Love & Resilience

As a member of a group I am a part of, I was recently asked to consider my thoughts on resilience. Because it’s Valentine’s Day (and with a nod to Sesame Street) today’s post is brought to you by the word LOVE and the concept of RESILIENCE.

I will start with the ideas that are easiest to me and then work toward the heart.

Resilience

As an emergency management professional, I worked a lot with the concept of resilience. How do individuals, families, communities and a nation persevere through a disaster? I read lots of books, worked with lots of policies and responded to a number of disasters, local and national. The resource (this website is all about resources) that resonated with me the most was Amanda Ripley’s book, “The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why.” I like this book so much, I have two copies.

“Call on God, but row away from the rocks.” Ripley shares this quote from Hunter S. Thompson and it reminds me that while I believe in the power of prayer, angels and arch angles, I have a responsibility to take control of my own safety, security, well-being and all the other stages that we go through when met with adversity, no matter what that adversity is.

That responsibility, and consequently my ability to remain resilient whatever the consequences, starts with the moment of choice. The moment I choose to “get in the boat and row” – to extend Thompson’s metaphor. My choice will be the right choice if I have become as informed as I can be about the weather conditions, the sea conditions, the quality of the boat, the status of the boats and boatmen around me, my ability to row the boat and my mental, emotional and physical stamina.

Ripley also shares with us her learning from Peter Hancock – “If an engineer wants to know about what he’s designing, he puts it under a great amount of stress.” He does this BEFORE the bridge or whatever he is building is opened to the public. In the same way, Ripley reminds us that it is a good idea to do a self-check, to find what she calls ‘our oldest personalities’ to know which personality “takes over in a crisis and even makes fleeting appearances in our daily lives.” (Ripley, 2009, p.xv)

I was swimming with my buddies the other day and one of our group members said it a different way. We were talking about how to decide, given strong surf advisories, whether to swim in the ocean or not. I am paraphrasing here because we were swimming and I didn’t have my note pad… “Don’t decide to swim watching the lulls, swimming during the lulls is easy. Look at the most challenging wave sets, and then decide if you have the skill and energy to handle them or not. If you have to ask the lifeguard if it is a good idea to swim or not, you have already answered your own question.”

Perhaps it is the same with loving people…

Love

This is the harder topic and will take more than this one post to fully answer. Better yet… it is what this entire website is about. Here is where I am with Love today…

“Somebody to Love” by Queen. Super Bowl weekend ads made me want to listen to this song again, so I did. My heart aches for someone to love – that one special person I get to pour my heart into and share a lifetime with. But at the same time, how selfish this wish seems to be. When that heartache is too much for me to bear, I remind myself that my faith tells me that I should love everybody. Yeah, I get that there are different kinds of love and that loving a life partner is a different kind of love than the love we have for family, friends, colleagues and strangers. But still. In John 15:12, Jesus offered what some call the 11th Commandment: “that you love one another, just as I have loved you…”

I don’t think I do this kind of love very well at all. I have favorites. I love some more than others. I push strangers away. I make them come to me before I open up to them. I don’t always give money or food to the people asking for it at traffic lights. I have a hard time offering my heart to people that offend me, cut me off in traffic, say bad things about me, take my job or even put me down so that they can move up.

Though it’s not easy, I am learning to take Jodi Picoult’s advice… “You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.”

I often wonder if I took this advice more or followed this commandment more, would my heartache for just ‘one somebody to love’ go away? Or would I get that much better at loving that I find that special someone and know how to spend a lifetime with him, in spite of the fact that neither of us are perfect?

To sum up…

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

― Robert Frost

Just for fun…

Apparently, the Eskimos have 50 words for snow and the ancient Greeks had 30 words for love… I guess when something is central to the core of the community, more attention is paid to the nuances. More words = more accuracy?

In alphabetical order, since choosing which is more important, which comes first, or which is better just doesn’t seem right or easy to do today.

AGAPE           This is spiritual love felt for human beings and humanity

EROS              This is sexual yearning, desire and the sum of all instincts for self-preservation

LUDUS            This is flirting, playful affection

PHILIA            This is the love for people with whom we strive to achieve a shared goal

PHILOS           This is the love for a companion or pal

PRAGMA        This is the love that endures, like that between marriage or life partners

STORGE         This is the love that parents naturally feel for their children, and family members and friends feel for each other

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