Resilience


Dear Friends & Fellow Walkers,

I’m on my way to Cambodia soon, where I’ll be walking &  cycling every day, visiting two shelters that are home to 114 formerly trafficked Khmer girls as well as the  orphanage and schools where the nation’s youngest and most vulnerable are living, learning and growing with help from our daughter and from everyone who’s supported our cause for liberty, justice and freedom for all.

Some of what we’ll see and share will be difficult to read about.  But as we know, even in the face of sadness and grief there’s always hope and joy in our world, and we owe it to ourselves and to the memory of those who are gone to look for that joy and celebrate it.  Ending suffering where and when we can is part of being human, and I believe it is an important reaction to the events in Connecticut last week.   For  years now I’ve found myself returning to the Prayer of St. Francis whenever I am challenged by life, and today it feels particularly relevant:

Outside Newtown High School

Outside Newtown High School

Where there is hatred let me sow love.  Where there is injury, pardon.  Where there is doubt, faith.  Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where  there is sadness, joy. 

My daughter Melissa tells me that the Khmer are beautiful people who are grateful for even the smallest acts of kindness and generosity.  When I visit their small country I’ll be posting photos, insights, and reflection on what we see, learn and do.  I hope you’ll join me on My Second Big Walk, and share your own stories of joy, learning, and adventuring.

See you in the New Year!

(P.S. This picture was taken on our last day in Austria, July 2012.  Yes, friends, I’ve been living, loving Image

adventuring and writing.  I hope you’ll welcome me back and share your own journeys in life!  In the photo are, from left: my nephew Jack Albanese, my mother-in-law Rosemarie Helm, my son John Albanese, my husband Frank, me, my daughter Melissa Albanese, and our fabulous host in Medraz, Austria — Peter Fischlechner.

Day 209

Since getting almost-pneumonia, I’ve come up with an impressive  variety of creative excuses and half-excuses to either justify not  walking or — even worse — tell myself I’ve already walked, or sort of  already walked, or walked enough for one day with almost- pneumonia forGod’ssakes!

Here, for your enjoyment, are my favorites…

1. OH MY GOD, I have pneumonia?!

2. I have almost-pneumonia and a fever.

3. It’s raining and I’m on antibiotics, I’ll just get sicker if I go out walking. Won’t I?

4. I walked up and down the stairs (from basement to 3rd floor and back again) at least a dozen times today so if I walk the dog for twenty minutes that should count (especially since I am recuperating from almost-pneumonia!)

5. I think that twenty-minute walk yesterday gave me a relapse.

6. I walked an hour yesterday and had to sleep for 13 hours — I can’t do that again.

7. I walked 12 NYC blocks from the car to the Neue Gallerie and 12 more on the way back.  And I walked around the museum for 3 hours without sitting once — surely that counts as a big walk, especially since I am still recovering from almost-pneumonia.

8. I’m better and I haven’t been to the gym in almost 2 weeks — I really can’t do both (yes, folks, join the Greek chorus…because I am still recovering from almost-pneumonia!)

9. It’s 88 degrees out. And I ran from the car to the Delaware River and walked up and down the river looking for my son’s regatta boat. It’s been forty minutes. Now that really counts….especially since I’m gonna have to walk uphill to the car when the day is over.

10. Anyway, nobody has to know. Right. I mean, if I don’t tell them, who’ll ever know?

So, what’s your excuse?

Day 166

Some people are naturally introverted and others naturally extroverted. The same goes for right-brain vs. left-brain thinking, verbal vs. non-verbal learning, and so on.

The Myers-Briggs Personality index — a model based on Carl Jung’s theories and an accepted standard in the field of psychology and social work — categorizes people according to basic emotional and intellectual tendencies and perceptions. Back before we were married, my husband and I took the test and I was told I had the natural personality of a CEO — an extroverted, intuitive person who is quick to size up the world (ENTJ, for those of you who know the lingo).

What the test wasn’t able to account for, though, is the optimism/pessimism spectrum, or the happiness/unhappiness tendency.

I’ve been hearing more lately about what researchers are calling the resilience gene–  and the complex interplay between physiology, environment, and health, which can come together in some people to spark and sustain what resilience researcher Ann Masten has called “ordinary magic.”

One of the things researchers are finding is that people with the resilience gene are more likely to build sustaining relationships withother people, which can help them get through and bounce back from difficult passages and even from significant trauma. .

Can you mimic the behavior of a resilient person and thus mimic some of that resilience yourself? I hope researchers discover this is possible. Because then, that old expression FAKE IT ‘TILL YOU MAKE IT will prove to be more than just a feel-good slogan.  It’ll be part of the ordinary magic we can intentionally and deliberately bring to our own lives

P.S. No, this doesn’t mean I’m not out walking. It means that I’ve been out walking and wondering what makes some people seem naturally more upbeat and optimistic than others, and if it’s something that’s innate, or something we can teach ourselves and our children.

If you want to read more about resiliency, check out this article in the New York Times.