Last updated on 7th August 2014
It's coming up to the two year anniversary of one of the major potential traumas of my life - see "Walking in Skye & Kintail: mountain rescue, helicopter winches, and avoiding death & PTSD." I felt there was so much to learn from this experience that I try to re-read the description every month to help me remember the precious lessons that were involved.
We can gain resilience through difficulty - not too much, but not too little either. The researcher Mark Seery has written extensively about this - for example in last year's paper "An upside to adversity?: Moderate cumulative lifetime adversity is associated with resilient responses in the face of controlled stressors" and his earlier "Whatever does not kill us: Cumulative lifetime adversity, vulnerability, and resilience." Other research teams have also noted these effects e.g. Neff & Broady's paper "Stress resilience in early marriage: can practice make perfect?" There is even truth in the folk wisdom that experiences of difficulty can help us value the good things in our lives even more - "From tribulations to appreciation: Experiencing adversity in the past predicts greater savoring in the present."
I'm in a book group and we have been asked to read Jane Hirshfield's fine collection of poems "Each happiness ringed by lions". The request is to choose a few of the poems to read out when we next meet ... and to write a reply or extension to one of them. Here is Jane's "With singing and banners":
Demosthenes, a wise man, filled his mouth
with pebbles before speaking,
and a stream which has run ten feet over rocks
is clear, they say, and safe to drink;
yet still we forget what is owed our failures -
blessings, to praise the stumbled on stone.
And forget what we once knew, how properly to greet
old enemies, for whose sake we practise and parry,
with singing and banners, with gladness.
And the 'extension':
Walter Scott, a fine author, wrote of
‘The stern joy that warriors feel in foeman worthy of their steel.'
and it is walking’s repeated impact
that strengthens bone and prevents fracture.
A meditation teacher once told me ‘It can be good to have some pain,
it helps us to stay present.’
Celebrate the warm embrace of friends;
And celebrate too the cold splash
with singing and banners, with awareness.