Progressive Voice is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
By Betsy Withycombe
Once upon a time, after trauma had stolen my health, I began to walk. But no matter how far I roamed the streets of Arlington, no matter how completely I exhausted my body, my mind continued to churn. It felt pointless. My tank of resiliency, normally full, was empty.
Among our family’s collection of books are several editions of dictionaries. I looked in each for the definition of “resilience.” Every edition included a primary definition which defined resilience as the ability to return quickly from hardship or adversity. Secondary definitions offered that resilience was a type of flexibility or elasticity. I prefer the latter definition. One’s ability to be resilient is not measured by the speed at which one addresses adversity; sometimes you have to be gentle with yourself as you adapt to the challenge in front of you and continue moving forward.
In the last ten years I have experienced a clinically significant amount of change, loss, and heartache. The details aren’t important, but I’m sure those of you who saw me in the grocery store never suspected the depth of chaos framing the rest of my life. I practiced good self-care and did all of the things that promised my resilience would return. I sought calm in books. My family and friends did everything they could to remind me that I had grit and that my hardest days were behind me. I tried very hard to listen. I was as gentle with myself as I could be. I walked.
Renewed resilience finally came in the form of a flower (which was probably a weed). As I was dragging myself down the sidewalk thinking many unhelpful thoughts, I noticed a small flower. I took out my cell phone to photograph it. I suddenly noticed many unseen flowers and plants on the very street I had been plodding down every day. I was almost home when I realized something very important: Focusing on something outside myself, I had stopped the continuous loop of despair running on repeat in my mind.
During our self-isolation, by confronting this previously unthinkable situation with innovation and by re-thinking commonplace activities, we are reducing despair. Arlington restaurant owners grieved the shuttering of their dining rooms, and then shifted quickly to online ordering and curbside deliveries. A large social media group for helping neighbors sprang up overnight. Modeling the gratitude of other cities, we participated in “clap-outs” to thank healthcare workers. Food banks called out for donations and their calls were answered. Our schools began the Herculean effort of moving all 28,020 students to online learning. When grocery store shelves emptied of flour and yeast, local bakeries, having lost customer visits, began offering their supplies for home cooks. Churches offered online services to meet the spiritual needs of their congregations. People began using online meeting software to stay connected to people they love. “Stay Healthy” became a standard complimentary closing and was offered to passersby (from a six-foot distance) on walks.
Arlingtonians tamped down their own discomforts and considered ways to help the elderly, immigrants, the homeless, and the low-income residents among us. This was resilience in action and the miracle of thousands of ordinary people stepping outside themselves. Because I have known trauma, I also know resilience when I see it.
When this virus took hold and we adjusted to self-isolation, Arlingtonians tapped into their resiliency. A global pandemic is a pretty tough time to try and find your grit, determine how much of it you have, and whether you can share it. But where there is resilience there is hope. Hope that the challenge before you isn’t insurmountable. Hope that you can persist in finding the flexibility and determination required during harder times. The amazing thing about resilience is that once you know you have it, it strengthens like a muscle and can be used again and again.
I found my resilience again in a little flowering weed. Arlingtonians stepped outside themselves in isolation and, together with their neighbors, found theirs. They flexed, and their resilience is making us all stronger.
Betsy Withycombe has lived in Arlington County for 28 years. She is a photographer, artist, master baker, and the proud parent of five wonderful children.
Good Wednesday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 14291 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
ARLnow has been providing independent, in-depth coverage of Arlington since 2010. We are committed to keeping readers informed about the issues that matter most to the community, including those that…
Residents of The Shelton, an affordable housing development in the Green Valley neighborhood, are raising concerns about property management and poor treatment of residents. They previously raised these same issues…
This spring, Arlington County began buying up properties in the Waverly Hills area to combat flooding. Already, despite some concerns about how the program would work, three residents have agreed…
Is home ownership a goal of yours in 2023? Now is the time to make it happen! Grab a (virtual) drink with the area’s top Real Estate experts, learn all about the home buying process and on how you can get $1,500 towards your closing costs immediately!
Did you know the average Arlington renter will spend $150K in 5 years of renting? Stop paying down someone else’s mortgage! Join us for a Rent vs. Buy Happy Hour on Wednesday, June 7th at 6 p.m. via Zoom. If this time doesn’t work, we also are offering times convenient for your schedule!
A lot has happened in the local market since the beginning of the pandemic. Sip on your drink of choice and learn from Northern Virginia, Arlington and Washingtonian Magazines top producing agents! We will discuss the latest market updates, the home buying process and rent vs. buy cost savings. Please RSVP by clicking here.
Call/text Manavi at 703-869-6698 with any questions!
Mason Square hosts dynamic weekly programming and ongoing special events, open to the Mason and greater Arlington community. All activities are free and open to the public. Join us at Mason Square today!
Homebuying 101: Steps to Getting Pre-Approved
Are you ready to jump into homeownership or started considering it but don’t know where to start? Financial preparation is key when thinking about purchasing your first home and the first step to getting pre-approved.
Join ACFCU’s mortgage loan officers
4th of July Celebration & Fireworks
Treat yourself this Independence Day with a world-class, private 4th of July extravaganza at the Military Women’s Memorial – a premier National Capital Region site.
Great food, fun, and the best views of Washington DC’s spectacular fireworks display. Relax, enjoy,