times, the anger..the everything! Thank you Universe, this life surely beats anything else street and lane as we say here on the rock!

There is an old Jamaican saying that sums up the meaning of life: “We come here fi drink milk, we nuh come here fi count cow”- this outlines the belief that life is for living to its maximum and admonishes wasting time tallying up the bruises you collect along the way.

Question is if this was certifiably THE last day in this life, what would you do with it?

p.s. Please accept my sincere apologies on infrequent blogging recently.I was busy bouncing in bounce- abouts (aka bouncy castles), romping with kids, crying with patients, liming with old friends and dancing to the sounds of Legend and Ambassadors Disco! Whew! I took a break to reflect on the power of resiliency and I hope you enjoyed it. Now get back out there and LIVE! – enjoy yourself, its later than you think. Take in a little BOB!

Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements has helped me and many of the clients I’ve seen. I have not always been able to adhere to them at all times however, have a look to get some detailed advice on how to build resiliency.


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