Getting Back Up

Here we go again. We’ve spent what feels like forever in quarantine and just when we thought it was safe to come out and play, we have
to go back in again. We aren’t in shock this time. We’ve dealt with it for far too long for that, but a pall of depression and hopelessness seems to be hovering over my friends and me. We’re tired of Netflix and wearing masks. We’re tired of the Greek names of variants, super spreaders. long haulers, conspiracy theories, anti vaxxers and the rising numbers of contagions and deaths.

It’s easy to fall down the depression spiral, but instead of watching the ticker tape of bad news that is so available all the time, I’m
placing my focus on resilience. My time in the ballet was all about that. Showing up every morning for an hour and a half class. Rehearsing eight hours a day. Dancing on blisters and sprained ankles. That was all difficult but nothing challenged my toughness like touring: getting on a bus every morning for 10 weeks at a time, traveling from one Podunk town to another, performing every night, crashing in a seedy motel and getting up in the morning to do it all over again.

We blew off steam by rushing through the hallways and pouring soap suds into the fountains but those things were diversions. No matter what we did the night before, every day we had to be resilient enough to get up and go. During each tour, I remember a morning, usually about half way through, when I got onto the bus and I wanted to scream. “I can’t do this any more,” I told myself. As the engine revved up and we hit the road, I fantasized quitting, going to an airport and flying home. But when I fell into that kind of frustration, I called on my toughness and dozed off, waking up when we pulled into a motel parking lot in the next town, ready to perform.  

Disappointment and doubt show up when we fall. It’s embarrassing
and discouraging. But we feel so much better when we get back up and keep moving forward. When figure skaters are flying across the ice and they take a painful fall in the middle of a triple axel, they get up so fast, you wonder if they even fell at all. They return to their program as if nothing happened. That’s resilience.

When I write, I notice a similar pattern. I’m coasting along, my
fingers are moving as if by magic, the words are flying onto the page, when suddenly I hit a wall. I make an abrupt stop at a fork in the road, I don’t know which story line to follow and paralysis sets in. I can push away from the computer in frustration and self-judgment or I can sit there, speak kindly to myself and wait for my pen to start moving again. It always does and that’s when the really good stuff starts flowing out of my mind and onto the page.

Learning to get back up is what Buddhists call “cultivating
resilience.” It isn’t just there. We have to develop it. It takes time and a lot of practice to stop thinking about hopelessness. To stop feeling like we failed. To stop wanting to give up. I was watching a documentary on Disney + about the Beatles composing and preparing for their final performance as a group. I was amazed at their process, how they constantly tried different methods and
approaches, went  back and tried again. It seemed to us that they just sat down and the magic happened but the group that Ringo now calls “The Greatest Band in All the Land” had to show up every day and keep perfecting their craft.

Do you see yourself as a resilient person? How does that show up
in your daily life?