Thoughts on Resilience

WARNING: Be aware as what you are about to read is a serious (rather lengthy) post, thus it is extremely recommended to take some breaks in between accompanied by a glass of wine or beer or tea or whatever you like. Consider yourself being warned 🙂

So why resilience? Don’t we need to learn to not only survive but thrive in this environment?

I hope after reading this post that it will be in any ways helpful to you when dealing with stress and how to overcome life obstacles. This post tries to define resilience, improve your awareness of stress and have the ability to manage it effectively. I hope to identify the components of resilience and recognize our inherent potential to recover and grow following setbacks. With this lengthy post (go grab some drinks!!), I hope to share strategies and let you partake on my recent experience in building resilience so as to be able to apply these in your own personal life.

Resilience comes from the Latin “to leap back.” It’s the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity. It is to bounce back and learn a lesson in the process. Resilience can be define as a person’s ability to manage and withstand some difficulty, hardship or trauma, that results in a person becoming stronger or the ability to learn and grow from the stress and difficulties we face in our lives.

So here is my story… Although I often go back home to Europe, this summer trip unlike any other ended in the most unexpected (and undesirable) ways to say the least. I had anticipated to dive from a hilltop of the coast of Mallorca (remember this post which described my excitement of packing for this trip here) with my boyfriend and to crash into waves of beautiful turquoise water, wear lots of summer dresses, and party with the friends in Holland at the Volbit concert. But to my disappointment, alas none of it happened so get ready as this post will be perhaps one of the most personal ones written yet.

As soon as I landed in Amsterdam, my health quickly degraded in a matter of hours. I was then urged to head over to France to get a check up. I had planned to spend a few days in Holland but then instead, got a train ride straight away to France.. I ended up in urgent care. The nurse examined me and exclaimed that an operation was inevitable. I never underwent surgery before so as you can imagine, it was rather a scary experience for me. Afterwards, needless to express how much pain I felt, and I lost mobility as well. While condemned in my bed, I questioned myself so much during this vulnerable time about what I treasure most important in my life. I got myself into a spiral of self-pity and became utterly depressed. I stopped eating and moving. I started creating the most perfect victim of my fate!

Wait, there is more! Remember I mentioned that Volbit concert in Eindhoven that I had to cancel then sold my ticket for I was fearing of the crowd while having the wound exposed to be hurt. More than experiencing a loss of health, I lost more during this time; from his extended absence and lack of support, my relationship with the boyfriend Arjen took a different turn to an ending path. I know many of you were part of our lovely and funny story and I really treasure every moments and laughter we share but our differences grew with time and it’s inherently part of life process. So I lost trust and an enduring relationship which was a very sad and difficult moment.

Then as I thought I hit the ground, I recall something I learned during a seminar in engineering leadership years ago… about the qualities of resilient people. They fight the victim mentalities. They have a positive attitude. They look for opportunities in problems. They find the power in every situation. They overcome difficulties and they learn from mistakes.

With these empowering thoughts, I was eager to quickly get back on my feet! I asked for help and fortunately with the love and support of my friends and family, I was able to eat well and exercise my body slowly to regain control of it. A short weekend road trip through the Pays de la Loire with a pit stop at the Château de Chenonceau and a visit to the cave of Père Auguste all the way to the region of La Guérande (St Nazaire, La Baule, Le Croisic) with my sisters, mom, aunt, and our little dog helped a lot with my sanity check. Planning this trip was a challenge as we had to coordinate with the nurse who was treating me everyday but we somehow managed the schedule.

I am thankful to have a strong support group to help me move on following the break up. I wanted to reflect on the good and learnings from this relationship while welcoming new opportunities to come ahead of me. I am in fact rather excited to focus on myself! I also recalled that there were 5 components of resilience I learned: Centering, Commitment, Community, Compassion, and Confidence.

Starting with Centering, I remained calmed; I started noticing that something was causing me stress (and with the cost of hospital bills, and extended time off from work, financial strain resulted). I stopped to think about the situation, and chose a course of actions. I learned from my stress warning cues that come from physical, emotional, mental/cognitive, and social/behavioral cues. So I made sure to practice healthy habits (see end of post for some tips).

I practiced Commitment; it may be small or large and can be directed towards life, health, or to others. So make sure to keep focusing on what is most important in your life and live in the Here and Now. Keep in mind that Community helps strengthen resilience through the “we” in wellness vs the “I” in illness.

Have Compassion and a small reminder that “we are not alone.” I myself tend to forget in difficult times that I must learn the ability to receive compassion from others as well. Being a proud and a stubborn person gets too often in the way of the recovering process. And here is also how to help others in needs: start the conversation. Make a small gesture. Respect privacy. Know your limits and don’t forget to ask for help!

And last but not least, Confidence is believing in yourself and your ability to endure. Confidence is not being fearless. Confidence is the ability to face your fears and building strength through meeting life’s challenges. Find the ‘hero’ within you by providing inspiration and being heroic in the ‘little things’ everyday.

