By Tanya Tiger
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~Nelson Mandela
Resiliency, according to the dictionary, can be defined as:
- The power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
- Ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
Anyone who has ever had to overcome tragedy knows that the word resiliency means so much more than that basic definition. To me, being resilient means to be faced with a sorrow so great that you want to lay down and die but instead you stand up, face the darkness and put one foot in front of the other.
Resiliency is to be returned to ashes and rise again, over and over, without end.
It does not mean that we do not feel pain, regret, sorrow, anger, sadness, etc. It simply means we feel all of that—embrace it—learn from it and keep moving. My mother gave me a button after my daughter died. It says, “I’ve survived damn near everything.” I can’t help but smile when I look at it and it gives me a boost when I’m feeling beat-down by the world around me. It’s a gentle and funny reminder that I have faced a lot of adversity in my life, but I’ve always come out on top.
Some people ask me how I do it. How do I go on after experiencing such a loss? I say, the alternative was to surrender to the pain; to slip into darkness and to die. I could not do that. I could not tarnish the memory of my sweet daughter by giving up on life.
One death was enough.
I have another daughter who needs her mommy and a husband who would lay his life down for his family. To give in to the shadows would have been the easy way out. I’m too stubborn for that.
When people tell me how tough they think I am or how strong I must be to keep going I think about all the other souls the world over that have faced so much more than I could ever imagine in my worst nightmares. It is they who have earned a deep sense of respect from my heart and soul. They have faced the worst that the world and humanity have to offer and yet they keep putting one foot in front of the other.
If they can overcome their demons, who am I to give up?
Some say they fight on because they have no choice. Some say that they are too stubborn to give up. Some say that life is too beautiful to allow their hearts to be filled with the anger and hatred fed to them by their enemies. Some simply know no other way. To all of them I bow and I pray that they find the peace and salvation they deserve. They have a fighter’s spirit and an angel’s heart. To see their struggle is see both anguish and grace in its purist form.
Some would call them victims. I call them survivors.
They are the survivors of genocide, of rape and torture, of human slavery. They have watched their children, parents, spouses, friends and family slain right before their eyes. They are the survivors of extreme poverty where they cannot find clean water to drink and go without eating for days. They have clawed their way through the dirt to find safety and sustenance only to be turned away or ignored.
They are the survivors of Mother Nature’s fury and of failing infrastructure that was supposed to keep them safe. They are the survivors of abuse, of cults, of disease, and of empty promises made by their governments. They are victorious in my eyes because they refuse to give in or give up.
They have a fire in their bellies that pushes them on into the future. This fire feeds them with hope of better days to come. They may admit their pain and anguish but they will not be cowed by it. They may have days where hope is but a tiny ember in their hearts but they feed it with dreams of love and peace and promises fulfilled. I can see the fire in their eyes—deep within—hidden from those who cannot see past their own hatred for the people they oppress.
I know these souls are peaceful warriors, waiting for their turn in the sun.
I know that the day will come when they will be free of this pain and suffering and they will sing with voices so loud and so powerful it will shake the very foundation of the cultures who have held them down.
There is nothing more resilient than the human spirit. Each of us has the power in any given moment to stop being a victim in our lives and to become our own hero. I think when we stop waiting for someone to rescue us, when we take back our power, we realize that we can overcome more than we could have ever imagined.
Sometimes, to face another day seems like the most difficult task in the world.
Do it anyway.
Do it for all those who have died trying. Do it for all those who wake up every day not knowing if they will live to see the next. Do it for the next generation who look to us for guidance on how to handle trials and tribulations. Do it because you can; deep down you know you can.
So when others tell me how resilient I am, and that I can overcome anything that is placed in my path, I say, “Yes, yes I am and I can and so can you.” And as you make your way through life take a moment to say thank you to all those other souls that struggle along next to you. You may not be able to see them but they are there. Say a prayer for all of them and say one for yourself. We can do so much more when we know we’re not alone.
Believe me when I say, we are all walking through fire, no matter how big or small the flames. We will all be reduced to ashes and we will all meet on the other side.
To overcome and keep gratitude and love in our hearts—that is true resiliency.
Editor: Dana Gornall