Zia Hassan

Choosing To Be Resilient

I used to think that a happy person was someone full of smiles. Someone who, upon hearing tragic news, would shrug it off and smell the roses. Someone who you couldn’t shatter with bad news. A happy person, to me, was invincible. And sometimes, you’ll hear this adage that you can choose to be happy if you want to be.

But considering that in 33 years, I’ve never met such a person, perhaps we shouldn’t spread this idea of happiness being a choice. It’s too simple.

After all, we’ve got our limbic system, which doesn’t care much about logical choices. And there are many tragic situations that call for sadness as the appropriate response. And I have to believe that part of some people’s sadness comes from the idea that they could be happy if they just wanted to be.

In school, teachers don’t teach kids to be happy. Instead, they teach them how to deal with their emotions appropriately. It’s interesting how rarely we practice what we teach.

I think a healthier spiritual framework is to choose to be resilient. With this framework, you would allow the entire spectrum of emotions to affect you. You would be fully immersed in the emotions for which a given situation calls… but you wouldn’t let your own emotions defeat you, or control your thinking.

In a word, you are resilient. Resilience, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t mean letting things “slide off your back” or whatever. Have you ever met anyone who actually does that? Not just someone appears to do that, but someone who actually doesn’t care when bad things happen to them?

Probably not. But you have met people who seem to steady the wheel in times of turbulence, despite their very blatant pain. People who care so deeply about what is happening around them, but they never (not even once) consider giving up.

So when tragedy strikes, big or small, what do you do? Two choices.

  1. You let it get inside your head. You avoid talking to people at the dinner party for fear of bursting into tears. You go to bed plagued by the thought of more joy being undone, more shoes dropping, more people in your life with pain.

  2. You lean in. You ask people how they are, how they really are. You smell the food at the table. You touch the placemat, marveling at how real it feels. You laugh, despite your pain, despite the tears that are on the verge of your eyelids. You keep going.

Resilience is a good gift to give to yourself.

But it’s an even greater gift for those who surround you. I know I’ll forget this again the next time tragedy strikes, but for now, it’s on paper. Send this link back to me if I ever forget.