So I slowly but surely started getting out of my depression and began to rise and move around. I took advantage of every single moment in my illness to spend time with the loved ones. I turned on my explorer mode and made a foot step out of the door into the world; I got outside of the house and discovered how lovely my parent’s town by the Loire River was where it’s lashing green and very relaxing to stroll around. Being constantly on the move in the past, I got the chance to explore more this time.

Eindhoven, Smale Haven, The Netherlands, August 2017

I made new friends too! I was delighted to finally meet the wonderful Jessica from Daarboven in Eindhoven, The Netherlands at the Smale Haven, a newly opened food court. There, we had a drink on the terrace and hours went by so quickly as we had so much to talk about. I also met with the lovely Aïssa from The Chic Pragmatist in Paris by the Seine river and she is as great as I thought she would be. More on these meet ups (rencontres) to come in later posts.

I also got to meet and hang out with this Frenchie in Orléans, another APC devotee Nicolas (@Topsy40 on Instagram). This guy definitely makes me think outside the box with his passion for photography, art, cooking, APC (of course) and we even had some talks on financial banking investment. I like how people like him have many facets and I am always drawn towards this type of persons who really inspire me. Also more on this rencontre later.

Knowingly that I was stuck for more days at my parents’ house in recovery, I elected to spend more quality time with each of them. I may not have mentioned (in the about page) but I take a lot after my dad in regards to problem solving and being curious about learning new stuff. Let it be technology, history, economics, politics, society, science, and more. I sometimes wonder if it was because of him I became an engineer but in any case, he needed help with fixing the stupid-old-French-self-destructing cars ready for the junkyard (Renault anymore?! C’est de la merde! It’s shit!!). There was an issue (actually many issues, yeah they never come alone right!!) with the car overheating so we replaced the thermostat together, reconnected the water hoses, then checked that the water coolant valves opened correctly. Checked! Next the engine fan refused to start up to help cool the engine. To my surprise, this thing is as pricey as APC!! So my dad and I hit the road about two hours away from the house and went to a junkyard to disassemble ourselves a new fan. We tested it, assembled it, and everything was ok until… Well, let’s stop here because these cars should have their own blogs honestly.

With my mom, she is more of the artsy and crafty person who inspires me to be more creative. She was a tailor and a designer in her past life but to my delight, I stumbled across a piece of cloth laying around her sewing machine. I then asked her what this work in progress dress was and who it was for? She replied that it was garbage and that she just wanted to experiment. But I completely disagreed so to prove her wrong, I put in on although the dress was not completely sew to her perfection. Then I went around town and took some shots as seen above (with the kind help of Nicolas) to show her that the garment was indeed a great creation and that she knows how to dress the woman body well. She laughed in my face! Obviously not a reaction I expected but, I was reluctant to let her craft and creativity go to waste, so I encouraged her to continue designing and making clothes at home. With my push to motivated her I saw in her eyes some nostalgia glancing at her old dusted design pieces all boxed in the attic. She didn’t promise anything but claimed that she was going to give it a try and experiment with new fabrics and new cuts. She shared that she was going to inspire from her 70s and 80s designs with the hope to bring a touch of modernity to them. I cannot hide how I am particularly thrilled about the idea!

Because of the distance, I wanted to spend more time with my little sister who lives in Paris. We visited Parc des Sceaux (where she’d show me where she exercises. She is a fanatic of working out. FREAK!!). I’ll write more about Mon Paris in a later follow up post on where we hung out and I’m sure you’d like to find out more new hotspots in Paris).

Dithany at Republique, Paris, France, September 2017

Traveling to Holland was supposed to be a solo trip but since I like impromptu stuff so we decided to drive together to Eindhoven and join my French expat friend Joffrey and head over to Düsseldorf for you will never guess… RAMEN!!! Nothing made me happier than this. (If you too are a ramen die hard, follow #Ramenscore on Instagram). So I recommend if you are passing by Düsseldorf to visit Takumi and ask for the King’s Table (warning: might get leg cramps for kneeing too long). Since it was only a day trip, we returned to Eindhoven for a night out with the rest of the French crew at our fav Irish Pub. The next day, I was dropped off at Schiphol airport to head back to the US.

So there you have a brief sum up of my 3 weeks in Europe with the goods and the bads. Despite the unexpected things that took place during this trip, I am slowly getting better and stronger mentally and physically. I wanted to share with you my thoughts that no matter how bad things in life may seem at the moment, remain calm (and the other 5 C’s) and triumph over negativity by being resilient. I am grateful to have supportive people around me at times like this. One of my main goals in developing this blog was not only to talk about clothes and style but to share my life experiences and discuss some tools on finding that internal hero in you to achieve success in life no matter the setbacks. So I hope to be able to continue with writing in that direction in mind.

As promised here are the tips in developing coping skills: relaxation techniques, daily mindfulness meditation, good nutrition and hydration, learn problem solving skills, daily exercises (no need to be a freak!), massages are always nice and a must have is laughter.

What’s broken can be mended. What’s hurt can be healed. No matter how dark it gets, the sun’s gonna rise again.
-Dr. Meredith Grey

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