One Foot in Front of the Other

Ed looks at me and asks, “How do you do it, Silver?” He is referring, of course, to how I am navigating the grief around the loss of my life partner Bill. This is more than a passing interest on Ed’s part. His wife Laura was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the same time as Bill and he is afraid, as anyone would be, that one day he’ll be facing what I am going through now.

I look him in the eyes and answer, “I honestly don’t know, Ed. I just put one foot in front of the other.”

Since that conversation I’ve had a lot of time to reconsider Ed’s question. How does one survive what he and I have had to go through? How does his wife Laura, who is not only surviving, but also thriving despite the cancer, do it?

It has everything to do with emotional resilience.

During those long hours caring for Bill and the torturous days waiting for test results and wondering, always wondering what the future held, what gave me strength was the emotional resilience I had spent years building.  Even on the days I felt like I had lost it, it was there.

So what is emotional resilience and why is it important?

According to the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy website, “Emotional resilience simply refers to one’s ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises. More resilient people are able to “roll with the punches” and adapt to adversity without lasting difficulties, while less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes.”

People with road rage (any rage, really) are sorely lacking in emotional resilience.

I am living proof that emotional resilience can be developed and/or deepened. It has everything to do with where you place your focus. If I could attribute only one factor to my own resilience (and there are many), it would be learning about the Law of Attraction, a principle that says, “You get more of what you focus on.”

My early childhood was unhappy and my teens and twenties even more so. I had the mindset of a victim and I constantly attracted people and circumstances that reinforced my view of the world. Fortunately, my Dad always told us, “You can learn anything from a book.”  (Although I personally prefer my surgeons and dental hygienists to have actual experience.) Because I was so miserable, I began to look for answers.

My first mentor was Dale Carnegie who wrote, How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book taught me how to get along with others, a major problem at that time of my life. It worked and in the 9th grade I was elected to Student Council! Since that early success, I have been on the path to creating a life that I want instead of a life that just happens to me.  The more I learn, the more emotionally resilient I become and the reserves are there when I need them most.

Think back. Who were your mentors? Who helped you to become more emotionally resilient?

I’d love to hear.