Resilience; the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
Grit; courage and resolve; strength of character.
Neither of these definitions, to me, imply a male or female trait, yet putting them into action in schools can become synonymous with team sport and collective activities. Again, neither of these activities needs to be seen as exclusively male or female, but I can see how, when interpreted at a political level, this can be seen as such. Highly publicised enterprises such as “Troops to Teachers” and involving rugby clubs in schools can be articulated as male-centric.
My personal lessons in grit and resilience have come, not from the extensive sport playing that I did as a young person, nor the broader activities through organised groups, but from two significant women in my life, my grandmother and my first wife, who died ten years ago, after a long fight with cancer.
Both showed other character traits, which I think exemplify more what might be a general aspiration.
Resolution; a firm decision to do or not to do something, quality of being determined or resolute, the action of solving a problem or contentious matter.
Resolute; admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.
The first, a diminutive woman of 4ft 10ins (she measured herself in feet and inches), was born in 1893. She came from quite a well to do family in Brixham, whose interests were fishing, owning and running several boats. She married my grandfather, an engineer, who worked on early aeroplanes. Their early married life coincided with the First World War, with my uncle being born in 1918 and my father one year later. Being in a reserved occupation, my grandfather didn’t have to go and fight, but, sadly, became a victim of the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918/19, before my father was born. So my gran was widowed, with one young son and a baby on the way.
Sadly, again, my grandfather’s family decided to disown their daughter in law, as she had refused to agree to go to Canada before the outbreak of the war, so was held responsible for her husband’s death.
For the next 70 plus years, she became a survivor. She was an admirable and very capable seamstress, so began a life of sewing, at home and for a local department store, Rossiter’s of Paignton, where she stayed until she retired. She scrimped and saved, was helped by a better off sister and son in law to buy a house, to provide security for herself and her boys, who, of course, both went off to war, both as medics. Her resolution never faltered. She was a very pretty young woman and was offered marriage by a number of eligible men, but she stuck to her task, even after her boys had left home, in their thirties, to get married and have their families, with mine disappearing to Australia for four years.
On our return, with my parent’s messy divorce, living with gran was the stability that got me through, but it did stifle many teenage urges. The Victorian eye was kept on the growing boy and his sister!
She cooked, cleaned, washed clothes and bedding by hand and never complained, although she was well into her seventies when we landed on her doorstep. She had pride, in herself, was self-reliant, self-possessed, never had any excess money, but, growing up as she had showed incredible adaptability and the ability to make do and mend, in order to survive.
I was pleased to take her first great grandchild to see her, but, on our journey home, while stopping at friends, had a call to say that she had died after we had left. She didn’t have much, but she had great humanity, probably the greatest gift she was able to give.
I met and married Della while at training college, and we were married for 32 years. I have told more of the story in another blog. Suffice to say that, on our 20th wedding anniversary we heard that a lump was indeed cancerous and needed urgent surgery. So started the journey with cancer, which ended ten years ago. Della showed the same courage, determination, resolution, adaptability and humanity that my grandmother had shown. She gave far more than she ever got back, supporting family, friends and me through difficult times, with never a reference to her illness. Dreaming and planning allowed a house in France to become a reality.
To both of them, and to Melanie, my wife, I owe many lessons. Love and humanity underpin true grit and resilience. Having a goal, making timely decision, being able to see things through, adapting to circumstance and learning along the way is real life. Finding contentment in smaller things, and with your lot, while working to improve it. Saving for “a rainy day”, for more expensive items, learning about deferred gratification.
The immediacy of modern life might, in reality, make these qualities more difficult to achieve, but, if we do really enter a period of true austerity, will put people under considerable strain, as they may be unused to dealing with problems.
I think it is often the ability to give, rather than to receive that is, to me, a greater hallmark of humanity than slightly clichéd words like grit and resilience. I would forecast their demise, in the same way that other ideas pass their “sell by date”.
Life, for some, is tough. They learn their lessons the hard way; the school of hard knocks. That breeds real resilience; how to cope, with life itself…