Is resilience learned or is it something that we are hardwired with at birth? According to the American Psychological Association, “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from “difficult experiences.”
Human beings are resilient creatures, with the ability to rebound from nearly any eventuality. We wouldn’t have survived as a species if this weren’t the case and yet there are times when we doubt that we will make it one more step, let alone another year or a lifetime. Think back to happenings in your own life when you were faced with daunting challenges, physical or emotional pain. The way in front of you seemed dark and fraught with peril and you could hear “Lions and tigers and bears….oh my.” being chanted progressively louder and with more fervor by Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. The sad part is, you might have believed them; I know I did until I remembered that I always had the power to return Home. That would be true even without sparkling ruby slippers.
Lately I have been struggling with the happenings on the big blue marble/third rock from the sun. Anger, fear, hatred and violence seem to be sinking their razor sharp claws into the soul of this world and threatening to rend us from stem to stern. As an empath, I sometimes take on the pain of others. Even though I have both natural and learned resiliency skills, I have been requiring more time in solitude to recoup. I am the eternal ‘opti-msytic’ who sees the world through the eyes of possibility and yet, I toggle back and forth between hope and despair.
I remember hearing this story many years ago. It reminds me that we always have a choice about how we view any circumstances that are before us.
“Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, “If I were any better, I would be twins!”
He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.
Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, “I don’t get it! You can’t be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?”
Jerry replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, Jerry, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it, Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.”
“Yeah, right, but it’s not that easy, ” I protested.
“Yes it is,” Jerry said. “Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good or bad mood. The bottom line: It’s your choice how you live life.”
I reflected on what Jerry said.
Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it. Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in a restaurant: he left the back door open one morning and was held up at gunpoint by three armed robbers. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him.
Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma center. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body.
I saw Jerry about 6 months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, “If I were any better, I’d be twins. Wanna see my scars?” I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place.
“The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door,” Jerry replied. “Then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live, or I could choose to die. I chose to live.”
“Weren’t you scared? Did you lose consciousness?” I asked.
Jerry continued, “The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read, ‘He’s a dead man.” I knew I needed to take action.”
“What did you do?”, I asked.
“Well, there was a big, burly nurse shouting questions at me,” said Jerry. She asked if I was allergic to anything.
“Yes”, I replied.
The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply.. I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘ Bullets!’.
Over their laughter, I told them, “I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.”
Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.
Attitude, after all, is everything.”
By Francie Baltazar-Schwartz
A month ago, much of the adult population of the United States exercised their right as citizens to cast their vote for the candidate they felt would best match their beliefs and serve their needs as president. As the polls closed and the votes were tallied, what many thought would never occur, came to pass. The reactions in some circles, ranged from shock and disbelief, to anger and disgust, to depression and an overwhelming sense of fear about what this would mean for the world as we know it. Harkening back to the Holocaust and the insidious disease that spread worldwide in the form of Nazism, some who lived through those horrific times and note that the same patterns are developing, began to tell cautionary tales. In my own inner circle, I have a friend who was ferried on the Kindertransport during the Blitzkrieg in London and now in her 80’s, still has PTSD symptoms.
Other friends are part of the LGBTQ community and fear that their safety and right to exist are in question and that their legally sanctioned marriages hang in the balance. Still others are from immigrant stock and even if they and their families came to this country through governmentally approved means, they are looked at askance and threatened with deportation from those emboldened by the hate speach being spewed. Muslim friends wonder whether they, like Jews in Europe, Japanese Americans and Native Americans in this country were in decades past, will be sequestered. Those too were dark times, that many see reoccurring.
