In the dark, I stared at the phone. Please don’t ring. We left our small, helpless newborn in the neo-natal ICU. He struggled to stay alive with every breath.

“The next 48 to 72 hours will be the most critical. If his lungs develop in that time, his prospects are good.”

One word held me in fear—if. Every moment the phone didn’t ring brought us closer to “his prospects are good.”

That day and the days to come I learned the power of resilience. That small bundle grew to 6’1” and continues to bring joy and laughter.

“We need resilience and hope and a spirit that can carry us through the doubt and fear.”

—Brené Brown
, Daring Greatly

When my sister died in 2019, I struggled to recover. Loss was not new. The sudden and tragic death of her twin, and then, my brother taught me that nothing ever remains the same. We mourn for what we will never get back. Sadness follows us as we yearn for what will never be.

Weighed down by an immense sorrow, I trudged through every day. Putting on a brave smile, I clung to hope. What did I need, now? In a word—resilience.

Resilience grows from the ability to get knocked down by life and bounce back, even stronger than before. Resiliency isn’t about endurance. You build resilience. How?

What trees can teach us about resilience

Aspen trees on a mountainside in summer

Think about trees. The trunks of trees become stronger as they resist the wind and natural conditions. But a tree is more than what we see—trunk, limbs, and leaves.

Trees grow a web of roots that dig deep into the ground and spread well beyond the trunk to hold the weight of the tree. Aspen trees grow to 20 to 80 feet, but their trunks average 3 to 18 inches in diameter.

What keeps them standing through snow and wind on the mountainsides? An interconnected root system creates a shared network to support the trees.

Like those tree roots, you can build resiliency through hope. With every small act of getting back up, you create your own network. You become stronger and more resilient.

One word

Every December, I begin thinking about my focus for the coming year. I choose a word that reflects my aspirations. Or one that will keep me grounded in what matters to me.

In small bits and pieces, my focus for 2020 began to unfold. The messages came in the books I read, articles, podcasts, and the wisdom of friends

Little did I know on January 1, 2020, how profound that choice would become. As I strive to rebuild and cultivate resilience in my own life, I am not alone. Thousands, no millions, face difficulties and loss.

I write the word—resilience—on each page of my journal. A constant reminder to keep on keeping on. Fate or whatever you might call it, ensures the word remains in my face.

A fellow writer, George J. Ziogas shared an inspiring story and his insights on resilience. Another reminder.

One more step

Find moments of joy along the way. Like the roots of those Aspen trees, joy knits together your resolve to keep going. No one escapes bad things. But we can choose how we respond to the unexpected and unwanted difficulties.

“Joy, collected over time fuels resilience.”
Brené Brown

And always—

Be kind. Be brave. Be you.

Photo: © Kathryn LeRoy