Two years ago, I learned I had cancer. Last week, we lost the election. A few days ago, my agent told me he thought we should put the novel I’d spent two years writing on hold.
In every case, I felt the initial punch of the bad news, but within a day or two, I was already bouncing back. Often still wobbly (esp. with the election), but mostly ready to reset. My instinct is to re-evaluate the situation as it stands, set new goals, and move forward with them. All of that doesn’t even really require an effort of will on my part — it’s what I automatically do.
Which makes me wonder where that instinct comes from. It has certainly served me well — I think it’s a large factor in what made cancer treatment as easy as it could possibly be for me. It’s related to what people mean by resilience, the ability to bounce back — but I want to add in the re-evaluation of the situation as it stands, because that’s an important part of why it works for me, I think. Pragmatic assessment of the facts on the ground.
At the community meeting last week, five days after the election, there were still a lot of women wanting to know if there was any possible way that we could Hillary in office. And there were three or four people with experience in politics who firmly said, no. Just no. Let’s move on to what we can actually do, right now. Is that pragmatism blinding sometimes, means that you don’t see possibilities? Maybe. We need the people who do look at the outside possibilities, who want to break down the system and rebuild it. But most of the time, I think pragmatic approaches help you get more things done, faster. I’m glad the Senate Democrats might try to work with Trump on infrastructure, at the same time that I want all the protesters to keep shouting, making as much noise as possible, moving the Overton window.
But where does the ability to reassess and bounce back come from? Is it innate personality, or is this something instilled by a stable, happy childhood, by mostly having been economically stable throughout my life? Both? Is it having a strong community of friends around me, knowing there are people ready to catch me if I do fall down with those wobbly first steps? I actually think I’ve gotten better at this over time — my recovery is faster than it used to be. The first time I applied to graduate programs, I didn’t get into any of them, and I went into a funk for months. When my first novel was cancelled, I couldn’t write for a year. But now I come back faster.
I don’t have any conclusions for any of this. Mostly thinking as a parent, wondering if there’s anything I can do to instill this skill in my kids, because life will, inevitably, knock them down sometimes. It’d be good if they don’t stay down too long.