We are all feeling it. We’re anxious, mad as hell, bored (I’ve rearranged the furniture three times), and stressed out. This being confined and restricted, limited in our freedoms has started to wear on us all.
I got to thinking about Nelson Mandela the other day and wondered how in the world did a human being, who had done absolutely nothing wrong, except fight to end aparthied, and advocate for the freedom of his fellow human beings, become so resilient to confinement? And how, after twenty seven years he could emerge with a kind, peaceful, humble countenance?
Nelson Mandela once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Nelson Mandela knew his enemy. He could confront his enemy. This virus, this pandemic is an unseen enemy that has us looking at each other with skepticism. We have all gone through our share of life events that have forced us to fall down…and get back up. Personally I started to call myself the ‘comeback kid’ from major medical events to life-altering and shaping professional events, and the death of loved one’s that left me reeling.
“Real life is in the small stuff! Sweat it!” I wrote those words in my journal shortly after the man I loved passed away from cancer. We, I was unprepared for his untimely death. We had spent months planning an extraordinary life together. As I sat in the living room we had shared, I remembered asking myself the what next questions.
It didn’t take long before the answers to those questions started to hit me. Life has a funny way of rewarding you, or pulling the rug out from under you, no matter how unconditional you love someone. When you love somebody that deeply, when you find your life’s soulmate you start to question your own existence when they leave this journey too soon.
But, I’ve never met a challenge I couldn’t conquer. The day the movers came to pack up the home we shared, I remember saying out loud to no one in particular, “Girl, real life is in the small stuff, sweat it. What you don’t confront…your feelings…you cannot conquer. As they say, whatever doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger!”
That day I moved forward with my life. Resilient.
This pandemic has changed our lives. I spend my quiet time thinking about the people I love who are struggling to understand this. I think about what will get us through, and what will get the people we lead through this. We are all simply mourning what we have lost…what we have given up in our freedom. But what will get us through is remembering all the times we survived in the past. What will get us through is resiliency.
For African-Americans who are getting this virus at disporportionaly higher numbers than other groups, and who are seeing their loved one’s die in greater numbers…we shall overcome. We have come through slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, Civil Rights and more. We shall overcome with the resiliency of a people who don’t give up…stronger.
As I look at many of my own challenges, I swear, I should be Hercules by now! Singer Kelly Clarkson made a woman’s anthem out of those famous words…”Stronger, Whatever Doesn’t Kill You.” My granddaughters sing it loudly when they are confronted with a problem.
“Whatever doesn’t kill ya… makes you stronger.”
My first test of resiliency came when I was six years old riding in my father’s brand new car. My older sister and her friend were arguing with me over the window seat. My dad finally settled the argument and made my sister sit in the middle. My sister and her friend, who were both older always had a thing about the ‘kid’ tagging along.
As kids we always want to fit in. And on that day when they dared me to open the car door, I wasn’t any different. I couldn’t resist wanting to show them I wasn’t a scared little kid.
This, of course was well before the days of seat belts and child safety locks (my mom swears I’m the reason they invented them). As you can imagine a car moving at about 35 or 40 miles per hour, my dad making a left turn, all simultaneously occurring at the same time a skinny, six year old kid decided to show her guts.
The saying, “stop, drop and roll”, comes to mind here. I was probably unconscious before I actually rolled down that sewer grate and landed more than 30 feet under ground (my mom swears I’m the reason they started putting steel bars in front of open sewer grates).
When I came to (apparently some three hous later), the firemen, police officers, my parents and grandparents were all hovering over me in the hospital room. I really don’t remember much of my heroic (albeit foolish) deed, but I became the bounce back kid of the neighborhood. While the grown ups in my world were worried about what I had done, the kids in my neighborhood taught me about bouncing back and becoming stronger after that adversity. And I still have the lump in my head to prove it. They use to say, “You aren’t afraid of anything!”
While I don’t recommend this life experience to build courage, I believe Nelson Mandela was right about what it takes to be courageous. I knew even as a kid that what I was doing was a risk. That I could or would be hurt. And it wasn’t that I wasn’t afraid. I was scared beyond belief. It was simply that I wanted to conquer my fear.
All of us have challenges, crisis, or setbacks that we must rise above, move beyond, and learn from. Today, bet against the odds, and all of the fear we hear in the media. Why not try betting on how resilient you are.
Today’s challenge is for us to take this crisis, rise and face it. Even if we are facing it afraid, yet courageously. And, as Neslon Mandela said upon release from Robbins Island after twenty-seven years:
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
“And That’s A Brilliant Glimpse of Insight!”™