In college, I’d felt overwhelmed by class work, grumbling I’d never get through finals without my brain imploding.  I trudged uphill and encountered a casual friend.  We spoke for several minutes, laughing.  Then she mentioned she was battling a brain tumor.

Stunned, I blinked at her, unsure if I heard correctly.  Her red hair caught the sun.  She shaded her eyes and grinned widely at me, as though she’d just joked about a boyfriend.  It wasn’t that she was cavalier or in denial… she chose not to be gloomy or self-pitying.  She expressed relief that her cancer treatment wouldn’t interfere with graduation.

I choked out a clumsy consolation, and prayed that she’d have a good prognosis.

We parted ways, and later, I lingered outside the door of a college professor, an endearing chain-smoker who favored tweed jackets, whose desk was piled high with messy textbooks and tests to grade.  We talked about problems, and I mentioned this friend who remained cheerful, despite her enormous physical challenge, a brain tumor, of all things.

The professor gazed at me with solemn gypsy eyes, her jittery hands a contrast to her slow, measured words.  “Everyone has problems.  It’s how you cope that matters.”

Right.  It’s how you cope.

Psychological resilence.  That’s the stuff of stout-hearted people who meet life’s setbacks head-on, no whining, no complaints.  They keep plugging, even as they face failure… or death.

Given how so many others really suffer, surely I can forge ahead and meet my goals, (fiction, others), while continuing to encourage my kids, deepen the bonds of my marriage, honor my extended family, and be a good, dependable friend.

Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph: “My doctor told me I’d never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.”

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