(Reposted with Permission from The Clinic) I remember when I heard her heart stop. It was 5:30 am, and I was lying next to her in bed. All night, I had been listening to her breath go in and out as the pauses between each breath got longer and longer until the next breath never came. I placed my ear to her heart and listened, but I heard nothing. This unconditional pulse of love that had been beating my whole life—the unconditional love that had been guiding me, nurturing me, caring for me—had suddenly stopped. I gathered my brother and sisters, and we held my mother and sang her favorite song together, holding hands as she left her body.
After my mother’s death, I felt as if I could not bounce back. I could no longer be resilient. I was tapping out. I was done. I could not be strong any longer, and the flow of my tears began and did not stop for the next three years when I decided to go per diem in nursing and return to school to earn my master’s degree in dance. But, looking back, I wonder, is this what resiliency really is? Until this point, my definition of resiliency was to be strong—to bounce back quicker, harder, and stronger and be unchanged by my circumstances, to say yes, and to take on more and more. I wonder now if the meaning of resiliency is to soften, to soften enough to feel, and to find soft spaces of support to land. To seek out our joy amid our sorrow and run to them with all we have. I wonder if it is in the softening, the plié, the bending of our knees that we are gathering the strength and support to continue to grow and remember our resilient and brilliant selves.
Together, as we navigate the unknown continuation of Covid, grief, burnout, and fatigue, I urge everyone to put their ears to their hearts to listen to their own pulse, their own beat, and their own longings—to take a moment to connect to themselves through the arts, movement, and play. Once we are in connection with what we need to be cared for and take the necessary steps to care for ourselves, I wonder: What would happen when we put our ears to the hearts of one another, hold one another’s hand, and collectively care for each other? I believe our hearts are urging us not to bounce back quickly from all we have experienced but to soften, to cry our tears, to listen, to slow down, to dance, to sing, to paint, to reflect, to grieve, and, when ready, to use our soft landing, to plie and wholeheartedly embrace the next leap that transpires.
Tara Rynders, The Dancing Nurse, is the CEO and Founder of The Clinic, an arts and play-based immersive theater company that creates workshops and performances in hospital settings to prevent burnout, decrease secondary traumatic stress, and create more (Re)Brilliant and equitable healthcare systems.