The Limits of Resiliency

I aksed my grandmother how God could let this happen and my grandmother said to me and I haven’t done it to this day, “Never question God.”

_Allen Iverson

Currently listening to: Broken Bones by The Holidays

Well this week one of the largest deals in history broke due to action by the Treasury – we had a large, though not unreasonable position and suffered an impact. Not many people know what it feels like to lose nine digits of money in a single day without any prospect of earning it back. How does it feel? It’s a feeling that’s hard to convey in a way that’s respectful to more important things like war, death, etc. But let me say this – my boss used to be a cancer doctor in a well known hospital. He dealt with dying patients on a regular basis. He could not fall asleep for 3 days this week and went nearly all of Monday without eating.

This is now my second time experiencing something like this. I wrote about my feelings about a year and a half ago when Shire broke. And I feel much the same this time around… although perhaps not as acutely as before. The stress ranges from a flood of short term questions (what are the consequences? what are the opportunities) to existential ones (is this the right career path? will there be consequences for the group?).

At times like this, turning to things like religion is helpful for perspective. My roommate, who is a devout Christian, tells me that Christianity encourages people to work hard but put their faith in God rather than themselves/their work/the money they accumulate. In other words, you have to work hard, but anything can happen. I think that’s extremely healthy.

Meanwhile, the existential-type questions come at this from the wrong perspective. The important questions aren’t about pragmatic things like advancement or career path, but about passion and purpose. Now I don’t know the answers to those questions any better but asking the right questions is a good start.

I’ve been thinking about resiliency this week because I felt strained. There were points when I was thinking to myself “man I’ve been working so hard for so long and never treated myself… when will it end? why won’t good things happen?” Now that I’ve gotten some sleep, I don’t feel that way of course.

But I mainly worried that I wouldn’t be able to bounce back. And that’s a real risk. Early childhood research shows that resilient children are the most likely to succeed. And you teach resiliency by putting children through moderate difficulty that they can bounce back from. Not extreme difficulty because apparently it is possible to break someone.

I wonder whether my brain is really getting the right resiliency programming because I don’t know what “bouncing back” means in the current situation. Earning the lost money back? The reality is that it never feels like bouncing back because, as economics research shows, the pain of losing money is tremendously greater than the pleasure in gaining it.

I continue to think resiliency would be improved by having community, of fighting for a cause greater than yourself. But I have been and continue to be relatively mercenary. I’m trying to find other things to do but we’ll see. One day at a time. Bears.




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