Kay’s Journal: Letter to a Friend

Here’s what I’m writing about in my journal this week!

Dear Fran,

It’s never “boring” to read your updates about your life, which at the moment is focused on your breath. I’m so sorry you’ve had such swift and disorienting transitions that require focus and attention to the administrative side of illness. And of course it happens at the same time when you have little energy to spare and the last thing you want to do is deal with mind-numbing paperwork, scheduling complexities, and procedures that poke and prod and put you in cold machines while you sweat it out in anxiety, doing your best (and you do this so gracefully) to just roll with it and place faith in the unknown and sustain mindfulness moment to moment.

I respect and admire that resilience, earned over a lifetime of practice practice practice. I’ve just come back from NYC where I was again part of a team that brought a writing track to a large expressive therapies conference. One of my all-day workshops was with Deborah Ross, first author on our book Your Brain on Ink, on neuroplasticity and writing. Our topic was inspired by new research on “four keys of well-being” that each are associated with neuroplasticity, e.g. the ability of the brain to change itself in response to lived experience. All four of these keys can be learned and acquired. New neural pathways can be created because each of these are both mindsets and skillsets, developed with commitment to a mindfulness practice, such as meditation (the easiest one to measure) or yoga, tai chi, etc. Deb and I posit that expressive/therapeutic writing is another medium that can be grounded and steeped in mindfulness and consciousness and can be used as a form of self-directed neuroplasticity.

All of which is prelude to this: The first and most important key to well-being, according to forthcoming research (Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds), is resilience. The ability to “savor the beauty and stare straight into the pain” (Progoff) is a giant advantage to wellness. But resilience is also the most difficult to cultivate; it is only developed over time and under hardship. So paradoxically it takes quite a bit of resilience to develop resilience. Hopefully we are acquiring and accumulating lessons and wisdom along the way, and at some point it kicks into integration and embodiment. The ability to endure the present, integrating past wisdom with faith in the future — to me, that’s resilience.

You are one strong and resilient woman, Fran. You’ve spent your lifetime learning and integrating your lessons. I applaud you and I am sending you love and hugs and energy with all best wishes for benign biopsies and a treatment modality that can ease your struggles and open pathways to recovery.


Shared with Fran’s permission.


Your turn! Thoughts on resilience?


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4 Responses to Kay’s Journal: Letter to a Friend

  1. Linda Barnes October 17, 2017 at 4:32 pm #

    Hi Kay and ALL, Just had a conversation today with my friend, Sara J, expressing how I must continue to practice outrage (I resist falling into the kind of humorous “they’re-at-it-again” tone that some seem to have adopted), which not allowing it to boil over. I am saving my greater energies for the time when my anger and activism will make the most difference for good. Meanwhile, I am simultaneously counting my many blessings every hour, and doing my best to get up each day and simply carry on. It’s not easy, as you know, but surely there have been worse times, and certainly they are many, many, many people enduring much much more than we.

    • Kay Adams October 22, 2017 at 11:27 am #

      Linda, I so appreciate your voice here and your commitment to balancing “holy outrage” (Sibyl Dana Reynolds) with mindfulness and gratitude practices. It’s useful to remember context and perspective. And appreciation for blessings, acknowledgment of privilege, commitment to resilience skill-building and sharing with others. Good practices for these times. Thanks!

  2. Carol Roberts October 20, 2017 at 7:42 am #

    Well, I have certainly endured a few difficult days: having to run away from a crazy husband, being stalked by him, divorce (twice), bankruptcy, and a few other disappointments thrown in for good measure. But thankfully we do survive most stuff. Moreover, I just keep noticing God’s love expressed to me. He really is a “good, good Father” as a current song proclaims (when we allow Him to be a Father…He doesn’t force this).

    Thanks for asking, Kay!

    • Kay Adams October 22, 2017 at 11:29 am #

      That’s some resilience right there, Carol! And I agree, recognition of the hand of the Divine in all of this is something to meditate upon.

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