The Corona Diaries, Vol. 2: Learning to be a Super Ball

May 5, 2020

Now more than ever, I place a high value on being resilient. My mental metaphor for it is to picture a wine glass, a tennis ball and a Super Ball. Drop the wine glass from shoulder height and it will shatter when it hits the ground. It’s not resilient at all. Drop the tennis ball and it will bounce up a little, but not much. It’s not resilient enough. But a Super Ball will bounce almost all the way back up because it is extremely resilient.

I like to think I am resilient most of the time. The other day I failed the test, however. After weeks of being cooped up at home, away from my daily routines, I flat-out lost it.

It happened on a daily afternoon walk that we’ve been taking as a family. As we looped back toward home, the wind came up. Snow and hail stung our faces. Suddenly, our new favorite routine had become a chore, just something else to endure. For whatever reason, that was my Isolation Nation breaking point. The last straw of patience within me snapped and I found myself yelling and shaking my fist at the sky, like you see people do in the movies.

Immediately, I thought, “What a dumb thing to put energy into!”

After we got home, I picked up a copy of a book that I turn to often called “The Little Book of Stoicism: Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and Calmness” by Jonas Salzgeber. (I studied philosophy in college and came to know Stoic thought well, to the point that I think it can almost be viewed as a modern operating system for the busy, working individual.)

Salzgeber’s book is particularly helpful because he divides Stoic thought up into 55 practices that help you deal with different situations the way the Stoics themselves might. The section I turned to was about putting energy only into things that you control.

The Stoic view is simple: We have three levels of influence over the world:

1.      Things we have no influence over, like the weather, ethnicity and most external circumstances.

2.      Things we have some control over, such as our health and behaviors.

3.      And, lastly, things we have a lot of influence over, which is limited to our choices, judgments and actions.

Re-reading that section, I immediately felt better. It was a useful reminder that while current circumstances – like the weather and a coronavirus lock-down – might be beyond my control, my reaction to them is not. I needed to focus on resilience.

Lesson: Put your energy into the bounce. Because it’s not that things do not fall, it’s only how you rebound that matters.

Onward and upward.