Midlife Thoughts

I used to think that ‘resilience’ was a cynical term

When I was growing up, resilience was never a word used in common parlance. Maybe it materialised its’ meaning in other ways through words like ‘be strong’ or ‘pull yourself together’. I wasn’t brought up in a harsh third-world workhouse but toughness was certainly a part of the culture then.

There was no such concept of self-awareness. You measured yourself against a socialised measure of success – high earning job etc. But, one learns new things all the time or rather is challenged to view things through the prism of context.

Midlife is no exception to relearning new ways and thought. Having to be tough all the time, as I was taught, really is the pits and especially during a pandemic. For goodness sake, I almost cried with fear when I watched the news about London being declared an emergency medical zone. Not ashamed of it either. Exceptional circumstances call for extraordinary reactions.

I have lived on my own for much of lockdown since March 2020 due to family complications. There were and still are times when I struggle with not having personal company. I speak to the family everyday on WhatsApp and to friends too but I do miss personal company. Somewhere along the way I started to drop my cynicism of ‘resilience’.

I dug it up last year out of my mountain of mental ‘don’t go there’ pile. Guess what? I am now a convert. This is a big admission because ‘resilience’ was a word that I associated with the corporate world. It was one of those (yet another) ‘corporatisms’ which, essentially, seemed to encourage employees to be grateful that they had a job with the respective organisation and to put up and shut up. I personally knew of people being bullied in the workplace who were told that they needed to up their game if they wanted to be treated better. ‘Resilience’ was a word mired in corporate self-interest, as far as I was concerned.

I am now an advocate of resilience in lockdown life. If there is one thing that being in lockdown has taught me in midlife it is that resilience is the single most important contribution which I can make to my own life. We begin the day and end our days with ourselves. Some of us, like me, are living alone day after day and month after month alone in our home. Others have family around them and wake up to family life and end the day with family.

But, this is the difference, the pandemic has brought a new dynamic of how we relate to ourselves. A new type of fear and on a magnitude and scale never seen before has come into our lives. Everyone is coping with fear and uncertainty in a different way. You may have a house full of family, but is everyone going through the same feelings as you?

What I have come to realise is that the way we cope with pandemic related anxiety is very much subjective. This experience of subjectivity teaches us to rely on ourselves much more than before. In that space, practising resilience serves to help us find tools and methods relevant to our personalities. Actually, without realising it you probably are already doing it.

Resilience is about building mental and physical wellbeing, in the simplest form of understanding what it is. Grasping what makes you tick and what you need to push through in terms of comfort zones to stretch yourself in a way that helps you cope with adversity.

Let me know how you get on by leaving a comment please.

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