Recently, I had lunch with two former co-workers, one whom I had reconnected with a few weeks before and the other whom I hadn’t seen in 21 years. We lingered at lunch for three hours and only left when we heard the restaurant was closing for the afternoon. There was not a minute of silence or awkwardness as we spoke of the people in the agency we had all worked for and how our belief in its mission energized our work. We also spoke of the current divisions in our country, of family, and most of all struggles. We had all faced challenges in life that could have broken us: betrayal by a spouse, MS and an abusive relationship.

What united us was not the struggles that we faced and overcame but the attitudes with which we approached the events of our lives, not allowing them to ruin us, but to make us stronger and, yes, happier. This was such a tribute to the power of the will and the ability to make choices. Life’s challenges can often lead to an abyss of grief that threatens to swallow us. One of my shortest poems is: “Is there no one to hold me while I cry?”

Every human being has been in this place at one time or another. Sometimes depression can make it more difficult to get away from the edge but any spark of light or encouragement should be used to seek help physically, emotionally or spiritually. When we face a crisis, it effects the all of who we are and thus must be met with our total beings.

In responding holistically, we place ourselves on the path of becoming whole out of an experience that could have shattered us. Sometimes the only response is resilience as expressed in the following poem:

Resilience

Resilience,

my secret companion

long before I knew

its meaning,

long before

I realized

there was anything

else that could

keep me alive.

Like the reed

that bends with the wind

resilience

was my face

to the world,

protecting

my fragile self,

enabling me

to come to this point

of know

there is more.

What was a common thread through our conversation was not the anguish we suffered, the physical challenges that seemed unsurmountable, the difficulty of beginning over. No, we spoke of coming through to a new place of strength, of growth in courage, of joy in our present lives. There was laughter and possibility and achievement.

We could have spent time comparing our tribulations, our discouragements, our setbacks, yet we did not. To me, this in no way minimizes what each of us has been through or the lingering pain we felt.

This proves that overcoming adversity is a larger accomplishment, more energizing and vital to a happy life. As I travel through life, these are the kind of companions I want at my side.

Where I Am Now

I don’t want to think anymore

about where I am from.

My focus is

where I am now

and where I’m going.

Happy and peaceful,

I’ve arrived at the resting place

that opens me to love’s embrace:

to the possibility of being

in the world as giver,

sharing my path that others

may also find theirs,

the way to their own truth

in the discovery of their voice.

Helen Rousseau, a Catholic nun for 30 years, is now an ordained interfaith minister. Her poems and writings are about her journey from dogma to interior spiritual freedom and from an abusive relationship to exterior freedom and joy. She lives in Kennebunk. She can be reached at www.helenrousseau.com.

Poems are from “Coming to the Edge: Fifty Poems for Writing and Healing” by Helen G. Rousseau.