Saturday, April 3, 2010

On Resilience

On my walk to the train yesterday a squirrel fell from the sky. Well, judging from the scrabbling noise I heard from above, he probably fell from a tree limb, but it was still startling. He didn't even try to get his feet under him. He just hit the sidewalk about 4 feet in front of me, lying on his side. I heard a tiny crack as he made contact with the pavement.

As I watched him fall I had one of those thought avalanches where I pictured myself splinting his tiny legs and cursed myself for not knowing if the new recommendations about rescue breathing during CPR applied to rodents. Before I could react, however, he was off, frisking about with his squirrel buddies, keeping pace with them in spite of his recent shock.

Maybe that's how it is with squirrels. They can afford all of their high-flying daredevilry because they're built to take a licking. Or maybe he ran because his little squirrel brain didn't know what else to do and just kept him going until he dropped.

Either way, it was an impressive display of resilience—equal parts foolhardy and admirable.

We found out this week that T's dad is sick. It's not really my story to tell so I'll keep it short. The prognosis isn't good.

I have to admit that I was feeling inappropriately smug about the future or at least about the remainder of 2010. I'd rediscovered my capacity for foresight and had visions of the leisurely contemplation of nothing in particular.

The past several years have been tightly managed in these parts. A forced march onward, upward, above through regimented activity. Somewhere in my mind lurks the rock-solid belief that our salvation, our return to normalcy, lies in whiter socks and more orderly closets. Or perhaps it's about not slipping further down the slope.

But this spring was gonna be all about relaxation and unlimited potential—thoughts and possibilities flitting about like tiny yellow butterflies while we sit back decide whether or not to chase them.

In mixed company I'll say all of the right things about hope and positive thoughts. We'll put our trust in the doctors and fix our faith firmly in place. But privately I can't muster a positive view. Instead I'm sitting in the family room of an ICU, I'm watching my mother-in-law sign a DNR order, I'm choosing pictures for a memorial service and taking ownerless shoes to a thrift shop. I can't even feel amazed that I don't dread these things anymore.

People who haven't experienced loss or watched someone suffer through a serious illness might think I'm callous and unhelpful but I know everyone reading here understands. There are lessons that can't be unlearned.

And resilience has a dark side.


  1. Resilience is for the birds...having the strength to live through the dark times is exhausting and often not so pretty. xoxo

  2. 'There are lessons that can't be unlearned.'
    You're right. I'm terribly sorry to read about T's dad.

    I think I understand how you perhaps can't dread these things anymore? Or again?

    Thinking of the squirrel you saw, do you know this song?

    Thinking of you and your family xo

  3. T, I'm so sorry to hear T's dad is sick. I get it, resilience does have a dark side but its hard for me to think of it that way since I have a feeling your resilience will provide much needed comfort and stability for those around you and T who aren't as accustomed to grief and loss. Sending you strength.