Sunday, October 21, 2007
It’s Wednesday morning and I have no idea what the woman is talking about! I am in an air conditioned boardroom with a suitable amount of tea and coffee and 30 other people staring at a PowerPoint presentation about what I thought was how to be resilient at work. Following several hours of confusion as to why we are here, I Google resilience just to check that my understanding of the word is correct.
After learning I am here to learn how to spring back into shape after bending, stretching or being compressed I feel a lot better! I quickly create a Chinese whisper on my Google findings to the other 30 confused participants who arrh and um, then stare at the door waiting for the yoga teacher to arrive.
The two days are broken by a works team bonding dinner. I get stuck with Keith from Accounts. After the tenth story of his bands sex, drugs and rock and roll excess aka him and a mate playing down the local social club, I feel justified in making my excuses and leaving.
The training did not become clearer and at the end of day two and still no yoga teacher, the group make a public display of despair at the pointlessness of the course by ramming their heads against the tables (and not bouncing back!). To find some purpose in my working week, I contemplate what it means to be resilient and how it’s translated into everyday life.
Life can be viewed as a glass bubble. Some experiences smudge the glass, others crack it whilst certain traumas can break the bubble completely. Is it to be resilient to ensure the glass is only temporarily shattered? There are scales of trauma that happen and each of us react and deal with them in different ways.
Cousin Angela nearly had a nervous breakdown when she realised that she’d run out of Columbian Dry Roast coffee to serve her guests at the end of a successful dinner party whilst Old Ms Cats-and-Clocks down the road seemed to cope with her beloved Tiddles being flattened by the dustbin lorry with a dignified silence. So, how can we put things into perspective? After all, the washing machine flooding the kitchen floor really shouldn’t score as high in the trauma stakes as a cancer diagnosis.
We have and hear stories that bring a tear to our eyes. For example my Mum is having a terrible time at the moment, my father is terminally ill, one close friend has just died and whilst writing this I got the call to say my Mum’s best friend has died from an aggressive brain tumour. At the moment life can only be explained as being very sad and very, very heavy and all involved are justifiably struggling. But throughout the despair and however difficult, I have no doubt that the individual’s resilience will prevail.
I feel the heaviness around me because I love my parents, their friends and want to be strong for all. Do they need to be resilient? No, not at this moment, they need to look after themselves and know the glass breaking is temporary. They are resilient and they will bounce back, they are positive strong people who have stared adversity in the face before. In fact, I wonder if resilience is something that can be learnt in a boardroom or is it something that you learn from life experience and watching your loved ones cope with the things that life throws at them?
My Mum has always had a cool and calm exterior, she is the archetypal type that keeps her head while all around are losing theirs. Luckily this has rubbed off on me and at times when I falter and in need of a bit of reassurance she is always on call for a resilience pep talk. It’s also comforting that in her hour of need I can return the favour.
I wonder if I should send a memo around to my 30 other Resilience Training cohorts giving them my Mum’s phone number. But then selfishly I don’t want her hotline clogged up with the likes of Keith from Accounts – he’ll probably call her everytime his three audience members fall asleep during his set. Oh my God, after witnessing his ten minute acoustic rendition of ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ this is probably going to be a frequent occurrence.
I guess if Mum’s line is engaged I could always call my Aunty Pat. Oh no hang on, if Cousin Angela is freaking out over the lack of coffee perhaps she has enough on her plate… Maybe it’s time to realise that I have in fact bounced back enough to trust my own resilience. I can stretch and bend with the best of them.
Do we want to be defined by the traumas that test us or is it not better to be defined by how we fight back and survive against the odds?