The Bounce

The Bounce February 16, 2015

You may have heard of “crisisunites” or “Another bleeping learning experience.” We have them. The question is what we choose to do with them.

You might need to take Persephone’s soul journey into the underworld. You might rest, like Jesus, in the tomb. You may retreat into the womb or your safe and cozy clay pot of a regulated life. You may be desperately clinging to your life vest as you hurtle over the waterfall, through the underground river, to rebirth in the vast ocean. You may be working too many hours for too little pay, feeling drained and exhausted or ineffectual and frustrated. You may be feeling that feeling that every hero in every story has: hanging over a precipice or facing an un-climb-able mountain or seven impossible tasks.

photo courtesy of shutterstock
photo courtesy of shutterstock

Here’s the good news, the journey continues on: you don’t have to stay in the tomb, but can emerge, like a chick, bruised and battered from the shell. With change, we get a gift. The gift of transformation. No matter how messy it is, we deserve the richness of transformation.

Resilience is the ability to adapt, be flexible, manage crisis or stressful situations and turn them into opportunities.

Rebirth isn’t easy nor done in one attempt. There is work, rest, and more work. Some people talk about being “broken open”, like a clay pot, needing something extreme to open up. Or a broken heart that mends more beautiful.Transformation is like travelling through the birth canal. Everyone agrees that it isn’t easy, simple or pain-free, but folks usually report that it was necessary.

Once you begin to trust that the light you see at the end of the tunnel is NOT an oncoming train, and that anything that may be coming at you, you can handle, you can: “be like a bird who pausing in her flight on a branch too slight feels it give way beneath her. Yet sings, knowing she has wings”. (Victor Hugo)

This is the Bounce. This is Resilience.

When runners start a race, they set themselves on their blocks, sink down, then launch forward along the track. Some say resilience is “bouncing back” like a spring, to our pre-crisis shape but I don’t think we can, or should, try to be the same. Resilience is “bouncing forward:” transforming to meet the new.

The bounce can be a baby bounce. A baby step. It almost always is.

Ferron sings “I take my cue from, the willow tree, For it don’t break from just one storm, But bends with a strength that keeps it free.” That flex is important.

You may be saying “Wings when I’m suffering? I barely have feet, I’m crawling here! What is so redemptive about suffering?

Yep. When life gives us bad news, we have bad news. I grit my teeth when I hear: “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Really? As my 17 year old niece pointed out… If life forgets to give you water and sugar, you are going to get pretty bad lemonade!

Without health care, nutrition, or something else that you desperately need, you are on the branch too slight, the branch that gives way beneath us. These resilience factors are an environment our community must create. Each and every precious person deserves to live in an environment with these supports. We owe it to ourselves and our children to create a resilience-friendly world.

We must create our own resilience, even when conditions of resilience are withheld. We must determinedly, intrepidly, create our own redemption.

Years ago I stood in a misty field in Illinois and sang with the marchers of the Great Peace March of 1986:“You can’t forbid the sun to rise, you can’t stop the song that I sing, you can’t forbid my tears to fall, and you can’t stop the changes I bring.”

As we sang we cried for violence and destruction. We sang to heal our hearts, and to give ourselves and each other courage. We held onto our faith that the sun would rise and the changes would come. Yes, the tears are important, so are the songs…

Transformation and wisdom cannot be withheld. Suffering is redeemed by the wisdom we gain. Like Pandora of Pandora’s Box we are born innocent of pain, but we also do not have wisdom. You CAN take any experience, no matter how difficult, and make it a learning experience. Robert Grudin says, “To learn is not merely to accumulate data; it is to rebuild one’s world.”

Sometimes resilience is about shattering, and mending. Like Japanese kintsugi bowls. The cracks, highlighted with gold, are the most precious part of the bowl. Or, like the real life Titanic disaster survivor, Molly Brown: you float rather than sink. Her story was so gripping she was memorialized in play and film as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”. Horrifically memorable experiences live on as stories and MAYBE serve as a warning to not go that way again. We don’t remain in the horrible experience when it is transformed into story.

We need to make time for mourning, experiencing pain, and facing fearful truths. And there comes a point when our interior season is ready to change. We need to walk through the valley of darkness, but we don’t have to do it alone. Rainer Maria Rilke says: “In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us.” Many times, what has saved me from being stuck in the grey world of despair is the presence of friends. They don’t have to say anything, just show up: and it makes all the difference.

Helping others is one way to help yourself. Even the bird has help from the spring in the branch, the movement of the air.

Jan Phillips tells the story of a car accident she endured. She was pinned under the hot car. When people came running up. “We’ll go get help” they said. “NO!” She cried, knowing she didn’t have much time. “don’t go, you ARE the help!” She could feel her life being crushed out of her “Get this car off of me”. And then the miracle happened. They realized that they were the only ones there. And they DID IT! We ARE the help! Each and every one of us is the help.

All around us others are trapped under cars. Their lives are being crushed out of them. The car may be named racism, or economic inequity. We are called out of our pain or despair to show up for those who need us.

Curiosity, determination, perseverance, community, prayer, help, and faith give us resilience.

Simply having wings is not enough. You have to be willing to use them.

How do you know it is time for a bounce? Discomfort. Spending too much time in the safe, and comfy womb (or tomb) gets confining. Stunting. Boring. A chick that stays in its shell will starve. A person who needs transformation is soul-starved. You are called to break free, not just for you, but for your friends your family and your community. Some people encounter difficulty and turn despair into a way of life. Our souls cannot flourish when we are buried in bitterness or hibernating in the doldrums.

When you awaken, sometimes what wakes you is as simple as curiosity… or a song… In Campfire we sang at the “fly up ceremony” to celebrate the transition from bluebird level to full-fledged campfire girls: Pretty little bluebird why do you fly? Come back, Come back, to me. I fly said the bird as she flew up high, to see if my color matches the sky…

You are worth it. We owe it to ourselves, and our loved ones, to wrest all the transformation we can out of the jaws of difficult times. There’s a secret key to resilience. You are not alone in your weakness, your fear, your anger, your mistakes. You are not the only one who is sad, confused, or self-absorbed. We hide our neurotic and nutty sides. But we all have them.

Just like other humans, I am imperfect. I worry and fret over things I can’t control. For all of my strengths, I am also a vulnerable person who sometimes needs to stay in bed and weep, sometimes needs help. When we keep this secret from each other, we make it unsafe to be our authentic, wise, and wonderful selves.

Resilience is not a rare and magical quality. In fact, it is quite common.

You can be like the bird, and bounce into flight. May you remember that you are not alone. No-one can stop the changes you bring. May you spread your wings, bounce off that branch, and fly!

[Amy Beltaine is Sole proprietor of Listen to HeartSong: Supporting you to create and navigate social and spiritual transformation. Inviting you to conspire with the spirit of life to do the work of love. Reverend Amy is endlessly fascinated and excited by the mystical experience of the sacred in nature and relationships, per describes perself as a… woman, teacher, seeker, and a letter in “lgbtq”.]

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