Resilience in the Time of COVID-19. My Aunt Terri is Takin’ Us to School

Aunt Terri’s picture must be on Wikipedia with the word “Resilient.” She has a lesson for all of us as we deal with challenging and lasting changes due to COVID-19.

As many of you know, my Aunt Terri had emergency surgery and initially did well before being unresponsive for two days. Although it was a miracle that she woke up and put her hands back on the wheel, that’s not her resilience story. Aunt Terri transferred to the rehab facility of her choice and when  COVID restrictions kept my Philadelphia cousins away, she called all over Creation to be sure her family knew where and how she was.  She keeps telling her doctors what kind of treatment she wants. Still, that’s not what I mean by resilient.

The extent of the surgery required ongoing activities of daily living that were unfamiliar to Aunt Terri. Her only concern was how the new routine would affect her ability to travel with her friends. It took less than two minutes for her to say, “Well, the nurses will teach me how to do it, and I’ll just…” Later, after waking up with severe muscle weakness, Aunt Terri said, “I know I won’t be able to go back to my apartment; I’ll probably need nursing care.” She made plans to move her stuff while working extra hard in PT to improve to assisted-living rather than the nursing facility-level.

A church in my community has a sign that says, “Resilience is defiance and hope in the face of change.” However, if you don’t accept that there has been a change, you can’t be defiant, hopeful, or resilient. When I present at women’s conferences, I ask the audience to think of their life challenges as cows. Cows moo. Your discomfort is not because you hear mooing; that’s what cows do. You’re upset because you want that cow to be a chicken. Even if it used to be a chicken (or you thought it was a chicken,) you have no control over whether it will return to that state. Accept that now, it’s a cow and it will not give you eggs. If that’s what you want, you have to ask yourself, ” What is Plan B?” Do you really NEED eggs? If so, what can you do differently to get them from another source? Can you use an egg substitute?

Current news shows offer exhaustive details about what we have lost in the last year. While it is important to grieve and validate feeling pain, let’s also put energy into discussing how we will win going forward. Like so many others, I lost someone I love to COVID-19 (see the March 2020 Cheryl Woodson Facebook post, “We Lost Lady T Yesterday”). While we grieve, can we also ask what those beloved souls would want for us? Instead of getting stuck in grieving what was, wouldn’t they want us to celebrate their lives by living to find joy in what can be?

Resilience is acknowledging and even grieving the impact of the hits you must take, getting back up, and looking for Plan B EVERY SINGLE TIME like my Aunt Terri does.


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