18 Interpretations of Resilience by H.E. Casson

  1. Resilience is a coin

On one side is strength, on the other, vulnerability. We’re not one or the other—we’re both. The more vulnerable we are, the stronger we’re required to be. Flip a coin. If we land on vulnerability, we lose. If we land on strength, we’re praised. I stand on edge, vulnerable and strong, trying not to tip.

 

  1. Resilience is a bouncy ball

Not just any bouncy ball, mind you. A super bouncy ball. Physics be damned. That round wad of delight was guaranteed to bounce back higher with each rebound. Determined, we would climb up the slide at recess or, if the grown-ups were out, even dangle over the edge of a balcony. Working to avoid the garbage bins and abandoned shopping carts, we would drop the ball and wait for it to soar up past our heads, into the sky. What a taste of disappointment as each bounce was halved and halved, finally stuttering and rolling out onto Thorncliffe Park Drive. Resilience is like that. It obeys the laws of physics. It’s not an infinite resource. How high we bounce back is often a measure of how elevated we are when dropped, of how smooth the surface is on which we land.

 

  1. Resilience is a weapon

You should be more resilient! Look how resilient you are! This is a chance for you to show some resilience! This weapon shares a sheath with willpower and personal responsibility and strength. Resilience is a word that’s used to shift the evidence of our societal neglect back onto the individual. Once resilience is lodged in your back, you can’t pull it out.

 

  1. Resilience is a contest

You have to look like you want it more. You have to be grateful. You have to make only good choices from shitty options. Why should we help you? Why should we feed you? Smile nice. Don’t lose your cool. Don’t wail snot-tears in the social worker’s office. You are the next contestant on the price is righteousness. Comb your frickin’ hair. We can’t see you as a winner, they say, if you don’t see yourself as one.

 

  1. Resilience is a jellyfish

If you observe it, you’ll be inspired by its grace. If you try to capture it, it will sting you.

 

  1. Resilience is a polyhedron

How many faces it has can be determined by innumerable factors: how long you’ve been alive; whether you have a family or were able to build one; whether the community you live in was created so your body can access it; whether an education was given to you or you had to pilfer it. Different faces of resilience are needed for different challenges and vulnerabilities. The less you need a face, the more likely you are to have it at your disposal.

 

  1. Resilience is a lottery ticket

If you can’t pay, you can’t play. If you don’t play, you can’t win. Sometimes you win. Oh please, let me win.

 

  1. Resilience is a religion

It operates on faith in something unseen. An apology that may never come. An accommodation that could welcome you into a space where, previously, you could not go. Another human checking yes on your housing or student loan or job application. If you light a candle and concentrate, if you write the word resilience and bury it under a flower, maybe you’ll be okay. Praise resilience, most glorious and immaterial. Praise resilience, most infinite and impossible.

 

  1. Resilience is a magic trick

It’s sleight of hand and misdirection. It’s wiggling your toes so you don’t feel the needle prick or drinking a glass of water so you feel less hungry. It’s singing too loud when the temperature dips rather than crying from the cold. Look over here! See this free movie playing in the park? That’s your best birthday, even if you didn’t have a place to go home to. Is it still an illusion if the trick works?

 

  1. Resilience is a lie

In science, resilience promises the ability to return to your original form. To be pressed or dropped or cut and, in the end, be much as you were when you started. Those of us who have been pressed and dropped and cut know that we don’t return to our original form. Each time we’re assaulted, we come back different. Our bones are softer, our skin harder. Our neural pathways are rebuilt, lines are deepened until our defaults are set to survival mode. We cry too much or not at all. We carry pain in our joints. We clench our jaws and grind our teeth flat. We become smooth where we were rough and rough where we were smooth. We shed the skin that showed the bruises, but the memory stays. Maybe pain is resilient. A thing that always returns to its original form.

 

  1. Resilience is a seized opportunity

Like the opportunity to write this out, even though I find the topic frustrating and befuddling. I worry that I’m seizing this opportunity incorrectly. What do I know about resilience? I know I’m the sort of resilient that doesn’t make for good stories. I don’t fight. I flee, I freeze, I fawn, I faint. There’s an entire genre of film for those who find resilience in uppercuts and swordplay. Every comic book I read tells me survival looks like invulnerable skin and gadgets that immobilize those who seek to harm you. There are no comic book about heroes who run away from danger, rather than towards it. There are no franchises about warriors who grow dizzy when challenged or cry when they’re angry. Still, I try to seize this opportunity. I try to put down on paper what I can’t live in practice. The truth is, I’m not resilient. I’m just tired.

 

  1. Resilience is a glutton

In order to live, resilience needs to be fed. Perhaps this is where poetry and resilience best intersect. When I was in high school, I accidentally stole a copy of Maya Angelou’s Poems from the library. I took it out and, before I could return it, found myself living in a group home miles from my school. I lost my year, my home, my family—but I had poetry. Where my own stores of resilience had dried up, hers were there, preserved. When my resilience was waning, I fed it with her music, pressed between two soft covers and set to loop. I read so many books during those hardest years, expanding my resilience with the portable records of other survivors.

 

  1. Resilience is a braid

The more strands you have, the stronger it is. It’s always easier to help someone else with one than it is to do it for yourself. If you learn how to do it young, you’ll never forget. It’s harder to learn when you’re older. You’ll end up tying knots and tearing strands. Still, any braid is stronger than no braid, right?

 

  1. Resilience is a gift

You’ll splurge on someone else, even if you never splurge on yourself. Maybe I wouldn’t buy myself a $12 bath bomb, but for someone I love? Not even a pause. We can survive for someone else when we can’t survive for ourselves. We gift our endurance to our loves, our children, our friends, our neighbourhoods, our communities. We stay for them. In return, they might gift us laughter, hope, constancy. We regift these scant resources to each other. We add a new bow and a card that says, I’m glad you’re still here.

 

  1. Resilience is an unopened letter

Until it’s opened, it can say anything. It can say, “I’m here for you.” It can say, “You’re accepted!” It can say, “You overpaid last month, so your gas will stay on.” Resilience is potential and hope. Even when it’s false, it can lift you.

 

  1. Resilience is a promise

If you’re here tomorrow, you’ll have the chance to try again.

 

  1. Resilience is a meal

Remember the last meal that you ate alone, one that nourished and sustained you. Did you grow the vegetables? Slaughter the meat? Forge the cutlery? If not, then you didn’t eat alone. We feed ourselves with the work of others. Resilience is like that. To do it alone is impossible. Building resilience is like building a meal. It’s not a solitary affair, even when we do it alone in our homes (if we have homes). Building community resilience is like building a community kitchen that feeds anyone who’s hungry. Community resilience acknowledges our interdependence.

 

  1. Resilience is a poem

It doesn’t always rhyme or please the ear, but if it can find a place in your brain to live for a while, it’s done its job.

 


H. E. Casson (they/them) is a queer writer and voice actor whose words have been shared by Taco Bell Quarterly, Serotonin, and Malarkey Books. Their voice can be heard in Moonbase Theta Out, Disenchanted, and Seminar. They believe in kindness, in fine prose, and that the pigeon is nature’s greatest single accomplishment. Visit them at hecasson.com and as @hecasson on Twitter.