True Resilience Requires Rest

You know you’re working hard when your kitchen whisk breaks—actually snaps in half like mine and become garbage. This pandemic is pushing us all hard…but instead of scrambled eggs we’ve been dealing with a scrambled world, and for a long, long time. Over a year.

It’s an exhausting long haul, and none of us wants to snap like that whisk and become useless. Surviving covid is like being on a tour of duty that just won’t end, though we can hope it’s coming closer. So in light of all this I’ve been thinking about resilience…and what it really means. My sister’s professor said something really wise about resilience that I’ve been mulling over a lot:

“Our one prof spent the last afternoon talking to us about how most of us equate resilience with a stubborn determination to keep slogging but that rejuvenation should be valued just as much. If not more.”

Rejuvenation—becoming young again, refreshed, restored—not just grimly slogging on without stopping for water breaks. This is a more sustainable vision of resilience…one that doesn’t involve pushing oneself to the breaking point. It means not just having strength but also the humility to know that everyone needs breaks and gentle self-care, especially at times when life feels like a marathon.

This all makes so much sense, but can be hard to put into practice when you’ve been in emergency mode for a long time, as our world has. Despite everything we need to relax, play, enjoy little moments and rest.

Babies are good at this. They nap a lot, cause all their growing is exhausting, and they make sure to eat well and often. They ask for help whenever they need it. Sometimes they cry, and other times they coo, but most importantly, they trust that they are loved unconditionally. This is the part we adults most often forget.

I’m giving myself this lecture as much as you. When my dad got really sick with his cancer last fall, and I had the honour to care for him in his last weeks, I resolved to be strong. To be there for him. To do all that I could, despite wanting to crumble and break. When he died, I had to keep being strong. Plan the funeral. Bury my beloved father, who was my biggest cheerleader and one of my best friends.

After that, as his executor, months of paperwork. Serious responsibilities requiring me to be, you guessed it, strong. But now, almost six months after his death last year on November 9th, I wonder if part of me has become petrified—so strong it has turned to rock—and in that sense not fully alive. Avoiding the grief I couldn’t find time for. Fearing the tears that might cause these walls to crumble.

This is not true resilience. I know this. Having been through deep grief before when I lost my baby Josephine 6 years ago in labour, I know that recovery involves going through grief, not trying to put your emotions on pause. So I’m trying to give myself permission to feel sad sometimes, with the longing that is simply love prolonged. I’m trying to give myself permission seek serenity before productivity…which means taking little breaks to refill my cup, rather than always pushing myself to keep going.

This is hard for me. Do you struggle with this, too? Are you harsher on yourself than you’d ever be with those you love? Can you be brave enough to believe that you deserve rest, joy, and serenity just as much as anyone else? Perhaps if we all support each other, and encourage each other to be kind, even to ourselves, the world will be more filled with resilience and hope.

If you’d like more encouragement on this topic, check out Jenn Dean’s Families Matter Most podcast. It is awesome, and filled with simple, doable ideas: Three Things to Get Through Hard Times. Plus she is funny, warm and honest. Listening to her is like chatting with a great friend who builds you up. Cole’s notes version: every day, connect with your peace, your purpose and your people. The three P’s. Even I can remember that.

My new whisk! 😋

Executor

Executor,

someone you love has just died

but there is no time for tears.

You ought to be eating ice cream on the kitchen floor,

surrounded by crunched up Kleenex,

but you’re swimming in a sea of papers instead.

Executor,

someone you love has just died—

now call strangers, the government, charities

and tell them so.

Accept scores of condolences

from people with calm voices.

Thank them politely

and get on with business.

Executor,

someone you love has just died.

Pay the bills,

plan the funeral

plan the burial

plan the epitaph.

Capture in two lines

the life of someone you love

who has just died.

Executor,

where are your tears?

Curl Up With Me

 
There are days when everything feels like so much

and I hide from You, Lord,

thinking I have nothing good to say about all this

and can’t deal with anyone else.

But when I hide under the covers

seeking the solitude of sleep,

I discover You there,

waiting like a loyal, warm cat

ready to just curl up and be with me.

And then I open the eyes of my heart a little

and start to see you everywhere…

in a single star in the early evening sky

in the eternal beauty of a long low bank of gray clouds on the horizon

in the tiny green shoots of sweet peas bravely emerging from the soil

and in the purple blossom of my flowering Josephine plant

saying, “I am here, I am here.”

Sleepyhead # 2 Takes Up the Torch

I thought it would be fitting, as we continue to battle the tummy bugs, to write something Olympic, so I chose the heroic sport we specialize in here in Crazyland: Olympic Napping. Although less well known than some extreme sports, Olympic Napping is a sure crowd pleaser, as it combines cuteness, quietness, versatility and endurance in one small package.

Last week I wrote about Sleepyhead # 1 battling the tummy bugs, and now her big sister is following suit. Here is the little one performing the famous couch nap:

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Her big sister, our gold medal contender, age 3 1/2, has a long career in Olynapping, as its fans lovingly call it, and is especially known for her ability to nap in any position, situation, or space. She has fallen asleep in strollers, boxes, chairs and tents, on couches, beds and the floor. As long as she has her trusty fuzzy blanket, so essential to her sport, victory is hers.

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Even as an infant she dreamt of Olympic gold:

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And soon mastered the peacefulness technique:

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As a precocious youngster, she even attempted to nap while eating chocolate cake!

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A very self motivated Olynapper, she sometimes puts herself to bed, just to get a little more practice in.

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She is much praised by the judges for her capacity to sleep though all sorts of chaotic noise without even stirring.

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A further note must be made about her endurance: in today’s contest, Olynapper vs the icky tummy, she slept almost the entire day, with only a brief foray from her Oly-tent to imbibe some hot chocolate.

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To what does she attribute her great success in Olynapping?
Her new “ear muscles” and wearing large amounts of purple!

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