What I Learned Resilience Was (And Wasn’t)

By Brooke Dearman

I’m going to get right into it, and we can get all fluffy and personal about it later. Resilience is NOT your ability to constantly and consistently withstand the storms life has thrown at you with a smile on your face and saying to passerby “I’m not even wet”. Resilience is your ability to search for an umbrella to protect yourself from the rain. It is about acknowledging that yes, I am soaking wet, I am cold, this is not ideal. But I am going to do everything I can to protect myself. That metaphor feels chaotic to me, so let me call myself and probably some others out—being able to pretend that the bad things don’t affect you, that you are strong and therefore undamaged, that you are OKAY!!!! Is not resilience. Resilience Is taking these big bad things, processing them, and moving forward in a productive way. Maybe not by definition or by strictly academic terms, but stay with me here and let’s explore this idea together.

I don’t mean to say that if you are—much like me—just saying that everything is okay and using that as an excuse to go about your daily life, that you are not resilient and beautiful and important. I mean that having the heaviness of your experiences on your shoulders and then taking on more and more and more, crying in the bathtub alone, refusing to name your feelings or feel them at all, is destructive. Yes, only destructive to you. But you and I both know you don’t deserve that.

I’m going to throw in another metaphor. I bought this plant last March. What kind is it? Unsure. When does it need to be watered? Unclear. Does it need direct sunlight? Couldn’t tell ya. I just know that I like her beautiful green leaves, the way she climbs out of the pot is very pleasing to the eyes. and she is the most understanding plant in the world. I sometimes water her once a day and I sometimes water her once a month and she lives. A few brown leaves have popped up here and there but I just let them be, I let her do her thing. Resilient, right?

But here’s another thing about her. She’s been the same size since I found her. It’s been nearly a year and I’ve had no leaves to propagate (thank goodness because what does that mean) and I’ve been able to keep her in the same $3 planter I bought at Target. And if you pull back those long leaves and look in her pot is something I never saw from the outside…just piles and piles of rotted roots and dead leaves.

Well guess what, here’s something you didn’t see coming, I don’t know anything about plants. And everyday I find that I don’t know very much about people either.

A necessary process in being resilient enough to withstand whatever life throws at you has to be the acknowledgement of it, the processing of it, and the productivity of moving forward having learned new lessons. Healing is ugly and it’s hard. But having that invisible Girl Scout badge that said: “I WENT THROUGH IT, SO MANY TIMES, BUT I AM OKAY!!!!!!!” feels silly in comparison to the idea that wait, I can actually be okay. I can be vulnerable,

My plant can’t talk but I wonder if she’d be angry, sad, disappointed…because there are times when I feel all three at myself. Pruning my leaves, figuring out what size pot I’m actually supposed to be in, learning what amount of sunlight I need has been a process that at times I wish I’d never started. It’s easier to be a plant in chaos, getting more water sometimes and less water others, keeping my dying dehydrated leaves on the outside where no one can see. But I don’t know how long it would take, I don’t think the future for my little plant was very bright. She was resilient, but how could she withstand the neglect? (The more I write the more I want to apologize to my unliving plant) And—whew, it took us a while to get here, thanks for sticking with me—at the end of the day we all deserve to grow.