A Life Lesson from a Schwinn 10-speed

Memorial Day has a very specific purpose – to remember those who served our country in war and conflict and didn’t come home.  Memorial Day is just that – a memorial. 

Knowingly or unknowingly we all establish memorials in our lives.  Maybe a small trinket on a shelf that reminds you of a loved one no longer in your life, a piece of jewelry or clothing that reminds you of a precious grandmother or beloved sibling, or even a tree in the yard that was planted on a special occasion. 

There is a lot of talk these days about resilience, especially when talking about the hard times in our lives – like losing a loved one.  Even I talk about it with my clinic and coaching clients.  I believe many of us downplay our personal experiences and victories.  We spend our time looking at others, amazed and in awe of what they have survived and overcome, but we can’t see the same in our own lives.

The thing about resilience is it’s always defined as bouncing back from a challenging experience.  Something happens that pulls us down and then we bounce back up again, higher in self-awareness and coping skills than before.

Instead of resilience being about rebounding, what if it were all about building momentum?

Did you ride bikes when you were a kid?  Maybe this will sound a little familiar – you’re pedaling along and start up a hill and notice that you have to pedal harder and harder to keep going up that hill.  Maybe that hill won.  You had to stop and either coast back down or walk your bike to the top.  The next time you were at the bottom of that hill, what did you do?  Maybe you pulled back a little farther from the beginning of the hill and started pedaling as hard as you could…and then hit it going so much faster than before!  Even if you didn’t make it to the top, you got further than the first time, right? 

That’s momentum.  The force of motion in something that keeps it moving, even when it hits some bumps in the road. 

Instead of the visual of being pulled down to the depths and then bouncing back up into the sunlight, what if we go back to the idea of life being a journey and we are all simply building speed (not NASCAR-like, but you get me) with each peak and valley that comes along?  It makes that next hill just a little bit easier to climb. 

That’s resilience.  It’s about finding a way to use each and every experience in this crazy life to make the next valley, hill or dark place easier to move through because we have built up some momentum. 

When you have memorial anniversaries or something randomly triggers a reaction and a memory, it is really easy to feel as though you’re going backwards because “here I am again in the same place and I really thought I had it under control”. 

But take notice.  Each time you walk through that place, how does it change from the previous experiences walking that road?  Perhaps the load feels a little lighter this time around.  Maybe you’re willing to let someone else walk with you for a while instead of being the strong one who needs do it alone.  Maybe it’s simply that you don’t have to work – or pedal – so hard this time to get through. That’s resilience. 

And let me go ahead and tell you, like someone did for me not too long ago – You are resilient.

Sixty Second Self-Care Tip

Whether you’re spending this Memorial Day remembering loved ones lost serving our country or you’re grieving another loss in your life, a quick way to manage the emotions – and build resilience – is to reminisce. 

When you find yourself in the middle of a stressful or highly emotional moment, pause and recall a happy, pleasant memory.  You get to choose.  There is no right or wrong.  Spend a good 15-30 seconds watching that video in your mind’s eye.  Take a few deep breaths.  Maybe smile as you watch.  Notice any changes in how your body feels – face, shoulders, neck, pelvis, even feet.  And then get back to pedaling that bike up that hill.  You’ve got this. 

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memorials, resilience, self-care

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