Recently as I walked the Alamosa levee in sight of a long stretch of snowy Sangre de Cristo peaks––just north of where Mount Blanca towers over the southern part of our valley––a recent writing prompt came to mind: “What gives your life meaning?”
For the past week I’ve been rolling this question over in my mind, each time finding something new to add to my mental list. On this morning, as with most, I started my walk with the mountains straight up in my view, and I prayed for our sacred land in their foothills. How lucky I have felt for having been able to meet close friends up there last summer––a perfect place for safe distance socializing. Relationships, I realized, are vitally important to me and give my life abundant meaning: those with close friends, with my spouse, with my dogs!, with my mentors, and that which I experience with Spirit (whom I sometimes refer to as God and Creator). All of the above relationships take practice and, not surprisingly, I encounter Spirit in them all.
On further thought, I realized that the process of working through difficult experiences with people challenging for me also gives my life meaning. Alas, this requires I learn to navigate stressful situations in ways that allow me to balance reconciling while maintaining my authenticity. Add to this my desire to simultaneously be brave-hearted, open-minded, and compassionate. Not always easy for me, I’m sorry to admit, but when I do stretch toward being more of how I want to be, inevitably the meaning barometer in my life shoots up.
Thinking of relationships and how I learn from them, it also occurred to me how much I learn when I listen to people’s stories of resilience, even from those I don’t know. I’ve noticed that when others courageously bare their souls and share difficult personal stories that have helped them grow into more resilient humans, this opens the floodgates of meaning for me. You know, like the elderly neighbor living alone in COVID time who manages to learn zoom at almost 90 and keeps walking despite the snow and 12 degree temps so she can “keep up with life.”
I can’t figure out life on my own. Learning how others have come to know strength and wisdom—from the real stories, not the polished or embellished ones—feeds me. Then, when life turns on the proverbial dime of death, illness, an accident, anger, a misunderstanding, a rash of bad luck; or even a surprise opportunity, something serendipitous, or a sudden a-ha!, the stories I have heard then help guide me through any one of those times.
Stories of resilience fill my life with meaning and perhaps could do so for yours as well. Here in 2021, I’ve been inspired to focus my blog on Women’s Stories of Resilience. (Sorry, guys, but we’ve heard his-story for so long; it’s time for her-story.) Women have stories about becoming wiser and stronger at all ages, and women of all physical, mental and emotional abilities, of all cultures and ethnicities, of all spiritual and religious beliefs, of all gender preferences, and of all workplaces and socio-economic backgrounds, have plenty to share about developing strength and resilience.
My first stories will include one of a mother whose love never swayed despite tough decades of exhausting mental health challenges with her adopted son and their encounters with those she calls the “posse of shamers.” Another story will explore how a white girl living a segregated childhood in 1960s Mississippi grew to question and resist the intentions of such a society and the churches that supported it as she grappled with same-sex attraction. (Sharon Fabriz, Circling Toward Home, 2021)
Just as I walk down the levee and back everyday––which could seem boring to some––to me the changes in views, birds, clouds, weather, foliage or ice designs on the frozen or melting lake keep the kaleidoscope of life perspectives expanding. Consider how a life that may not seem like it holds perspectives and views worth sharing to one, might offer just the right guidance to another girl, young woman, or elder trying to make it through a similarly difficult time or unexpected opportunity. One thing we’ve most certainly learned in 2020 and 2021: these are not times to hold back on a chance to help another.
Resilient women are everywhere! I hope you’ll check in regularly to read these inspiring stories. If you know of someone you think might like to be interviewed, or if you feel your own story of resilience could help others, please let me know.
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