I have a pleasant memory of meeting Elizabeth Edwards at a 2006 book signing for the release of her book Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers. At that time she was at ease with herself, pleased with her positive health prognosis, and enjoying her young family. She lingered with the slow telling of intimate stories linking an emotional journey from initial diagnosis of advanced breast cancer shortly before the 2004 election to the strong support system of friends and family throughout a long and grueling treatment schedule. When I finally lumbered up to the table carrying six books for signature, she immediately opened the conversation telling me that I reminded her of a neighbor in North Carolina. We briefly chatted until I told her I was purchasing the books for several good friends in various stages of breast cancer treatment. She then held up the long line that followed me, asking thoughtful and compassionate questions about each friend. I thought she was remarkably personable.
At the time of the book release her optimism was high as she eagerly embraced hope that she would be healthy and strong enough to raise her two young children to adulthood. Only a short time later did the rumors of her family disintegration become tabloid fodder and the truth of betrayal become a headline. I just finished reading Elizabeth Edwards’ book, Resilience. Subtitled Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities, Elizabeth writes in the afterword published following the revelation of her husband’s infidelity and public humiliation of her search “to find the new imperfect.”
I have often thought of that kind and optimistic woman and what it took for her to face the end of her life with many of the supports she had formerly cherished no longer helpful, or even available. Her book was aptly titled. She modeled the essence of resilience for her children while approaching the “new imperfect” in tiny life recalibrations.
She helps me assess the value of contemplating the essence of resilience, even in times of very minor adjustment. I also learn from my friends, many facing giants of change. Change in health, change in economic security, shifts in family configurations and somehow finishing this book this particular week I also thought of all the people in the southern states facing the unknown following tornadoes and flooding. Change is everywhere, and resilience is required to maintain any degree of personal wellbeing.
UCLA Psychologist Elisha Goldstein encourages further consideration about the way our mental activity encourages resilience and stress management. Mindfulness reduces stress, promotes resilience / UCLA Today. I certainly think there is much to learn and a variety of ways we each can enter into practice. If you have anything you would like to add to this discussion, I am always interested.