Blessings Wrapped in Sandpaper

Image: Unsplash

So many people in my life use the word “resilient” to describe me. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s funny to me. When I hear the word I think of a person with the ability to recover readily from adversity. The true definition of resilience is the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed or stretched. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.  We are taught to have resilience in order to navigate through life successfully. Told that we need to be able to cope, bounce back and recover quickly and with ease. Resilience is a reoccurring theme in our music as well, which pushes the ideology of instant gratification, instant results, but also to keep pushing. Bounce Back by Big Sean; “Last night took an L but tonight I bounce back”, Aaliyah’s Try Again; “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again,”  Titanium by Sia (which oddly was the song playing when I took my first step, when I was paralyzed on the right side of my body 7 years ago.) I’m Still Standing by Elton John — there are so many songs that I can name, but you get the idea.  These songs empower us and push us to keep going and to not give up. In the words of Destiny’s Child, be a survivor in difficult times.

But the problem is that leaves little discussion about processing what’s happening before bouncing back.  We all can’t be Elasti-girl.

If you’ve been reading Obvi We’re the Ladies over the years then you know, I’ve struggled with a lot of things over my life that would require “resilience”: what started as a headache turned into me being undiagnosed for years after a botched spinal tap, learning to walk and write again at 20 years old, changing schools and careers 3-4 times due to medical reasons, battling multiple illnesses, disability, depression, and suicidal ideation and attempts. A previous doctor suggested I had adjustment disorder but, the majority of my therapists stated that I had a normal level of stress and irritability given the circumstances. Can a person with massive depressive disorder who struggles with change and failing to “bounce back” really be a resilient person?

I put a poll on my Instagram and asked “Am I resilient?” and 100% of my followers said Yes. I then offered the question “are you resilient?” and the answer varied. It’s interesting how at times I do not see myself having resilience at all, yet others see it in me and vice versa. My body has yet to recover a full 100% since my botched spinal tap seven years ago. No matter how much work I put in, or how far I recover, I still hesitate to say I’m resilient. Instead, I have characteristics and qualities that are more like “tenacious” and “persistent.” I am stubborn and determined. When I set my mind to something it will be really hard for me to change it. While my body may not physically have the endurance, mentally I can take a lot before I break. Plus, there’s this pressure of not giving up when everyone around me is watching and saying how resilient I am. This is confusing because I don’t have that rubber band bounce back, but, it’s my perspective, motives, persistence that’s rooted in tenacity but gives the perception of resilience.

Before I started publicly sharing the nitty-gritty of my story and progression, there were so many times when I cried and screamed out into the abyss. Wishing for a miracle, redemption, or a goddamn break. I had another huge setback in my recovery process; I had torn the muscles and tendons that connected the hip to the leg (basically I tore my ass) and strained my iliopsoas muscle. A few days after getting discharged from the hospital I vividly remember not being able to eat any food without excruciating pain or throwing up violently. I couldn’t sleep. My pain was constantly on eight or higher on the pain scale.  The sensation of my bones aching as if they’re crushed in a grinder then re-molded with cement, my joints wrecked with a sledgehammer while being stretched on a torture rack. I couldn’t take my meds. I was miserable. I tried to smile through the pain but it hurt so much to just exist. I remember ugly crying to my mom about how I didn’t ask for this, and for God to take it back because I didn’t want to be anyone’s testimony. But I couldn’t give up, that wasn’t an option, I had to adapt and shift my perspective which wasn’t easy. Ever since my summer intensive with Deeply Rooted after my senior year, 3 words have resonated with me through the hardest years of my life:

“If you want to succeed all you need are these three things: patience, commitment, consistency.”

Granted we were talking about dance and technique, but I applied it to all aspects of life. Heavily using those three words have got me to where I am today. That’s why I’m perceived as resilient.

I think the word resilience is dangerous — it’s a snap recoil to your original self — but in order to have resilience, you have to go through trauma, be crushed, stretched to our limits, shattered to see how durable we are. Have you ever taken the time to watch a durability test for a product? They’re intense. But we aren’t objects or equipment, we are people, so unfortunately we snap and break at times, no matter how much we try to hold it all together. Yet we endure. We push through the hell. Pull ourselves together carefully piece by piece at our own speed. Buffing, sanding, healing our sharp, broken edges to remove the dirt and grit that weighs us down. Eventually, we return to a baseline, but we are no longer the original version of ourselves. We are something new. We are glorious, we are committed, consistent, and patient. We are labeled resilient.

Regardless of the length of the journey, I for one and thankful for my blessings wrapped in sandpaper.

Brandy Lewis : 23-year-old with a 55-year-old soul, trapped in an 80-year-old body still trying to figure it out. Music Junkie. Wannabe fashionista. Enjoys sharing her handicap perks with her friends and family.