What is the nature of resilience? There are many possible answers from various quarters; science, psychology and neuroscience and many more. Let’s describe resilience as the capacity ‘to ride the waves’ of life.
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to be apart of a group of friends who knew how to work hard and play well together. We were surveyors by profession and boaters by avocation. We spend our winters applying for river permits, our springs dreaming and planning, and our summers working hard in the business and going on as many river trips as our boss would allow. We would go for several days or weeks, boating the big Western rivers, such as the Colorado, the Green, the San Juan and others.
Learning to read the river and row our 12’ Avon boat was a scary joy. Learning how to ride the waves, how to “high side” when needed, and not fall out of the boat were lessons that have lasted a lifetime. My companion’s one stern rule was “do not panic, no matter what!”
Reading the river is a study in fluid dynamics, gravity, and obstacles. Observing how water flows through, around, and over obstacles, otherwise known as rapids, holes and eddies, was fascinating. Then of course, it all depended on water levels which were contingent on the time of year and day, the weather, snowpack, and the Bureau of Reclamation’s water release schedules. The last factors were the size of one’s boat and the skill of the boater. Lots of variables; rather like life.
There are etiquette rules on the river. Number 1 rule: it is OK to flip your boat (it happens!), but it is bad form for your gear to be circling around in the downriver eddy! Proper gear rigging reveals a boater’s skill.
Navigating a rapid requires that one keep the boat pointed into the center of the wave(s), straight-on; don’t get sideways, as that foreshadows trouble. Heads up and pay attention. Scouting the rapids ahead is often advised.
In life, our capacity to ride the waves, big and small, is increased if we pay attention to what is happening in the present, look out to the future the best we can, and be realistic about our resources and skills. We assess our situation. We judge the size of our ‘boat’, our resources, and our skills against the size of the task and our goals.
A favorite pastime when I see any ‘river of water’, a small trickle to a raging torrent, from close-up or on Google space maps, is to decide ‘what size’ my boat is, read the river, and run it. It’s a mental game that keeps my river reading skills up, or so I imagine. It is also a practice that keeps one’s mind supple to assess proportionality, priorities, and directional goals. Each skill is necessary to build one’s resilience capacities, so we may ‘ride the waves’ of our lives in these turbulent times. Happy Boating!