By Eithne Cullen
Our theme this week is ‘Resilience’. It’s a really broad topic and one we can look at from many different angles.
The pandemic throws two immediate meanings into our minds: firstly, the drive and determination we’ve had to show around observing lockdown rules along with the hardship they have caused and, secondly, the virus itself: resilient to known vaccines and leading to a huge amount of clinical research to help solve the problem.
We’re often being called to show the resolve and strength to face hardships and problems that occur in our daily lives. It’s been hard being unable to see family and friends and many have missed their chances to travel abroad for holidays and to see relations.
Seneca, the philosopher, statesman and dramatist who lived and worked in Ancient Rome had some motivational advice on the subject:
Cling tooth and nail to the following rule: Not to give in to adversity, never to trust prosperity, and always to take full note of fortune’s habit of behaving just as she pleases, treating her as if she were actually going to do everything it is in her power to do.
His words have great resonance today.
We tend to think of resilience as being able to push through, take control or carry on regardless of how we feel; when it’s really about developing strategies that help us manage the stresses we encounter in our lives.
We all respond to stressful situations differently: some can carry on without a second thought, while others find quite minor difficulties overwhelming. Developing an ability to respond well to, and learn from, difficult situations is what we can start to learn to think of as ‘resilience’. It’s not something we’re born with. Resilience develops and changes in response to our experiences, our environment and our social interactions.
Throughout our lives we all experience things we feel we can’t control. A tough day at school, a relationship breakdown, starting a new job or even moving away from our friends are all situations that can send our anxiety levels through the roof.
These personal experiences, and how we respond to them, contribute to our resilience. For example, some of us may use our sense of humour to help get by, or we may have strategies to help us manage our emotions. It is also very helpful to see others who are simply able to trust in their ability to face difficult situations. One of the bosses I worked with taught me to face some difficulties by teaching me to say: “There are no problems, only solutions.”
All these things are part of our ‘personal resilience toolkit’ and can be drawn on when we need to.
There are always going to be times when we can’t control a situation. We can, though, always control how we respond to it. Taking action to build up your resilience means we’re taking action to protect ourselves from the negative effects of stress.
I found a link to a Test Your Own Resilience Quiz, courtesy of the ‘Bank Workers Charity’. It looks at five areas: purpose, perseverance, self-reliance, equanimity and social support network to identify areas that we might need to develop and to help us stay on track. I was quite pleased to see that I am on track but need to work on my equanimity!
Here’s the link. Why not give it a try?
To explore the theme further, I’d like to share a poem from Pen to Print writer Palak Tewary. In This, Too, Shall Pass she sheds some light on what we have to deal with and how we should be approaching the difficulties we encounter. She examines the ways we are tested and come through it, despite this.
This, Too, Shall Pass…
Changed times, changed situations
Changed people, changed emotions
It is all but a play of destiny
Bleak at times, and at times – shiny
Some rise when stumble, some – fall
Some are beaten by time, some – not at all
Its the test of time that tells
On which side someone dwells
Wanting to change things, but can not
When frustration and darkness seem to be your lot
It’s the strength within that can show a light
On finding peace despite your plight
There are moments in time, when all hopes fade
And then there are moments, when one just smiles at fate
Time – silences, comforts, tires and heals
Time – moves on – a constant never-ending wheel
© Palak Tewary, 2020
Palak has also shared a recording of her poem. You can watch it here:
Heading to the end of the summer, with more changes and more easing of lockdown on the way, we see resilience in another light.
Our thoughts go out to all the people who have to draw on other reserves: those who face redundancy after having been working from home for many months, and those who are having to shut down their businesses and lay off their workforces.
Theatres are slowly moving towards opening up in the limited ways they can. It’s been hard for all who work in creative professions – from the front of house workers, the lighting and stage designers and managers and the writers and performers. Many people thought we’d have the theatres back for pantomime season, but that’s not happening. There is plenty going on online and, now at outdoor performances, but there’s still a gap in the productions being prepared and ready to go on in our theatres.
Choirs cannot meet up to sing together, as singing is still seen as a worrying way of spreading the virus. We’ll be masked for quite a while yet on public transport and in shops. All of these constraints will test our resilience further.
And we’re thinking about those going back to school. I used to love seeing the ‘Back to School’ signs go up in shops almost as soon as the schools broke up for summer. I loved seeing the school supplies on sale, especially in other countries where lovely stationery was stacked in the supermarkets. I always liked buying those very European notebooks with squared pages instead of lines.
Here’s a little back to school poem from me:
Back To School
I’m not wearing those horrid shoes… I’ve been in flip flops for so long now
I’m not wearing that horrid tie… it’s hard to breathe
I’m not wearing these scratchy trousers… my legs are used to shorts
I’m not wearing that horrid blazer… it makes it hard to run and play
I’m not wearing that horrid shirt… the long sleeves flap, it chokes me
I don’t want to carry all those books… the bag makes my back ache
I don’t want to see all my pals again… we can meet on WhatsApp anytime
I don’t want to write and learn my numbers… I did all that before
I don’t want to eat school dinners in a noisy hall… I’m used to eating outside, now
I don’t want to walk up that path and see the teachers standing there…
smiling and saying welcome back, it’s good to see you once again
and calling me “Headteacher.”
© Eithne Cullen, 2020
I hope you find the resilience and strength to face all the changes ahead as we move from summer to autumn. Our next topic is going to be ‘Reimagining Our World: The Resolve To Fire On All Cylinders’. Do send us your stories. We’d love to hear about how you re finding the resources to get back out into this new normal.
ReadFest is going Digital this year. Check out our 2020 programme and book your FREE tickets online: https://pentoprint.org/readfest/
Cling tooth and nail to the following rule: Not to give in to adversity, never to trust prosperity, and always to take full note of fortune's habit of behaving just as she pleases, treating her as if she were actually going to do everything it is in her power to do.