Humans Are Resilient

Humans are resilient. Have you noticed? There’s a new book out, The Resilience Dividend by Judith Rodin, to support this notion. Rodin feels that humans have the tremendous capacity to not only recover, but to also grow from disruptive circumstances. Put simply: we get knocked down and we get back up again.

A couple of key ingredients are necessary for resilience: 1) you must still be breathing (ha!) and 2) you must believe. In what? Well, something better, of course. A better day? Depending on your circumstances, that could be 24 hours too much. How about a better moment, then? That’s only three seconds. Surely you can find three seconds of goodness in an entire day? Look! The sun came up this morning! Now, there’s something to believe in.

I used to be the ultimate pessimist. The glass was not even half empty. It was broken. Shattered.

Ten years ago, that’s exactly what my life was. Shattered. For two full years, death and destruction was the trend. Sometimes, I’m reluctant to share my story, because it might be too much for you to handle, if you’ve not experienced multiple losses. I’ll admit though, I’m a tragedy junkie (that pessimistic tendency?), drawn to stories of doom and gloom, curious as to how people handle “too much”. Then, it was my turn, and my response was surprising, even to me.

Let’s get through the death bits as quick as possible. In early 2004, I lost my dog, my mom, my cat within two weeks. My mom was the biggest loss, obviously, and the closest person I’d ever lost. It felt surreal. I got back up, though, as humans do, and then I enjoyed 10 months of mostly fun sprinkled with mostly normal life stuff. The “mostly fun” was a mess of trips, with Tahiti, a 25th wedding anniversary surprise from my husband, Hugh, the highlight. The “mostly normal life stuff” was overseeing what our three teenage children were up to, which wasn’t always in accordance with Ontario’s Road Safety Act.

Then came the knockout punch, the really HUGE (Hugh called himself that after slurring it once at a Buffalo Bills game) blow. Hugh went off to Edmonton on business and died. “Healthiest dead man we’ve ever seen,” said the coroner’s office. Take out the “dead” and the fact that he was lying on a cold, steel slab in the morgue, and you’d have news to really run with.

Let’s, unfortunately, get through a few more deaths. Hugh’s mother, mentor, dear friend, was diagnosed with cancer two months later and passed at the end of June 2005. A puppy was hit and killed on the road (go ahead, insert me wailing to the Heavens, “Dear God, am I not even allowed a puppy?” right here) and my father, a WWII veteran passed on Remembrance Day of that year. Wow. That’s a lot of death and when you add some fires – a building, a car, a boat – and flat tires (six!), that’s a lot of destruction.

I decided it must be a test. In school, I always passed tests. I was so weak, though, I had to get away from the death and destruction, gain some strength, some perspective. My brother invited me to his place for “10 Days of Healing” and he and I threw everything we could think of at my grief: lomi lomi massage, grief therapy, yoga, acupuncture, you name it. When I came back from that trip I decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Why not? I was climbing mountains every day anyway and I could do it in Hugh’s honour. He’d always wanted to climb that damn mountain. And it was for a good cause: Make-A-Wish Foundation.

There was months of preparation and then seven gruelling days of trekking upward, but when I got to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro on January 7, 2007, I was reunited with something that had been lacking for the last couple of years: a boundless blue sky offering abundance. And truth. And beauty.

I must have passed the resilience test because the 20,000 feet of earth I gathered up that week in Africa has done a great job of dividing my sparkling old life from my sparkling new one.

This blog post was written by Rita Hartley. Catch Rita at momondays momondays London, ON on 12/08/2014! Get your advance tickets here: Buy Tickets

4763-crop-samplek Rita is mother to Jetanne (Adam), Randelle and Jay. “Gia” (grandma) to Simone and Naomi Lou. Fiance to Brian. She is also a fitness instructor, entrepreneur and author. She likes to tell stories because she believes the narratives of our lives matter, a lot. For more about Rita go to For more about Rita, visit

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