Recently, in a workshop on resilience by Kevin L. Green at ROOTS Week, our small discussion groups were asked to come up with a definition or metaphor for resilience. We kept coming back to the notion of a rubber band that maintains its elasticity, something that could bounce back after being stretched. That tracks.

The longer we talked about the hard times, our most challenging moments, life- and reality-altering change, I realized the notion that we “bounce back” no longer resonated for me like it used to.

If you took philosophy or related subjects in college, you probably remember Hegel’s dialectic.

In thinking about my own walks with grief, times when it felt like the ground had literally opened up underneath me, nothing was ever going to be the same again, I realized that actually that was true. Nothing was ever the same again. I might re-capture a sense of normalcy, may get back to a rhythm in my days, but I am profoundly changed by these events when they occur.

Often, after my hardest times, I ask myself or have even been asked by someone else, Would I undo this situation if I could? At the end of the day, it’s not a useful exercise because it can never happen. Sure, I might never have chosen this particular set of circumstances for me or those I love, but we’re here now. So, since we’re all here now, what are we gonna do with it? Well, we look around and see the potential. Because, even our most difficult and challenging life events are fertile soil to bring about growth and new perspective.

With that in mind, true resilience is the ability to “bounce…forward.”

Maybe we don’t even bounce at first. There will be many days on the floor, lying dormant, with no detectable movement. Even so, at the subatomic level, we are gathering energy for the great big next.

a bounding tennis ball

We take the story of who we were, the changes that have come about, and we craft a new narrative. We can never go back to who we were before. Ultimately, if we did, it would be a pretty boring story.

I hope, wherever you are in the world today, you are riding your bounce.

P.S. I’m getting a lot out of listening to The Happiness Lab podcast. Episode 2 has some beautiful reflections on things like resilience and a notion they call “building your psychological immune system.”