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  • Writer's pictureVera Jo Bustos

The Resilient Mind



1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

“Follow your heart. Go after the things you are capable of—even the things you think you aren’t capable of—and never hesitate to do it. Stay courageous.”

That is a quote shared with me by the most resilient mind I have ever known. This mind wasn’t a celebrity or a household name that you would recognize. She wasn’t loved by millions—but she was loved deeply by a select few. I am one of the few who loved her deeply—but her love for me was greater. Her name was Senaida Bustos, but I knew her as Grandma Sadie.

As I sit and reflect on our times together, memories of my childhood and my time spent with her race through my thoughts. When you have a heart—and a lifetime—full of memories, it’s hard to pick just one. The most prevalent memories were shared in the rural roads outside of Las Vegas, NM, towards McAlister lake. Even though it was over 20-years ago, I am still transported to the back seat of her car where she would sip from an Allsup’s mug with her “special drink” inside.

Although, in full transparency, the memories stuck in my mind are the ones from the last 10-years of her life where she was commonly in and out of hospitals, doctors appointments, and mostly bedridden and confined to a small bedroom. Enough room for a twin bed, a small TV, and a single chair for us to sit while we visited.

If you looked at the cards she was dealt in this life, your heart might break a little. She lost her daughter before she reached her 10thbirthday, was diagnosed with early-onset arthritis in her twenties which limited her physical abilities. I don’t share this for your empathy—she never wanted it—and I know she still wouldn’t. I share this so you can understand the magnitude of her toughness. The ultimate resilient mind.

The things she went through would have caused most people to complain. The events she endured would have caused many to crumble. But she never did.

I sat next to her bed one day quizzing her about her mindset and the mental toughness she possessed. “How do you stay so positive with everything that you go through?”

“Well, my goodness, if I start thinking about it like that, I’m going to get depressed. Let’s talk about something else,” and she immediately changed the subject. This is the fundamental example of focusing on what you can control. She never allowed her mind to drift into the what-ifs and why-me’s of life. She simply accepted her situation and made the most of it. She never allowed her thoughts to take over and take her down a dark alley of self-loathing and depressive thinking.

A philosopher once said that when someone gets struck by an arrow, they are injured twice. First is the physical injury. The arrow piercing your skin creating a wound. Your body eventually heals from the physical trauma. But the second injury is what haunts you much longer. The second arrow is your beliefs and thoughts about the injury. You think about how unfair it was the arrow struck you. You resolve you didn’t deserve the injury and curse that it ever happened. It is the second arrow that causes much more suffering.

Grandma Sadie was on to something and I never realized it. She took the first arrow like a warrior. When her body didn’t heal—and was limited with her physical abilities—her mind never allowed the second arrow to pierce her thoughts. She was able to surmount the emotional and mental trauma that defeats so many others. I wonder if she ever knew the toughness she carried within herself.

When she changed the subject, she immediately started asking questions about me and my life. About my coaching career, about my newest business ventures, and lastly about my debut book. She would sit in awe with her eyes closed as I would read her chapters from my book. Envisioning everything herself—her mind transporting her to Greece—the setting of my book. We would talk about my adventures and the journey I endured. Looking back, I realized the lesson I failed to capture in the moment. The ability to get over yourself and care more about others than focusing on your problems.

Hindsight is always a great teacher. The biggest lessons in my life have come after the test was dealt—most of which I failed miserably. The challenges of a failed class, a missed game-winning shot, heartbreak, injuries, depression, and the loss of a loved one. We tend to think that being resilient and tough means being positive and optimistic all the time. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The true test of your resilience doesn’t come when everything is going well, the test is when everything has gone to shit.

You build up physical, emotional, and mental resilience by getting better at feeling bad—and how you respond when you are down. You get better at building up that resilient muscle by learning how to influence your negative feelings by creating a positive approach to the negative events that happen in your life.

Grandma Sadie eventually gave me a piece of advice which still brings tears to my eyes whenever it rings in my ears, “Just make sure you find someone who loves you as much as you love them. Like the way I love you.” I will always remember that it’s not about being loved widely—it is more about being loved deeply.

And I promise to always stay courageous.


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