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What a Spider Taught Me About Resilience in Life With Chronic Illness

I have lived with chronic pain from dystonia, a neurological movement disorder, for 20 years. When it first began in 2001, it completely changed my life. I had to stop everything I was doing and rearrange my life to accommodate my symptoms. In many ways, I lost everything due to severe disability, having to start all over again from scratch, which took years to find the right treatments and self-care puzzle pieces for me. Being as healthy as possible then become a major focus of my life. Despite improvements to my health, I still deal with problems and continually have to adapt to adversity and change.

While I have gotten better at it, it is still a challenge because new things are always popping up whether it’s related to my health or just life in general. For example, I was recently diagnosed with a condition called middle ear myoclonus (a.k.a. tensor tympani syndrome). It has been a roller coaster ride to say the least and sometimes more debilitating than physical pain.

The other day I got a great lesson about how to pick up the pieces and keep on going when everything you know hits the fan. I was walking to my neighbor’s house and had to go between two bushes. I wasn’t aware that there was a spider web until I walked right through one of the strands connecting it to one of the bushes. Don’t you just hate that feeling! I turned around to see how much of the web I destroyed, and wouldn’t you know it, I saw the spider immediately go to work and spin a new strand to attach to the bush and repair pieces of the web that had become tattered.

First off, it was fascinating to watch the spider create this web right in front of my eyes. Even if you don’t like spiders, they are amazing artists! Second, it really hit me how nature is one of our most amazing teachers about resilience, exemplified by how this spider immediately went to work to rebuild its web right after it was broken. It didn’t moan and groan and fuss and whine and cry. Well, maybe it did but I don’t “speak spider,” but it sure didn’t let what I destroyed get in the way of re-creating its masterpiece. I literally destroyed its home, and it didn’t seem to faze it in the least.

What a lesson in resilience, which I believe nature is teaching us all the time. Now I pay closer attention to all of nature and what it can teach me about adapting to adversity and being resilient, something I certainly need in my life to cope with my health issues and other life challenges.

Pay attention to nature — the way the trees change and grow from season to season; how squirrels forage for food, how birds build homes for their young and protect them with loving intensity, and how the bees work their stingers off pollinating all the beautiful flowers and food we eat that nourish our bodies. Then try to emulate their magical and tenacious beauty.

Getty image by Kim Williams.