Resilience, importance and meaning*


Most people seem to have the capacity to recover from any traumatic event. There are many extreme examples that we could remember as a result of our wars, massacres, persecutions, genocides and so on. For instance, the recovered victims of the Colombian Conflict or the great survivors of the Second World War. These people could offer us enough inspiration to go on, no matter what. But I would like to mention some humble examples from our everyday life:

Last year I met a really kind and competent mathematics teacher, who works in a well-known university. He is a Peruvian citizen from a Chinese family. He told me the story about his third wife. When he was 22 years old he married the (first) love of his life who sadly died 10 years later due to cancer. He thought he would die with her but he was able to recover. Four years later he found the (second) love of his life again. After 14 years of happiness his second wife died of cancer… When I met him, the kind mathematics teacher was already in his fifties and having a happy relationship with her third wife. She seemed to be really healthy, luckily.

I have met three women from different continents (America, Europe and Asia) who could not find love in a man again. They had to recover from sexual abuse suffered in their childhood… Today they are happy with a male partner that respects them and love them.

In France, a friend of mine lost all he had in a crisis that questioned his life as a real estate agent. Today he travels around the world. He wants to discover the planet in 8 years and learn 10 languages.

A German friend of mine lost her parents in a car accident before she was a teenager. Now she is a person like anyone else.

A Colombian friend of mine has learned how to live his life with two non-functional kidneys.

I know someone who almost died during the first five months after finding out that he is HIV-positive. Today he claims to live a more conscious and happy life than before diagnosis.

I have lost people, beliefes, occupations, customs, places and things that I thought essential to be what I am and live my life. I thought I could not live without them… But all those losses only served to define me and make me happy as I am now.

We all know people that thought their lives were coming to an end after a break up, the death of a beloved one, the loss of a job, a disease diagnosis, a rejected application to do this or to be that, etc. Most of those people have surely found an alternative way to be happy. They could find joy under conditions that were different than originally expected.

…Long story, short: I am surprised by our capacity to recover and adapt to our reality, no matter how hard or different it can be. Almost all that we hold so dear and close to our heart, all that we sustain to avoid loneliness, chaos or despair, could disappear in the blink of an eye. But that does not necessarily mean that we have to disappear with it too… From a more psychological than philosophical point of view, this capacity to recover, also known as resilience, invites me to ask you:

What is really important in your life?

Which things are really indispensable in your life, things you could not live without?

What defines the meaning of your own life?

These questions are not motivated by a pessimistic perspective. On the contrary, these questions make me think that life has more options and opportunities than those that I decided to choose. I am possible in multiple scenarios and under endless conditions. No matter what is the very heart of myself, it will be there and be able to interact with life and be content. It is true that my past has already defined a particular context, but even inside that predefined setting there are many ways to express my existence, plenty of roles that I could play.

If we understand that the life we have is only one among many possible lives (and that only few things are really important), maybe we could live our lives in a more peaceful way. Maybe we could even enjoy what we currently are more without fear of loss or simply without stress.

Even if we lose everything today, tomorrow we will have the opportunity to recover a new everything. Happiness is possible in many ways, it is just a matter of persistence.

* To the resilient María, in her 50th birthday.

El Matallana

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María Quotes III: About begging for love

“Perhaps you may beg for a plate of lentils but you should never beg for love”

María used this peculiar sentence to teach me that love is something to offer but not to demand, something to give but not to supplicate, something to share but not to pray for…You could beg for anything but love.

I wish I would have understood it sooner, hahaha, here we go, all in good time.

El Matallana

Frases de María III: Sobre mendigar amor

“Tal vez se pueda mendigar un plato de lentejas pero nunca se debe mendigar amor”

Con esta frase un poco rara María trató de enseñarme que el amor se brinda pero no se pide, se da pero no se suplica, se comparte pero no se ruega…Puedes mendigar cualquier cosa menos amor.

Me hubiera gustado comprenderla mucho antes, jajaja, bueno ahí vamos, todo a su tiempo.

El Matallana

María Quotes II: About the beauty of sex

“The sex is so beautiful that even the little birds have it”

This is one of the phrases from María that clearly contributed to my mental and physical health…By means of a single sentence she gave me not only the tools to avoid the insensate impositions of conservative persons and institutions, but also the capacity to make the connection between sex, familiarity, naturalness, tenderness and beauty.

El Matallana

Frases de María II: Sobre el bonito sexo

 “El sexo es tan bonito que hasta los pajaritos lo hacen”

Una de las frases de María que definitivamente contribuyó a mi salud física y mental…Con una frase sencilla no sólo me brindó herramientas para evitar las imposiciones insensatas de instituciones y personas conservadoras, sino que me permitió asociar sexo con familiaridad, naturalidad, ternura y belleza.

El Matallana

María Quotes I: About the worst kind of poverty

“There are many kinds of poverty but the worst kind of poverty is when your spirit is poor”

This is one of the things that María (my mother) used to say. As a teenager I used to think that it was rather a statement of resignation. I used to understand that phrase like “because we know that we are materially poor, let us be rich in the things that we can at least”. Now I think many things about that sentence, but regardless the way I could interpret it, I realize that all the insights coming from that quote could be related to many real life stories. From the reflection of her humble experience, María used that phrase to express ideas not so far away from some welfare measure theories or from the situation of the actual world that I know. Nowadays I am sure that a good life is worth a lot and it does not have to be expensive. I am glad that I heard that phrase on time. I am happy to enrich my spirit.

El Matallana

Frases de María I: Sobre la peor pobreza

 “Hay varias formas de pobreza pero la peor de todas es la pobreza de espíritu”

Esa es una de las tantas frases que me decía María (mi madre). Cuando yo era adolescente pensaba que esa frase contenía más resignación que otra cosa, y la entendía como “ya que somos pobres materialmente, al menos seamos ricos en las otras formas que podemos”. Actualmente pienso muchas cosas al respecto, incluyendo que hay varias posibles interpretaciones de la frase que concuerdan con diversas historias de vida. Desde la reflexión de su humilde experiencia, María expresaba con esa frase ideas que no estaban muy lejos de algunas teorías de medición del bienestar o de la situación del mundo que conozco. Hoy sé que una buena vida vale mucho y no es tan cara. Me alegro de haber escuchado esa frase a tiempo y de enriquecer mi espíritu.

El Matallana