2008 so far has been a pretty sucky year for my family. Let’s review:
- I learned my dad has Stage IV melanoma cancer and may die in 6 months.
- My husband & dog sustained injuries from a rottweiler attack.
- My house was egged.
- My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome which is a form of autism.
- Our new roof in our new house began to leak.
- I had to have a colonoscopy & endoscopy.
- I was sick with numerous colds and the flu.
- My husband was in a car accident and wrecked our car (which still isn’t fixed).
- We ran into some unexpected financial issues causing unexpected arguments.
- Gripe, moan, complain, poor me, poor me, poor me…
Resiliency is one’s ability to bounce back from and adapt to adversity. It is a quality I have long admired (probably because I find it so elusive within myself). When I worked as a school counselor, I was fascinated and humbled by a few of my students seemingly innate capacity for resiliency. I counseled kids who experienced more horrors in their few years of childhood than most adults experience in a lifetime. Yet, some of these kiddos seemed more empathetic, responsible, driven, and content after coming through their tragedies, while others were labeled Severely Emotionally Disturbed and required a special education placement. What was the difference? Well, that very question has driven loads of research by psychologists, psychiatrists, and sociologists. I’ve studied much of this research and although intriguing, I haven’t really found anything all that terribly enlightening. Most of the research concludes that in order to foster resiliency kids need adults to care, nurture, and guide them and provide opportunities for meaningful participation. Uh…okay, makes sense, but doesn’t really answer the question. Most of my students seemed equal in all respects, but some were able to triumph. Why?
The conclusion I drew from working with these kids is that it all boils down to perspective. Some students, again seemingly innately, were able to grasp onto words of hope and claim them in their day-to-day lives. They were able to look beyond their circumstances and not just marinate in them. They were able to believe that life would get better and their belief created a reality. These students were not in denial of their pain, but they refused to allow their sadness to define them. On the other hand, my other students refused to look any further than the unfairness life had dealt them. They sat angry and justified during each counseling session and determined that “life is bad and so am I”. They had no desire to move forward and wanted to just ruminate in the self-righteousness of their pain. These kids frustrated me and broke my heart. No attempts to help them change in perspective or grasp onto hope were met with success.
I have recently begun to wonder if this is how God feels when dealing with me…frustrated and broken-hearted that I choose to perseverate on my pain instead of grasping onto the eternal perspective available. I recently finished reading The Shack and it has challenged me to rethink the ways I define circumstances as good or bad. My husband told me this old Chinese fable which demonstrates this point.
There was a wise old farmer whose horse ran away. All the neighbors came to commiserate and say, “How horrible!”
But the farmer simply said, “Perhaps.”
Then the next day, the horse came back with a whole herd of wild horses, and the neighbors all said, “How wonderful!”
And the old farmer said, “Perhaps.”
The very next day the farmer’s son broke his leg trying to tame one of the wild horses and the neighbors said, “How horrible!”
And the old farmer said, “Perhaps.”
Just after the son broke his leg, the army came through and drafted all the young men and took them off to war. But they left the farmer’s son because his leg was broken.
All the neighbors said, “How wonderful!” to which the wise old farmer simply said, “Perhaps.”
So, let me try this again with a renewed perspective…
- My dad is responding amazingly well to treatment and we are hopeful for remission!!! (Check out his latest blog for more details.)
- My dog has made a full recovery from the rottweiler attack and the owner paid for all our vet bills.
- The eggs on my house were washed off.
- My son is doing fabulously well despite his diagnosis.
- Our roof was fixed at no cost to ourselves.
- My health is improved and I have no serious health issues.
- The car is just a car. No one was hurt and the car will eventually be fixed.
- We have been blessed unexpectedly with needed finances!
- Blessed me, blessed me, blessed me…