Tuesday, May 17, 2022


Resilience. Whether it’s aging, the pandemic or the constant assault of the news, I notice I’m not as resilient as I’d like to be these days. Doesn’t take much to set me off— machines that don’t work, Swiss banks that won’t change money, overpriced train tickets that no one ever collects, lines that move too slowly. I feel the blood pressure rising and impatience taking charge. I used to think of myself as Mr. Mellow, unflustered by traffic jams or sticky computer keys or plans that go awry. 


But not anymore. Does aging suggest that the hourglass of time is hyper-aware that not a second should be wasted on these petty little annoyances? 


And so I ask myself: “Why do I grant them so much power to upset me? Is happiness only a perfect-temperature-bike-ride through Elysian fields with gelato at the end? Might I dig a little deeper to some surer serenity not at the mercy of the whims of fate and fortune? Can I grow a skin thick enough to make the darts of annoyance glance off?” One would hope so.


And one would be wrong. No sooner had I pledged myself to resilience than I had to wait in an unnecessary line at the Barcelona Airport to just “double-check” our boarding card, a line with one agent that moved at the pace that would make snails honk their horns. Each person who made it to the front seemed to be discussing the question of whether God exists and considering all the different points of view. After 30-40 minutes of this maddening waiting in line, finally made it to the front and on to the plane for the 12-hour journey, fully expecting another such line at American customs.


And then, a gift from the gods! Zipped through customs in 5 minutes without even stopping to talk to an agent! Joy of joys! And then penalized by 55 minutes where the baggage belt didn’t budge and nobody knew why. A good time to practice patience and resilience, but I was failing miserably.


And so today, back home catching up on errands, I went to deposit a check in the ATM. But the ATM declined. My bank has been closed for 6 months but now was open and my excitement about dealing with human beings was alive and well as I entered the bank. Two tellers, two people in line ahead of me. 


Yet once again, the conversation of each customer with the bank tellers either seemed to be continuing a debate on the fine points of whether a Supreme Being exists or reviewing the book they recently read— War and Peace for one, Les Miserables for the other. What I thought would be a two-minute transaction was now stretching to 20 or 30. 


Breathe in. Breathe out. I tried it for a couple of minutes and yes, it helped a little. Instead of wishing for the perfect plan seamlessly executed, the practice of accepting what the world gives you—like waking up with a tickle in my throat at 2:30 am in the jet-lagged morning and never quite being able to go back to sleep— is probably the greatest power a human being can cultivate. 

But it takes a lot of work. And frankly, I don’t have the time or patience! 



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