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The Roadrunner Has Run Out of Road

In a world that always seems to be telling us to do more, be better and stronger, I say there are things we must accept as our truths. I say acceptance is not defeat.

I was recently invited to speak at my workplace about resilience. It seemed a rundown topic on a well over-used word. I wanted to create a great motivating speech and have the energy to tell everyone that they had the ‘power to carry on’, and leave everyone feeling enthusiastic. I kept pondering what ‘resilient’ conveyed to me beyond its dictionary meaning when I attended the World Press Photo Gallery Exhibition at the NSW State Library. The photos resonated and evoked anger, frustration and in some small indelible moments, delight.

It’s my view that resilience is not a binary concept. When we talk about someone’s resilience, we are talking about their level of resilience and let’s face it, 2020 has tested all of us. The question I ask you, my reader is: how do you define resilience? Powering through situations with the same attitude might seem great, until it’s not. The alternative of burying your head in the sand and avoiding the situation is most certainly not going to enter the realm of resilience either.

I want to challenge your concept of resilience and ask you to think about the word acceptance. Before we drawl on about how resilient we have been this year (or not), take a step back and ask yourself if you are accepting.  In the western world, we think acceptance is synonymous with defeat. If you scoffed or expressed any disdain when you read that sentence, then please continue reading! I want you to think of acceptance as being malleable in your mind and using that skill to adjust to the changing circumstances around you.

Back to the World Press Photo Exhibition. There were two photos at the Exhibition that summed up 2020 for me. The first is by Alejandro Prieto, titled Roadrunner Approaching the Border Wall. Some of us remember the roadrunner and coyote cartoons as kids. No matter how wily, how clever that coyote thought he was, roadrunner always won. Except in 2020.  We were the roadrunners before our lives changed. We always won and it seemed we would continue winning provided we utilized the same methods and attitudes to our families and careers. Then 2020 rolled around and, well you know the rest #2020.

When you choose to invest in yourself, I urge you to start with an introspection and really think about whether you are an accepting person. Accepting of what you cannot change; accepting that you have a choice in how you respond to people around you: family, friends and colleagues. When we accept that we may have a particular habit or behaviour in how we respond to certain stimuli, we have taken the first step in building resilience. Acceptance is the first step in building resilience, which is so overlooked in our fast-paced, competitive lifestyles.

If acceptance is the first sip we drink towards building on our resilience, then we accept that this year has been beyond difficult for some of us. We accept that we cannot continue the way we once did.  We accept that we have the power to change our reactions and actions to people and circumstances around us. Once we choose acceptance, we have found a way to become resilient.

I told you there were two photos that stood out for me at the Exhibition. Alon Skuy captured acceptance and resilience in a single photo with Musa’s Struggle and Search for the Stage. A former football prodigy earmarked for success, had one of his legs amputated below the knee. The emotions he would have gone through to accept his situation is incomprehensible. But he did accept his condition. He accepted that he could not play football anymore. He also accepted that his athletic prowess could be channeled elsewhere and so, he learned to dance.

As the year draws to a close, I am asking you to accept the emotions you have felt this year and accept that there might aspects of your life that have changed or are still changing.  I am not asking you to give up but give oxygen to where your energy might best be channelled.  Who knows, perhaps I may see some of you dance when you never thought you could.