The events of September 11th reminded us, as tragedies often do, that you never know how long you have. So, carpe diem. That’s the good news: we can appreciate our lives more fully if we savor each day as though it were our last. And yet, as many who’ve survived trauma have found, sometimes it’s difficult to be the one who didn’t die. There is no slogan for that. Survivor’s guilt affects many people, and it’s a strange and thorny problem, to feel bad that you lived. How do you live with that?
Whether you’ve watched someone die or ended a relationship, sometimes you feel like you don’t DESERVE happiness, and it can be difficult to move on. You think, Why should I be happy when that other person can’t be? Or, How can I get over this when I did something that caused me such pain? Of all the people in the world to forgive, it is often hardest to forgive yourself. As someone who has wrestled with this lesson many times, I have found THE ART OF RESILIENCE by Carol Orsborn to be of great comfort.
Although not particularly religious, I’m a big believer in the universe providing what we need when we need it (whether it’s chocolate pie or a speeding ticket). So when I found Orsborn’s book in a library not long after my heart had been pushed off a cliff, I was not surprised, just grateful. In this collection of 100 short pieces—some anecdotes, some parables, some bits of practical advice—Orsborn walks you from “the point of impact” forward. First, keep breathing. It sounds obvious, but when your hand towels are saturated from weeping, sometimes you forget a little thing like breathing. Orsborn reassures you to the point that, if you can just breathe, it feels like an accomplishment. And sometimes, it is.
What I love about Orsborn’s book is how it can help turn the worst thing in the world into something to be thankful for. While some might believe that the ideal life would be free from pain or conflict, Orsborn knows that these challenges—if we let them—enable us to grow and reach our fullest potential.
“Think of yourself as experientially gifted,” she says.
I love that line. And sometimes, when I can barely breathe, it makes me smile.