Crocodiles Under the Bridge (and what you’re going to do about them)

“My life was my life; I would have to stare it down, somehow, and make it work for me.” ― Paula McLain

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Met this man the other week (okay, it was a blind date) and he was complaining about the rain, the cold, gas prices, and something else I didn’t catch because I was drifting off to thoughts about the bushy jasmine shrub I was going to buy after I got away from him. Besides, to my eye, nothing was really, really wrong with this reasonably smart, reasonably handsome, reasonably healthy man who was never going to be my boyfriend, except that he seemed sort of wussy.

What are you going to when something BIG & SCARY comes along if you can’t deal with ordinary letdowns? I thought about asking him, partly to see if he’d add me to his list of grievances.

As a survivor of childhood trauma, perhaps I don’t expect perfect days and accept that sometimes there will be crocodiles under the bridge, raccoons rustling through the garbage, flying monkeys in my head. Stuff to endure, stuff to conquer, stuff to make my peace with while still stubbornly trying to create the best life possible.

Watched a group of Boston Marathon 2013 bombing survivors and first responders on CNN praise citizens for immediately jumping in to give first aid, carry wounded, get children to safety, clear paths for aid vehicles, etc. While they are understandably still grieving and healing, they were fierce in crisis and rallied and raced again today.

This got me to wondering: Are some people more naturally resilient and more able to bounce back?

If not hardwired for it, how do you build the kind of inner resolve that gets you through the hard, horrible stuff? Does it have to happen one heavy load at a time, or can you stretch into it by swatting away smaller, relatively-nothing annoyances like rain, high gas prices and an awful date?

Could be wrong, but I think it’s both, and I ask these questions because when I think of essential life skills—in this world that is spinning so fast, and our personal lives twisting and turning in tune—resilience hits top ten. As a good classic habit that can spirit us through all seasons, we cultivate it by starting where we are and taking the next, doable positive steps we can to move forward (and repeat).

We remember our mighty moments, pinning struggles, victories and miracles (if you, like me, believe in that sort of thing), and if our own life is not inspiration enough, we should pluck out a role model with strength that does not quit to channel in times of need; a Most Likely To Overcome Anything type, even if it’s a cartoon or movie character.

Too, we must stare it down (whatever “it” is) and say, “I’m not sure what’s playing out right now, but I’m going to get through this. I’m going to be okay.” At least that’s my goal—a lifetime goal, but still.

The larger scope of cultivating resilience is being able to support others from a rock-solid mound. The world needs us strong. To extend an actual hand or encouraging words to “framily” in crisis, and prayers and compassion to devastated strangers near (Oso, Washington landslide) and far (South Korean sunken ferry). To cheer on those who have gotten back up and kept running (Boston Marathon 2014).

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