Even as someone who is characteristically positive, forward thinking, on an emotional even keel, I have had my moments of immersing in despair. Fortunately short-lived, I have been able to haul myself out of the muck and mire by engaging in practices that I offer to you, as well. I refer to what many have been experiencing as PEST (Post Electoral Stress and Trauma)
- Time with kindred spirits whose beliefs are in alignment with my own
- More sleep at night and naps when needed during the day
- Workouts at the gym
- Writing copious amounts about the election and the aftermath for various venues
- Getting involved with pro-social activism
- Wearing the safety pin to be a visible sign of support for those marginalized by the hateful environment reinforced
- Making my Facebook page a safe space to talk about feelings, with the caveat that vitriol, homophobia, sexism, racism, xenophobia, transphobia and homophobia have no place there
- Singing, dancing, art and drumming as ways of expelling energy
- Prayer and meditation
- Crying when needed
- Taking a news fast from time to time
- Going to the gym to ‘sweat my prayers,’ as well as my anger
- Huddling under the covers if need be
- Organizing FREE Hugs Events
Was sharing with my friend Mare Cromwell, who is a peace and social justice activist and author of The Great Mother Bible: or, I’d rather be gardening…. , Messages from Mother…. Earth Mother and If I gave you God’s phone number…. Searching for Spirituality in America, just now, that my ‘God-versations’ (as I commune with Spirit about the election, begin with “WTF?” and end with, “Okay, now what?”) my incapacity to predict outcome contributes to roller coaster ride anxety. As much as I would like to know and not simply believe that all is working out for the Highest Good, I, like many, are living in uncertainty.
Earlier in the day, I went to the gym with my friend Greg Bullough, who is a politcal ally, and then we went to lunch in our suburban Bucks County, PA town of Doylestown.
Afterward, ran into Isabel Girona at the Zen Den and she told us about her experience at Standing Rock. This 20-something young woman courageously went cross country to represent and support. She spoke poignantly about the ways people there shared everything and demonstrated lovingkindness. We need more of that. She and her peers give me hope and it is for them and the next seven generations that I show up, stand up and speak out.
A month or so ago, I was introduced to a world changing peaceful force of two. Mother and son team of Jannirose and Charlie Fenimore came to my awareness via my friend Cindy Greb. Charlie is a young man with special gifts to share and they are wrapped in an easy to love package; simplicity and innocence that radiates from the heart of someone born with Down syndrome. The verbiage comes in the form of prayer poems that carry with them a sense of hope that despite appearances, everything will be alright.
I asked to interview them and when Jannirose posed some of the questions to Charlie, he responded with this message. This State of the Union is particularly timely when darkness seems to overshadow illumination.
“We have a lightful future for all of us and healing life is everything for Nations of God. We can hold the light in everything we live because we must make understanding of ourselves. This is just the beginning of a life connecting with our God to shine in our days and nights.
We are feeling in our hearts right now and forgiveness is our hope. We can heal our strength for the emptiness of minds with hearts to be strong to our brightest eyes. We must make healing for us to live with our clearest thoughts. We are the angel beings of Earth.
We have been connected with our Divine wings for the light of self. We are compassion and together for life. We know all this truth of ourselves to remember. This is our joyful in the healing sun of light. We are one forever with our God of the hopeful. Our Divine love connect our lives to the planet of our future of peaceful life.
When we fear inside, we are forgetting our joyness with people. This is our truthful hope of God with forgiveness to hearts around this living light. We can shine our love for healing to our inner eyes in spirit.
Living hope is the key to our spiritness and our mistakes are healed with truth and light. We can open ourselves to the God of freedom and light. Hopefulness with our hearts, our souls, and our holiness means being free.
This is our lightful kingdom with our shining spirits. We can love with our joyness and forgiveness and happiness. We will just love everybody with our feeling hearts. We must go to the pain with lightful love to feel our fear and bring the light inside to heal in heaven’s home.”
Charlie Fenimore, 11/11/2016
Charlie and Jannirose have co-authored two books. Happy In Soul ~A Very Special Prayer for Peace and Loving Outside the Lines~ Lessons from an Earth Angel.
Although the world may seem an overwhelming and frightening place for many, Charlie seems at home in it wherever he goes. Seated in a sense of certainty that all is well, his message encourages me, when my doubting mind takes over:
“For us on this planet, life is about loving.
The sun of truthful lightness is our living hope.
Spiritness is kindness. Everyone must make this understanding.
Sometimes we forget our life of soul in heaven with God around us.
Life is bright when we change the darkness to joyful in our hearts.
