Dancing Back

A Latin professor once told me that the term “resilience” means “to dance back,” or to get back into the dance.

On the surface, that’s a beautiful way of imagining adversity: get back up into the dance and rhythm of life. But let’s be honest, this metaphor as I’ve described it breaks down pretty quickly when we start thinking about the trials we’ve all experienced.

We’re not describing a dance situation in which you simply tripped over your two left feet, or momentarily lost the beat. Dancing back into that situation is not how I imagine resilience.

I’m talking about landing on your face and looking up to discover that nearly every aspect of the dance has changed, as though the entire set was ripped right out from underneath you. The staging, blocking, design, props, score, even the cast: it’s all suddenly different.

Very quickly you realize that you’re out of costume, you’ve never heard this score, you’re surrounded by an unfamiliar cast, and you have absolutely no idea what is going on.

You know what I’m talking about. Suddenly the job is gone, the relationship has failed, the launch has sunk, your health has changed. In one fell swoop, your present has shifted, your past is in question, your future is uncertain (at best).

This is the stuff of resilience, and I’ve come to believe that possibly the single most valuable skill in this life is how quickly one can assess, adapt, and acclimate to this new normal.

Start by assessing what’s NOT different, what may still be anchored and familiar, what and who you may still rely on.

Then revisit the past to adapt to the present. In these situations, a meditation on past successes can help remind you of the internal qualities that will help you adapt. (A word of caution: do NOT waste your emotional calories on whatever unfairness put you here. Bitterness is a powerful temptress that will rob you blind).

Finally, direct all your energies on acclimating to the new normal. The previous life you enjoyed has run its course (for whatever reason). Be grateful for it, now build a new one. Listen for the new rhythm, get your body moving, familiarize yourself with the new stage, cast, and production. One step, then the next. This breath, then the next.

This is resilience. This is life.

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