Waiting well: an ‘operation’ in emotional resilience

How do you wait when so much is on the line?

I’m writing this journal entry while my four year old is undergoing an operation for a fractured elbow. Because of COVID-19, I’m not allowed to be beside her. My mummy heart is hurting a lot right now.

So I’m waiting in the car park, glued to my phone for any news, while glancing intermittently at the world going by.

Then I receive a loving text that simply says, ‘children are so resilient, and I’m praying for resilience for mummy and daddy too.’

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. And in reality I feel anything but resilient right now.

But resilience isn’t really about how you feel, is it? Resilience is about how you respond. It’s choosing to feel the feelings when they come and responding appropriately to those feelings.

But how does one wait well in a situation like this? I’m wondering this very thing, as the tears come in waves and trickle down my cheeks.

Here’s some thoughts that came to me through the tears:

1. Surrender control

In moments that test and stretch me – I choose to trust that my life is in greater hands, and release control accordingly. It is my faith that I’m being held in Heaven’s care that gives me the courage to endure the anxiety and fear. There is so much that I’m not in control over, but I trust a God who’s got this, and has got me. It’s up to me to hand it over to Him – again and again, if I need to.

2. Develop patience

There’s a lot to be said for learning to wait. There’s even more to be said for waiting patiently.

There’s also a reason why it’s important to teach delayed gratification early in life. Because learning to wait for gifts and treats in childhood translates in adulthood to patience in queues, patience with moving goalposts, patience when things don’t pan out like they are supposed to. Patience when tiredness causes frayed tempers and short fuses. Patience for the things you dream about and hope for. Someone once said that ‘Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.’ That, my friends, is a sign of resilience.

Patience is something we will always need more of than we have. We need to commit to it on a lifelong basis.

3. Embrace comfort

Even though we can’t physically hug right now, we can all feel hugged by messages of love, special deliveries in the post, surprise visits and assurances of prayers. All these things provide comfort through presence. Being lifted up in prayer or thought of in a time of need by a friend is the feeling of being buoyed by others’ love and care.

Never underestimate the comfort your mere presence can bring. Company can speak a thousand times louder than mere condolences.

4. Use distraction

Everyone is different, but the worst thing for me when I’m waiting to hear news is to sit and do nothing. Pouring my frustration and worry into something productive is key. Even writing this has helped me ‘do something’ with my feelings. When we deliberately move our focus away from something we can’t do anything about to something concrete we can do- whether it be pray, write, create or exercise- we develop our ability to endure.

Don’t bounce back, move forward

Contrary to what a lot of people think, resilience isn’t about bouncing back to normal. The reality is that in this crisis and many others, the impact of adversity may be long lasting or even permanent.

Instead, I like to think of resilience more as growing and moving forward even in difficulty. In other words, your life is not altogether paused because of what you are experiencing, but there is evidence of growth and development even in the worst situations.

Because resilience not an inbuilt disposition, but a skill we can all develop and learn to be better at. From this day forward, I’m committing to continuing my operation or foray into resilience. How about you?

H x

Published by Hilary

Mum of two girls 👩‍👧‍👧 positive inspiration 💡 parenting 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 health 🏃‍♀️ life 💓 faith 📖

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