In the past week I’ve met three people who demonstrate resilience, a key component in the LifeNuts lifestyle. Rather than cry over the lemons in their lives, they turned the lemons into lemonade.
When I ran the small Mesa Falls (Idaho) marathon ten days ago, I ran with a chatty female runner who told me a little bit about her life. In a marathon with less than 500 runners you’re lucky to run with someone, which I find always makes the experience of 26.2 miles more enjoyable than running it alone.
She told me that she was a Mormon – as many are in this region – but her not drinking alcohol was not just because of her religion, which forbids drinking. Both her father and her grandfather were alcoholics. Verbally abusive, her father showed her the evils of addiction. Her grandfather did the same. She learned and adapted. Now the mother of five and grandmother of several, she’s been happily married for decades, not whining about her unfortunate childhood. Most importantly, she’s forgiven her father and has re-united with him. The ability to forgive allows full healing.
The next example came on my return from Salt Lake City airport to Cincinnati, a day of bad weather in Chicago that forced us to fly to Dallas. In the process of waiting in line to be re-routed, I talked with a man from south of Provo who was also traveling to my city and I sat with him on the flights.
Brad shared with me that he grew up in a devout Mormon family but didn’t buy into the religion. His parents wanted him to go on a two-year mission when he finished high school, a trip that many young Mormon men and women take – as a way of spreading their religion and developing their faith. But Brad declined, angering his parents. They offered him a choice: do the mission trip or leave. He chose to leave and, at 16, Brad was on his own.
Immediately as he told me this, he said it was the best thing that ever happened to him. Again, is the glass half full or half empty? To him it was half full. He moved in with some friends and got a job working as a welder in a factory. He took college courses at night and worked his way through college, eventually taking a sales job with the company. Now at 55, he’s had a good life: family and grandchildren, secure job, and no regrets. He was traveling to Cincinnati to give a training seminar a branch of his company. He also forgave his parents for expelling him and now has included them into his life.
The third example of resilience came a few days later – one that was more shocking. Marvin shared his childhood with me. When he was seven years old, his father came down with a terminal leukemia, having only months to live. That’s sad enough. But one night, the father, realizing he was going to die soon and, unable to stomach the thought of his wife marrying anyone else, shot her in the head, killing her. Imagine a seven-year-old hearing a shot in the night and
walking into his parents’ bedroom to see his mother dead. Marvin told me he never forgets that night.
His father went to jail where he died a month later, leaving Marvin and his two sisters without a mother or father. They were split up, more trauma, and sent to live with various families but eventually were raised under one roof. They grew up. When his youngest sister was 22, she killed herself, possibly as a result of not being resilient.
Marvin, on the other hand, survived, working in a career that involved repairing and installing high voltage lines for an energy company. He’s seen co-workers electrocuted, despite rigorous safety precautions. Yet, in spite of all of this, he’s been happily married, raised children who are now in college, and has moved on with his life. From meeting him, you’d never know he had such experiences. A positive and energetic individual.
The brochure from the psychological association offers several ways to acquire resilience. If you know someone who’s dwelling in sad experiences of the past, you might suggest reading this. And, with the ever-present changes we face in life, we should remember that being resilient plays an important role in our health and happiness.