Love is the power of Godness on our planet for me and you.
It is time for living truth in love to our smiling souls for human hope.
Our spiritness of graceful loving will help the world live.”
Charlie is indeed an angel~
Just finished reading my friend Kristina Robb-Dover’s recent column called Trump in Jesus’ Name: The Tragedy for Christian Public Witness. I was deeply moved by her profession of faith combined with her solid stand for those who have reason to fear following the election. She courageously called out those whose cognitive dissonance about the tragically un-Christlike attitudes professed by the president elect, had them casting votes for him.
Would that I be as brave. I am embarressed to admit that in my writing here on Beliefnet and other venues, I was far more circumspect and cautious, not wanting to offend those whose opinions differed from my own. The closest I came was when I alluded to being a gracefully aging hippie which might have people easily determine my political beliefs.
One of the paradigms about which I have been amply aware, is that if I am to be a conscious journalist, I need to speak my truth, without being dogmatic or attempting to persuade readers to see life through my lenses. We each have our perspective based on our upbringing and the ways we interpret our world.
I make a decision each day to take steps, based not just to serve my personal interest, but how what I do will impact the next seven generations, as is what guides Native American traditions. If I respond to disagreement with hatred, then I am feeding the derision and division to which I object. If I answer hateful rhetoric with love, I am assisting with the healing of the planet I so desire. I acknowlege that in the midst of the whirlwind of the election process and shortly afterward, I de-friended a few hard core people on Facebook. It felt kinder to my soul and help me to sustain (or regain) my sanity. I do feel more peaceful and less reactive since then.
I called people out, asking those who voted for him, to prove that they were indeed not using him as a role model for their own actions. If they were not themselves, racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic, then I encouraged them to show up, stand up and speak up for those without a voice or those fearful of using it. There have been many incidents observed in which people have been threatened. According to an article in USA Today, hate crimes rose to a level above that which was reported following 9/11. Over 200 were logged in the days following the election.
When I consider what violence is being done in the name of the president-elect, I shudder. When I delve even deeper to discover that it is being justified with a religious zealotry which surpasses that, I cringe.
Who would Jesus (who was a Jewish, liberal, working class immigrant) hate, grope, disprespect, threaten to deport, assault, discriminate against? It amazes me that some people who call themselves Christians do those things in his name. When folks use the bible to justify their hatred, I want to ask them if they have a selective view of what the New Testament calls on them to do. Do they keep kosher, refrain from shaving, mix fabrics in their clothing, have tattoos? The Jesus I know, would not want bigotry of any type to be done in his name. He would likely stand with those who are being persecuted.
These song lyrics portray the sheer force of love and light that have the capacity to change the world for the better.
Not With My Jesus
by John Flynn
The preacher looked down from the pulpit and cried
We hold the keys to the kingdom my friends
When others sin it’s for us to decide
It is our duty to judge and condemn
Then one timid soul made a very brave choice
And from the back of the church came a voice
Not with my Jesus you don’t!
A teenage girl said I am sorry but I…
know that pure love welcomes us when we die
You tell some people it won’t
Not with my Jesus you don’t!
The Mullah said Yes the great Satan defiles
the land of the prophet, may his name be blessed
And so we pray that the infidel dies
in jihad which we unleash on the West”
Then one timid soul made a very brave choice
And from the back of the mosque came a voice
Not with my Allah you don’t!
One old man cried from his mat on the floor
It is the great God of love I adore
You say to kill but I won’t
Not with my Allah you don’t!
Not with my Allah!
Not with my Yahweh!
Ha-Shem, Brahma, or Vishnu
What in the name of all that is holy
have we been letting men do?
The Great Spirit looks down upon the blue sphere
As many invoke its holiest names
to spread intolerance hatred and fear
And to those people the Spirit exclaims
You know that I have been patient with you
but I see your hearts and the damage you’d do
Not with my children… Please don’t!
I gave you each other to care for and love
But this world ignores God’s plea from above
Perhaps if we speak out it won’t … Say
Not with God’s children you don’t!
© 2003 Flying Stone Music