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Sometimes resiliency is in the little things

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Yesterday I was walking with a group of friends and their dogs at a nature preserve in Palo Alto. As I was not walking a dog, I brought my camera along to take pictures of the group, their dogs, and the plentiful shorebirds that frequent the area.

I wanted to get photos of the entire group, but because I only brought my telephoto zoom lens with me, it necessitated running ahead of the group, taking pictures while the group caught up to me, running ahead again . . . you get the picture (pun intended.)

As the group sauntered toward me each time, I was vaguely aware of snippets of conversation. A mother and her 18-year-old daughter were telling the rest of the bunch a story from what I could tell. After awhile I caught on that it was a series of short stories. The women who were listening responded to the stories with “Oh!” and “Wow, that’s so frustrating!”

I ran ahead again.

This time as they came within earshot, I heard the mother laughingly say to the group, “So THAT’S why you don’t want to be in our family right now! Everything seems to be going wrong!” The daughter chimed in and said, “I know it’s all going to work out and be okay. It’s just that right now it’s very frustrating.” Then they said something I couldn’t hear, but the entire group laughed.

I liked this interaction. I liked it a lot. Not that I wish bad things on my friends, but I liked how this family is showing resiliency even in the little things. Let’s review their resiliency skills:

1. They talked about it. It was obvious that mom and daughter had talked about their circumstances quite a bit – they weren’t hiding things from each other. And they reached out for support to others even if only by telling their circumstances to elicit laughter. Which brings me to the next skill.

2. They laughed about it. Humor is a wonderful balm on all sorts of wounds. And the laughter was not that “We’re laughing about it only because we’re supposed to look brave” kind of laughter. This was “Can you believe life is throwing all this stuff at us at once? How ridiculous!” laughter. Real laughter.

3. They put things in perspective. They understood that life had hurled them tough stuff in the past and they had made it through. With this perspective, even the youngest woman in the group was able to understand that the frustrations she was facing now were temporary; past experiences gave her the confidence that everything would turn out okay.

It wasn’t any big deal. Just a mother and daughter telling some stories in a funny way about a rough patch in their lives. You might not have even noticed if you were walking beside the group. But that’s what resiliency can be – it doesn’t have to be big and heroic, sometimes it’s just a way of life.

Takeaway points: Humor, perspective, sharing. Just these three things can make life’s tough spots a lot easier.

What little things do you do that help you make resiliency a way of life?


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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.