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Resilience; it's not the fall, it's the landing

When I originally committed to writing a piece of thought leadership this year, resilience is not the topic I thought I would be writing on. 2023 was a hard year for a lot of people, indeed, 2023 was the hardest year of my life, so in this context I thought I would share my experience as I think this is an important discussion to have.


Before I continue, I’m no psychologist, and what I’ve written here simply reflects my own personal lived experiences.


I’ve noticed that often the discussions we have around resilience seem to carry undertones that imply we just need to “toughen up”, and while constitution is a key factor in resilience, it’s not the whole story.

Whilst there were some definite highlights for me throughout 2023, like getting a promotion at work, there were also a lot of challenges, like getting diagnosed with a painful chronic illness and dealing with the breakdown of a 9-year relationship.


I felt like the ground suddenly disappeared beneath my feet and I was left in freefall.


“I’d had a vision for my life, and it had been shattered… It seemed at the time, that my only purpose was to survive, and become a fully functioning human being again. I took the necessary steps, but I wasn’t inspired, I no longer had a vision of what my future could possibly look like. There was a twisted feeling in the pit of my stomach, that a happy, purposeful life was no longer possible for me.” - Belinda Alexandra, Emboldened


Working in a creative field I suddenly felt stifled, overwhelmed, and unmotivated.


I remember hearing several variations of “the universe doesn’t give you more than you can handle”. For a while it seemed like I kept reaching my limit only to have something else go wrong, luckily though it turns out I could handle a lot more than I thought.


Don’t get me wrong, it’s been shit, like really, ridiculously hard, but I will forever be grateful for the support of the friends, family and colleagues who listened to me when I was hurting, gave me places to stay when I couldn’t face going home, helped me prepare my house for sale, pack up all my things, and have patience with me when I wasn’t at my best.


“It doesn’t matter that your life is in pieces right now… just start putting the pieces together, bit by bit, always holding the vision of what would be a wonderful life for you, and eventually the picture will start to form.” – Belinda Alexandra, Emboldened


As I was hurtled over the edge of the metaphorical cliff, I was able to gain new perspective.


“L’important n'est pas la chute, c'est l'atterrissage.” [It’s not the fall that’s important, it’s the landing.] – La Haine


I’m a massive animal lover. For the past five years I’d been saving to purchase a property where I could create a wildlife sanctuary. I was already a carer, but only had space for one aviary in my yard. I hadn’t been planning to act on that goal for another five years, or to do it solo, but suddenly I thought, why not? Why wait? Why not pursue this now?


After a bit of searching, I found a converted church on a block of land that would be perfect for what I had in mind and drew up a plan. The opportunity to pursue my dream was suddenly right in front of me and I knew that if I didn’t take it, I’d regret it.


“We sense our purpose when our natural abilities and passions collide, producing a feeling of energy and aliveness in our spirits. When we’re on the right path, we know it.” – Belinda Alexandra, Emboldened


Although not a strictly spiritual experience, as soon as I walked through the door of the former church it just felt right. There was a couple of incredibly stressful months in between, selling what was my current home at the time, working my way through what felt like mountains of paperwork, and securing a loan (which I’ve now discovered is surprisingly hard to do in rural areas).


I’m pretty sure that I was running on adrenaline for about four or five months and had to set reminders for myself to eat and sleep, but eventually I was able to purchase the property. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the formal processes to play out, but I felt like I had a purpose again, and that was hugely important in helping move through the tougher days.


Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a particularly patient person. I’m great at making things happen but I hate waiting around for things to happen, even if these things are outside my control, for example:

  • Waiting for a house to sell so that I can find and put an offer in on a new place.

  • Waiting for settlement on the sold house so that I can pay the deposit on my new place.

  • Waiting for approvals and forms to be processed.

  • Gradually selling off furniture whilst waiting to move out.

  • Waiting for settlement on my new place so that I can move in.


There was a lot of waiting, interspersed with packing and paperwork. I was stuck in a mental ‘waiting room’.

At the same time, I also felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the next thing to go wrong, there was a constant churning in my stomach and a tightness in my chest.  

This high state of anxiety became the norm for me for months as I pushed myself a long way past what I thought I could cope with.

I spent a lot of time with friends, family, and my animals, as well as making sure that I had at least one thing on each day where I had to leave the house (much of this period occurred during our mandatory work shutdown, so it was very tempting to just stay home). I found that the little things like reading, salt baths and a hot pot of tea (or all three at the same time) were great as mood boosters.


I also started to plan some of the more practical things too, like researching options for fences and weed management, whilst also meticulously planning to make sure that anything I did was sympathetic to the heritage style of the 120-year-old converted church I had purchased.


As small of a win as those things may seem, it’s been very satisfying when they have eventually all clicked into place and seeing my plans come to fruition now that I’ve moved in (there have been some hiccups along the way though of course).


I also found the concept of momento mori to be helpful when I’ve felt anxious. We all have a limited amount of time and headspace so moving forward my goal is to spend less time worrying about the things I can't change, because things will happen either way and I'd rather use those resources on more enjoyable things.


I’m a bit of a pathological over-achiever, and that’s always been a big part of my identity. I need to feel like I’m not just doing okay but excelling at what I do. As a child I remember having this old rhyme “good, better, best, never let it rest, ‘til your good is better and your better best” drilled into me at school, and somehow it became part of who I am.


As hard as this is for me to come to grips with, it really is okay to just be okay at some things (even now I’m still cringing as I write this), whilst you focus more energy on other things.


A few months ago, I was worried about whether I would be able to go back to who I was before all these changes happened. Now, I’m thinking more about if I want that, and if not, what I want to change. After all, I have been given a rather rare opportunity to wipe large parts of my proverbial slate clean and start fresh.


Accepting that it’s time to move on from what you thought your forever would look like is one of the hardest things to do (and still something I’m working on). But, if you consider that maybe your ‘forever’ was never meant to be your ‘forever after all’, then there is the possibility that maybe losing that forever could be the best thing that ever happens to you, that when you look back to the point where it seemed like everything fell apart, that may actually be when things started to fall into place (even if it hurts beyond measure at the time). That’s what I’m choosing to believe (or at least that’s what I’m hoping for) anyway.


“It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It's not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound re-invention.” – Conan O’Brien


As hard as it can be, I believe that resilience sometimes means that you need to decide it’s time to let go of one vision of your future so that you can give yourself the future you have always imagined and deserved. You’ve made it through every tough day in your life so far and this one is no different.


So that’s where I’ve landed at right now, I have an idea, a bit of a plan… and a lot of work ahead.


I still have stressful days; where everything just seems like too much and I don’t feel like I’m being as productive as I could be. On those days though I try to remember to be kind to myself and that its okay not to be productive 100% of the time.


Kindness is really what’s kept me going through all of this, and I think its massively underrated when it comes to resilience. It takes strength to be kind, and it’s hard, but I’d rather use my energy to be kind than waste precious time being unkind, only to feel worse afterwards anyway.


“Kindness is the willingness to stay soft in a world that tries to harden you at every corner… to decide what you want to put back out in the world, regardless of what the world has put you through. Kind people are not just good… Their ability to not reciprocate unkindness to a world that often deserves it makes them catalysts for the deepest healing to occur.” – Brianna West, The Pivot Year


The kindness of others, being kind to myself, and choosing to be kind in terms of the assumptions I make about others, it is what has helped me the most.



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