Sunday, December 8, 2013

Resiliency is Personal

Last week, I weathered the impending Midwest snowstorms and attended a local Tedx women's talk. The organizer, an Oklahoma City University student, had lined up four local women to share their stories of resiliency with guests, which was the topic of this particular conference. 

If you're not familiar with Tedx, it is a local discussion organized as part of the overarching, not-for-profit TedTalks, which invites special guests to share ideas and experiences within a limited timeframe.  The presentations are available online at the organization's site, and it is really an honor to present at these talks. 

Each women had an inspiring message, although each one of her journey took a different path. There was a unifying message gleaned from their journeys, however. 

The conference opened with Janet Peerson, the YWCA's CEO, a woman of experience and public acknowledgement for her work with domestic abuse, and ended with Tracy Zhang, a hopeful college senior who migrated to the US from Singapore through China. The generation gap was obvious, but the mental and emotional effort of their journeys were timeless. As each woman stood in front of her audience sharing her struggles as she mastered resiliency, it was clear just how much character each one had established along the way. 

I describe resiliency as a tool to be mastered because it's not an easy quality to attain. We all react to circumstances distinctly and the methods we choose are personal. There may be some of us who choose to resign to our circumstances, accepting whatever stones are thrown onto our paths and doing the best we can under those conditions. Then there are others who make a conscientious decision to challenge their positions, as unfortunate as they may be at the time, and turn situations in their favor. 

At this conference, the speakers exposed us to both outcomes. Tracy Zhang accepted her challenges with grace, but devoted hours of diligence to create a better outcome. She succeeded and is on her way to a promising future in accounting. Then there was Janet Peery who fought the wretched diagnosis handed down to her quadrapelogic son. She describes an experience wrought with positive thinking, family unity and cooperation. It was a strategy aimed at prepping the psyche, both hers and her son's, for rehabilitation. It worked after awhile and her son was to later take his first steps, although at one time he was unable to move his thumbs. The family celebrated big and small improvements and shared personal anectodes meant to encourage her son's rehabilitation. She challenged the dire prognosis and won, only to lose her son seven years later to a tragic car accident. 

While some may process this ordeal as defeat, Ms. Peery interpreted it as a calling to continue helping those in need. There was never a hint of regret in her talk, but the importance of valuing life and challenging the worst of circumstances. She fought to the end, although the end was not the intended goal, and she was satisfied with the final result. 

So what did I learn about resiliency that stormy afternoon? That it is personal. Win or lose, successful or not, it is the energy we give individually to those issues we most value that matters. Life is unpredictable and uncertain, and so are our reactions to circumstances. And although we may not wind up where we intended, at least we had the opportunity to give it a good fighting chance. 

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