I once read an article that talked about animal behavior when they feel threatened. For many, when they don’t feel like there’s anything more they can do to protect themselves, when flight and fight fails, they lay down in a protective position in the hopes of convincing their predator they’re not a threat. It’s a last ditch effort of self-survival. For me, seeing anyone, person or animal, in such a situation arouses an instinct of pity and compassion because it represents someone ready to break.
Well, and because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to feel like there’s no way to move forward in life.
When I dropped out of high school, I didn’t know what was next. Most of my friends went off for college; meanwhile, I was stuck at a dead-end fast food job and I couldn’t see a future for myself. Life was hard. It seemed like there was nothing I could do to get out of this terrible situation and I honestly felt like I didn’t have a future. By my mid-twenties, little had changed and it was hard to imagine the trajectory my life was taking.
Those were certainly some of my darkest days.
For years, even after I started seeing forward momentum in my life again, I felt like this was a time when I was paralyzed, maybe even a little pathetic. I have a different view today. After all, I am still here. I not only survived, but found a way to turn my life around. I think I was living resilience, finding a way to push through my most difficult times, finding a way to keep pushing forward even when there’s not a lot of hope to be found.
And without those difficult times, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Now I’m not suggesting that the bad things that have happened to me (or you) are necessary, or that there was no other way my life could have gone. But as long as the world is imperfect and unpleasant things happen, we need ways to thrive as well as create meaning out of the negative parts of my journey. Otherwise life becomes unbearable and it can feel like there’s no escape.
In other words, we need ways to build resilience that enable us to make it through the difficult times of life in ways that allow us to thrive in life.
There are times that try us, and there’s little I or anyone else can do to stop it. With a bit of resilience, though, it’s possible to engage life in a way that trusts we are enough, that we will find ways to make it through and maybe even learn some lessons along the way. I have come to agree with the sentiment of the nineties punk band Chumbawumba: “I get knocked down, I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down.”