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Thursday, February 18, 2010

"The Pants Heard 'Round the World"

"Look at your pants!" says the Queen to the King in Cinderella, begging him to schedule a festive ball to introduce their Prince to the eligible young women of the kingdom. Annika was rehearsing this dialogue yesterday when the Norwegian Olympic curling team appeared on the television screen. Meredith Viera called them "the pants heard 'round the world," and all we could say was, "Look at your pants!" I have the typical Swede's issues with Norwegians to begin with and this just doesn't make it easier. On the other hand, one of the issues Swedes have with Norwegians is that they are just too damn serious, and take themselves way too seriously. These pants definitely go the distance in rebutting that stereotype. So go Norwegians, wear those pants. Just don't expect us to ever take you seriously again. But this is not really about pants. That was just a teaser. This is about falling. And getting up. As much as I love Canada, I have to agree with the Salon writer yesterday who was inclined to tell Canada, "you're fired." The downhill ski course was a disaster. I keep envisioning these women whoooshing through the powder at Steamboat, snow worthy of an Olympics competition. But no, instead, they are sliding down a frozen concrete slippery slope that took six of the women out. Downhill skiing is an edgy, dangerous sport. That's a given. But taking out six of the best skiers in the world? One wonders. This is the thing, though. They got up. All but one who required an airlift off the course, the women got up, released their bindings, gathered the broken pieces of their skiis, and walked off the course. They're younger than me. Younger than most of you, too. That counts for something. But it is this getting up business that impresses the heck out of me. Getting up is good. Getting up is amazing. Getting up is normal -- much of the time. But it's not always possible. At least not right away. And it is certainly not always easy. One of my theme songs in the months after I was attacked and quit working was, "I get knocked down, and I get up again, I get knocked down, and I get up again..." Sometimes you can sing at the top of your lungs and push as hard as you can and grit your teeth and push and resolve, be determined, and still, it doesn't always happen right away. Resiliency is about bouncing back. I used to be so resilient I was a damn trampoline. Bounce, bounce, bounce. But then came a time when bouncing was no more possible than flying off into space. It's frustrating to be in a different time and space, to have to deal with an experience that is profoundly, intrinsically different from the challenges I'd faced before. But I learn new ways to be resilient, to grow those resiliency muscles. I keep saying that one of the big draws for me to Poland is the resiliency I've seen, as they bounce back, or build back, recover, return, heal after outrageous devastation: the destruction of World War II, the imposition of a communist regime for forty years post WWII, and earlier, after the Partitions of the 19th century. But it's not an even process. Some are more resilient than others. Some are more resilient in some ways, less in others. And some are more resilient now, others later. I thought I knew all about resiliency. But I was humbled. Broken beyond the point where bouncing back was easy, quick, straightforward. Sometimes it feels like I'm still just reverberating, absorbing the shock. That is the way it is. For all of us, in various ways. It varies. The least helpful thing we do when others fall is judge their response to it. We don't know what else they have endured, encountered in life. We don't get to tell others how long it will take, what exactly they must do, how much it will hurt. We see this as military veterans return home from war and respond differently to their experiences. The best thing we can do when others fall is attend to them. Listen. Honor and respect their interpretation of what happened. Then encourage and support them as they begin a healing process. I see this in Poland too. I have friends and acquaintances there who are still stuck, have not been able to move into this new era and embrace all that it offers. And others who jumped up and seized the new opportunities even as they were just beginning to emerge. Some are frozen. While others have been flying. And so it is with those of us who have faced violence and danger, hostility and harassment. We respond in various ways. I'm not a trampoline anymore but I got one. And I guess if it makes them feel better about not being Swedish, those crazy Norwegians can go ahead and wear those bizarro pants. Whatever it takes. Just so long as they don't mind hearing Annika shout, "Look at your pants!" What works for you, what have you learned about strengthening your resiliency muscles?