I distinctly recall, when I was three years old deciding that I would never give my mother the satisfaction of seeing me cry. I never did and now my emotions are locked down tighter than a ship of nuns in pirate-ridden seas.
Now you might say that I am a severely damaged individual. Maybe so. I am, nevertheless, an individual who can function in most circumstances.
Going to pieces is never very helpful, neither is breaking down in floods of tears, stumping around or throwing a wobbly. At the end of all of that you find yourself in exactly the same position but, additionally, upset.
In the latest film by the neighbour, James Bond rides a motorbike up a wall with never a hair out of place.
Savoir faire, that’s the fella. How does JB acquire his? Well, first he went to public school, I think, as good a training as you could get anywhere. I went to a posh girl’s school where you payed hockey in all weathers in your little divided shorts which enabled you to watch your knees going first blue, then purple then glowing red, just before your legs fell off. Some folk gave in slightly and could be found snivelling in corners. Everyone dreaded the year with the terrifying teacher when we were eight. She could fire mental arithmetic questions at the speed of light on a Friday morning and was quite likely to stand you in a stress position if you got three in a row wrong. Everyone knew you were not in the kindergarten with the modelling clay and your little box of counters now, sunshine! Oh no! Gym outside in the rain in your underwear, rush back inside at the double for some hemming which had better be invisible or else! Colouring in was exactly inside the line and nowhere else and completely even. Twenty-four little girls had a year of terror and I had a walk in the park because my mother was worse. Much much worse. I was not expecting life to be easy and was not disappointed. By eight I had developed a character like rusty iron and could crack jokes under any circumstances. I was also very subversive. I was James Bond in training.
It was, of course, all very well for me but others have not had my massive advantages, chief of which was the knowledge that if I hadn’t been adopted, I’d have been sent to Australia as slave labour, so that everything subsequently could be viewed as a lucky escape.,
In the present circumstances, of the inconvenience of a global pandemic, those of us who have previously enjoyed less than rosy lives surrounded by admiring loved ones, with an enormous salary, frequent holidays in the best hotels round the world, the perfect, face, figure, lifestyle, companions and everything just ticketty boo, are at an enormous advantage. We are not expecting much if any of that, so when it gets taken away we are not just OK with it, we are exactly the same.
If you did have all or some of that, this is the best opportunity you may ever have to develop some resilience.
Resilience is the name of the game. Resilience is the attribute that enables perseverance. How many times did James Bond fall off the scooter before he got up the wall? The crucial thing was not the falling off, it was the getting back on again.
I sometimes see, walking past my house, a lady who I know lives several doors up. She walks with a stick, having been run over on this busy main road, which now has speed bumps, thanks to her accident.
She walks with a stick.
To that you can reply: Oh dear how awful! Or you can see that: She walks.
Do you remember Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist? What’s the first thing you remember about him? The second is that he was still here despite the wheelchair, still teaching despite not being able to talk, still making television programmes many years after a diagnosis which would have caused others to give up. He was resilient and it was his resilience that enabled him to do all the subsequent things.
Resilience is a life skill which can only be developed in adversity. The ability to get up and make the best of the day when yesterday was awful is the foundation of resilience.
Optimism feeds it. You cannot know what is ahead but if you anticipate something terrible and react to it before it happens and then it does happen, you’ve made yourself suffer twice. Something wonderful may be just round the corner but you won’t know until you get there. You do have to go there, but only you can decide to go cheerfully. You can be glum if you like and then, when you’ve got there, find you’ve inflicted unnecessary misery on yourself.
The great thing about resilience is that the more you practice it the better you get at it.
This ground hog day in which we find ourselves is the most perfect training for developing resilience. We do not know what will happen next. The situation is at once, very stressful and very boring. We are thrown back on our own resources. No one is coming to our rescue. All measures may be ineffective in the long run. There is no true end in sight. Death may be just around the corner.
We have the time and the quiet to look inside ourselves and find the will to survive. We have another day and another to learn to put a cheerful face on things. We can all round us see those who are worse off. Think not? You could be going through this in a refugee camp, some people are. If you are reading this on an electronic device by definition you are one of the lucky ones. Smile because you either haven’t got it yet or you have and you have survived.
I don’t know why I’m telling you, I correspond by email with enough readers to know that readers of this blog are mostly survivors of their own lives. And well done if you are.
This is life skills practice. You and I cannot just do this, we can do this in style with a smile and probably even crack a joke as well.
Frank, Dean and Bing all sang You either have or you haven’t got style. This is our chance, you and I, to polish up our style. It’s more than a chance, it’s a gift. Day after day ride that bike up that wall until we can do it without a hair out of place and a smile. (I’m going for a laconic grin and one eyebrow slightly raised, what about you?)
My savoir has never been more faire dear, hand me the top hat and the cane, I’m practising to come out of this dancing!