I’ve seen the words ‘resilient’, ‘resilience’, and ‘resiliency’ pop up again and again in conference presentations, scholarly papers, speeches, book titles, and within my professional community and others. It has become a highly praised attribute in the work force. From librarians (right now, during the pandemic) to students deal with also pandemic but also school stressors and anxieties. We are resilient or encouraged to be. To “bounce back” with speed. To work past it quickly and efficiently. Well, I can’t do that.
Recovering from a trauma situation is a long process. In my experience anyway, but the words and phrases “quickly” and sayings “bounce back” and “suck it up” are repeated so often in what feels like almost every conceivable avenue. I keep wondering, why? Why isn’t recovery, growth, failure, and struggle also acknowledged and praised as strongly? Most importantly the last two.
I have never thought of myself as resilient especially now that I know what the expectations of “resiliency” actually are. I went to dictionaries. I love a definition. From Oxford English Dictionary (OED), resilient is “(adj.)….tending to recover quickly or easily from misfortune, shock, illness, or the like; buoyant, irrepressible; adaptable, robust, hardy..” (para. 3). Merriam Webster (2020, para. 1) (adj.)…describes the word similarly, “capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or ruptur; tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”.
I don’t know what to say about those definitions in general, but they are not me or anything I am capable doing of today or ever in recent memory. The resilient brings to mind someone strong. Someone who doesn’t take the often just plain awfulness of life too seriously. Someone who moves through life in stride. Maybe a bump or two, but gets back up and gets going.
I do not believe that I am a ‘resilient person’ as I’ve read so often. Or I don’t think I am judging by the definitions and what has been written about resiliency (Scott, 2020). The School of Continuing Education in the university where I work is hosting an “Emotional Resiliency in Uncertain Times” workshop. (As a side note, I feel like most of my time is uncertain. Today, tomorrow, and on are more than a bit mysterious, as far as WTF I will feel or think or worry or cry about.). When I first read about this workshop, my gut instinct erupted as a question: “what’s wrong with being emotional when the world is on fire and dramatically spiraling downward or at least uncertain?” Answer: nothing.
I’m still trying to understand the different terminology when it comes to resilience/resilient/resiliency. Each means something slightly different for the individual or at least from what I understand from the marginally varying definitions. For some reason, the word ‘resilient’ almost feels like a slap in the face, usually because the words “be” or ” I am” often come before it. The mildly aggressive attitude that I feel radiate from these statements does nothing to shake my unease with this label.
I worked on this blog post for several weeks sporadically between other projects. I didn’t know how or when to end it. But then I found this image, and I thought, “I can do this.”. I’m sure that this graphic rings much truer for others than it does for me. But nothing about it does for me.
The most striking is Number Three: find a substitute for sleep. As someone who has suffered from chronic insomnia as long as I can remember, there is no substitute for sleep. If I knew a substitute for sleep, I would have found it over 20 years ago. Who knew it had SO MUCH to do which resilience. Further evidence of my constant struggle with resilience. It’s just not wired into my brain because sleep. Also, positive thinking irritates the fuck out of me. This post now sounds more about what irritates me than actual substance, but at least I acknowledge that.
Thank you and take care, my friend.
N.A. (2012). Building your resilience. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience.
N.A. (2020). Resilient, adjective. Merriam Webster Dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resilient.
OED Online. (2020). Resilient, adj. and n. Oxford University Press. https://www-oed-com.ezproxy.lib.uwm.edu/view/Entry/163621?redirectedFrom=resilient&
Scott, E. 28 April 2020. Why emotional resilience Is a trait you can develop. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/emotional-resilience-is-a-trait-you-can-develop-3145235.