“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou

I have been plagued by deep thoughts these past two days. This is usually a harbinger of Auntie Flo so perhaps she is about to return. 7 months and counting of her absence has been bliss though.

I have been thinking about many things and I would love to share all of them but I have to break it down into bite-size chunks.

Over the last month I have been speaking to a few of my colleagues more than I used to and getting to know them on a personal level and I am humbled by the things people around me are going through and overcoming. The human spirit is resilient.

What is resilience?

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.

Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. People commonly demonstrate resilience…

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”

Here is just one of the stories I have had the privilege of witnessing:

One young lady I work with worked exceptionally hard for the past 3 years so she could afford a car. In case you are not aware, cars in South Africa are ridiculously expensive. Her Grandmother looked after her daughter while she put in alarmingly long hours at the office. Finally, after all her hard work, sweat and tears, she bought herself a cute little car a couple of months ago. We all celebrated her. Her manager, her colleagues, her grandmother, her cousins, her daughter…me. I was so proud of her and what she had managed to do. If I was proud of her, imagine how much more she and her family felt.

2 weeks later she was in accident and badly damaged the car. She was devasted. Who wouldn’t be. I watched as blow after blow landed. First it was that the damage would take weeks to repair, then it was the insurance company writing off the car and then it was finding out that her “comprehensive” insurance plan didn’t cover the difference between the value of the car and the interest the bank charged. It was a lot. She grieved. She cried. She cried a lot. Who wouldn’t?

Noone would have blamed her for letting go of her dream right then. Life happens. Some things are just not meant for you. That’s what they say isn’t it?

In a way, I  had already, in my mind, given her permission to do so. But you know what,  she had a better idea. She dusted herself off. She asked for information to empower herself and pursued an aggressive settlement with the insurance company, the bank and the dealership. She fought and cried through it all but she didn’t stop. Today she walked into my office and announced the purchase of her new car and I was more than proud. I was inspired.

No matter what you are going through, just remember that “the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ““It’s all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are finished.”

Stephen Fry wraps it up nicely: “Certainly the most destructive vice if you like, that a person can have, more than pride, which is supposedly the number one of the cardinal sins – is self pity. Self pity is the worst possible emotion anyone can have. And the most destructive. It is, to slightly paraphrase what Wilde said about hatred, and I think actually hatred’s a subset of self pity and not the other way around – ‘ It destroys everything around it, except itself ‘.

Self pity will destroy relationships, it’ll destroy anything that’s good, it will fulfill all the prophecies it makes and leave only itself. And it’s so simple to imagine that one is hard done by, and that things are unfair, and that one is underappreciated, and that if only one had had a chance at this, only one had had a chance at that, things would have gone better, you would be happier if only this, that one is unlucky. All those things. And some of them may well even be true. But, to pity oneself as a result of them is to do oneself an enormous disservice.

… I almost once wanted to publish a self help book saying ‘How To Be Happy by Stephen Fry : Guaranteed success’. And people buy this huge book and it’s all blank pages, and the first page would just say – ‘ Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself – And you will be happy ‘. Use the rest of the book to write down your interesting thoughts and drawings, and that’s what the book would be, and it would be true. And it sounds like ‘Oh that’s so simple’, because it’s not simple to stop feeling sorry for yourself, it’s bloody hard. Because we do feel sorry for ourselves, it’s what Genesis is all about.”

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