A Lesson in the Art of Living; How We Will All Emerge Stronger.

Here in the US, we are beginning to tip-toe back to a semblance of life as we knew it. You can sense the anticipation and hope. As Spring slowly unfolds her pretty petals, many people are reconnecting with loved ones after a year apart.

I watch the sweet reunion videos posted on social media as grandparents scoop up grandchildren and new parents introduce a baby to family—the joy is palpable. We have all suffered in our own way, we have all been robbed of something, but deep down, I hope we have all gained one important trait: resilience.

Resilient people are those who have been knocked down enough times to figure out how to get back up with a modicum of grace. Well, that’s my definition! The more accepted definitions of resilience are: the ability to recover from bad events; the capacity to recover quickly. Those who lack resilience are easily overwhelmed, unable to withstand adverse situations. 

As desperately dreadful as this pandemic has been, I have to trust that we will all emerge a bit more resilient—and that would be a good thing.

I am addicted to people-watching. Maybe it is the writer in me always looking for character traits, but I love to study others.

I’ve always been fascinated by body language and body adornment. In addition to the usual people-gathering places, waiting rooms are rich hunting grounds where I can surreptitiously observe human beings. My dad was an avid people-watcher. In shopping malls, the library, airports, restaurants, we would sit, heads close and share our thoughts.

But, over the years, I noticed how people became unable just to be still, they had to be constantly occupied. It was as though they couldn’t tolerate their own stillness. Even the toddlers gave up prodding wooden bricks and blocks—too passive. Devices were placed in chubby hands, and everyone was happy being entertained.

This led me to think about tolerance, the ability to put up with stuff you don’t like or that makes you uncomfortable. 

On arriving in the US, I noticed how the majority of people didn’t tolerate physical discomfort. Coming from a hot country where air conditioning was only in commercial properties, I shook my head when all the a/c’s would hum into life the second temperatures went above 70’F. Heaven forbid it dropped below 60’F; that would require firing up the central heat.

Many people were literally unable to withstand adverse conditions. And, I’m not talking about rampaging wildfires, more like a restaurant that is slightly overheated. 

US cars were geared for ultimate comfort. Even an average-range car has heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, and more cup-holders than places to sit. Lounge furniture seemed bigger and more padded. Everything was super-sized and super-comfy. This was a nation that had raised comfort to an art.

But has this pursuit of comfort lowered our ability to deal with life’s sharp corners?  Are tolerance and resilience somehow tied together?

If you are always protected from rubbing up against life’s sharp edges, then how do you ever learn to be resilient? If you are fortunate enough to live a drama-free life, and you can insulate yourself against even the tiniest discomfort, you will never fall. And if you don’t fall, how do you practice getting up?

More than any other catastrophe to hit the earth, the worldwide pandemic has touched every single corner of our planet. Famine, floods, earthquakes, and wars are always limited to certain areas. In many parts of the world, even World War 2 largely only affected those who went off to fight.

But this pandemic brought all of us to our knees. Yes, some are weathering it better than others, but no one can say they were left totally untouched by it—no one.

As the weeks and months passed, we all felt overwhelmed. What we anticipated would last weeks started to stretch to months. But, unlike air conditioning, none of us could flip a switch to turn off the virus. This was an event so catastrophic that we couldn’t creep away and hide until it passed. It wasn’t a cold, wet Sunday where you could curl up on your sofa and read for ten hours.

We had no option but to find the capacity to recover. We dug deep and found reserves of energy. Some days it was easy, and some, it was a battle, but we slowly figured how to get back up and dust ourselves off.

We discovered we were resilient; if we can survive a pandemic, I’m pretty sure we can survive anything. It has been a terrible way to learn a valuable skill, but maybe it can part of the silver-lining.

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