Write Your Own Story of Strength and Resilience

Yesterday, I arrived at a deeper sort of realization about my own resilience. After all of the restorative work I have done – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – I am not nearly as fragile as I imagine.

dsc00757After years of pushing myself to the limit, I came to accept that my body was screaming “enough!” (An easy message to receive while lost in the exhaustion of the Epstein-Barr virus.) I responded by paying attention to my body in previously unimagined ways and began a discovery process about health and spirit that will continue for the rest of my life.

This heightened awareness was and continues to be amazing. For all that I have learned, however, there is one major drawback: I became more conscious of my limitations than I was of my own strength.

I was obsessed with the food I couldn’t eat, the yoga I was too weak to practice, the events I couldn’t enjoy since I needed such an intense amount of rest. The worst of this illness was three years ago, but the legacy of lack still haunts the edges of my perspective.

Somehow it was largely impossible to recognize the incremental improvements that I was making because I had become so addicted to the story of my own illness. I came to realize how afraid I was to expend any energy for fear I would either crash and burn or feel like a failure and an invalid.

Only in the last year have I been able to step back and watch myself weather one physical, mental, or emotional storm after another. Life has been happening around me with all of its attendant ups and downs, and I am finally coming to realize that I have actually been riding the waves in grand enough style.

We live in a world plagued by contradictions and polluted with mixed messages. We are at once shown powerful women so worthy of respect and emulation (Oprah and Hillary immediately come to mind) and yet we are also barraged with ad campaigns about only finding your true worth if some man buys you a diamond or if you drop a few pounds.

We know in our guts that we need our strength, but the selling of fragility as the way to love and safety infects us all to some degree. I don’t think this is only a woman’s problem – all people, regardless of gender are subject to a market that thrives on keeping us weak. (Give in to you cravings. You know you need that drink/candy bar/trip to the casino. Resistance is futile.)

dsc00749Was my preoccupation with my weaknesses the direct result of a misogynistic media or the capitalist machine? Not likely. But it did help me understand how so many people are constantly unwilling or unable to acknowledge their own power and resiliency and instead become invested in their own limitations. We all get caught up in the stories that society hands us and the ones that we then personalize for our own journeys.

Our stories are vital, personal bits of narrative that connect us to the experience of our own lives. They can be beautiful, epic descriptions of strength that help reflect back to us our greatest traits. All too often, however, they are little scraps of fears and disappointments that have been woven together to become a dark fable of the futility of life.

The nice thing about stories? Someone gets to make them up based on the facts and the dreams that lay before her. Can you look at some of the stories that you tell yourself about your life and choose to turn the tales about resilience and strength into your own lived epic?

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9 thoughts on “Write Your Own Story of Strength and Resilience

  1. Nita January 14, 2009 / 4:00 am

    Oooooohhhh……this is good stuff.

  2. blisschick January 14, 2009 / 11:15 am

    Oh, I’ve always wanted to teach a “rewrite your story” workshop. Wouldn’t that be awesomely fun and possibly life altering?

    Perhaps this post is a reminder for me to do that? Hmmmm…

  3. Doc January 14, 2009 / 1:16 pm

    You have reminded me of one of my favorite quotes,

    “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others”
    Author: Maryanne Williamson, Source: (1996). A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. New York: HarperCollins

    As far as stories, they are much too long for a comment section.

  4. Nerdy Renegade January 14, 2009 / 3:14 pm

    This post has perfect timing for me! I am 18 months into my restoration journey – after 10 plus years of doing myself in. Anxiety, depression, adrenal fatigue, vicarious PTSD, gluten intolerance, etc, etc, etc.
    Indeed, I am in the process of discovering (again and again) just how fragile I am right now.
    But through this process of saving my own life and excavating the landscape of my soul, I am getting more and more in touch with who I truly am – and the inner source of my power. (Living from the inside out vs. the outside in.)
    I have glimpses – perhaps even days at a time – where the window of energy blows open and I’m in the zone of my newfound life. However, it does not take much to throw me back into extreme self-care mode – which is really what I probably needed all along and just ignored!
    So yes, I’m glad you are recognizing the need to not identify with your ‘story’ any longer. You are the heroine of your own life, not the victim!
    And I’m working hard to not let this define me – but merely REFINE me into the person I’m meant to become.

  5. Barbara January 14, 2009 / 8:18 pm

    I am not the person others usually describe as fragile. That’s no doubt my fault for projecting myself that way. I am, in fact, a person with limits and strengths just like everyone else. I wouldn’t mind being treated as fragile now and then.
    But you make very good points in your post. I often portray the challenges of my growing up as unfortunate situations in which I was a kind of victim. Others have expressed admiration for what I did accomplish: the independence and inner strength I drew upon to compensate for a lack of external support. Truth be told, they are right, but it is sometimes hard to see that.

  6. pam at beyondjustmom January 15, 2009 / 10:04 am

    I needed to hear this today. I’ve been wallowing a bit in my own suffering (shingles) lately. It was a good wakeup call to take care of self for a change, but you are SO right. It’s part of a much larger story, and recognizing that might be a very, very powerful thing.
    Thanks.

  7. m3isme January 24, 2009 / 2:37 pm

    This is powerful…thank you for sharing it.

    • girlwhocriedepiphany January 25, 2009 / 10:54 am

      Thanks to all for your thoughtful comments. I have been a bit preoccupied with the stuff of life of late, but each message from you all has been balm to my soul. Blessings, Marisa

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