Belonging

Resilience and Stoicism Belong Together

If the learning of new skills is pursued seriously, then lessons in patience and self-mastery will go hand in hand.

By Michelle Martin
Published December 06, 2010

Last month, my husband and I were Christmas shopping and popped into Fourbucks for a coffee. After we ordered a couple of lattes, we took our place to the right, while a couple of beleaguered teenage baristas hurried to keep up with the orders and struggled to read the scrawls on the sides of rapidly incoming paper cups.

Poor kids: if you'd stuck Lucille Ball in there, it would have made a great episode.

The fellow ahead of us was irritated because he had to keep correcting the person who was preparing his order: "No, it was a half-caf, caramel latte, skinny, extra, extra-hot; no, not that much whipped cream, just a little. Can you take some off, please?"

He glanced in our direction, apparently seeking some sympathy, and we studiously ignored him.

"Can you believe that guy?" I said to Stephen, well aware that I was within earshot, "What a priss. Talk about high maintenance. Glad I married you."

We sat down to enjoy our lattes in a nice, shiny shop, close to where we had been doing our Christmas shopping, in our warm coats and shoes, a cell-phone in my pocket - but we're not high-maintenance, no siree.

Indulgence

And neither are our kids. Never mind that they've got access to more material goods than we did when we were kids, for all that our budget is tighter than our parents' budgets were.

They get nicer fruit in the winter than we did. They've never had an orange that wasn't an easy-to-peel navel one, and the apples they eat in the winter are in much better shape than the ones we had, thanks to advances in citrus fruit breeding and improved cold-storage technology.

Even though we've never had cable or video games, the youngest six haven't known a home without a personal computer or a DVD player.

There's so much stuff around, and so much of it to be had so cheaply. Have you ever seen what comes home in birthday party loot bag these days?

The more convenience and luxury we all enjoy, the more irritable we all become, as indigestion surely follows overindulgence.

Just because I don't get my shirt in a knot at the coffee shop doesn't mean I don't get annoyed when the bank machine is down and I actually have to go into the bank and wait behind two people to withdraw cash.

Resilience

Do you think we'll all be ready when the oil runs out?

As Jason Allen wrote in RTH last month, part of resilience is learning new skills, learning how to learn new skills, not being afraid to give it a go, and not being afraid of hard work.

But another part of resilience is learning, in the meantime (before we're really forced into it), to do with less than what we've been used to.

It is as important for us to cultivate the habit of not complaining about inconveniences or even (horrors!) discomfort as it is to learn how to start a fire with two sticks and keep our own chickens.

Actually, these two facets of resilience belong together: if the learning of new skills is pursued seriously, then lessons in patience and self-mastery will go hand in hand. If patience and self-mastery are pursued seriously, then it will be easier to learn new skills.

It's not only a "give it a go" approach to learning that is required, but also a "let it go" attitude to our own material comfort, that will help us get each other through harder times.

Michelle Martin lives in Hamilton where she and her husband are watching their 10 children fly the nest, one by one. She has been published in both the Hamilton Spectator and Raise the Hammer, as well as in the online edition of the National Post and, more recently, in the Canadian Urban Transit Association's Urban Mobility Forum. Michelle is coordinator of the Community Access to Transportation program. She was formerly on the writing/copy editing team of the original Crown Point hub paper, The Point. However, the opinions she expresses in Raise the Hammer are her own. She sometimes tweets @deltawestmom

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2010 at 21:41:13

Fantastic. I couldn't agree more. Early on in my blog I wrote about how everything in the next 5-10 years was going to get inconvenient, if not downright difficult.

The thing that impressed me the most about my Grandad, was that for all the beefing he did about government, or the way his country (the U.K.) was run, I never once heard him complain about how hard he had to work, or how much there was to be done, or about the constant effort he put into living an utterly d.i.y. lifestyle. Perhaps I'm idealizing him a bit, but there's a lot to be learned from a generation who didn't complain, but just did what had to be done.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2010 at 08:17:09

I think it's an unacknowledged challenge of contemporary parenting – to impart the skills and mindset of the Silent & Greatest Generations. I was fortunate enough to spend considerable time with my grandparents when growing up, and the graceful self-reliance of people whose young adulthood was fundamentally shaped by the Great Depression and WWII never failed to impress me even then. Want is not lack. If turbulent times reminds us of this, then uncertainty is a gift.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2010 at 18:01:47

Think for a moment about how many places on earth, right now or in world history, where people could reliably heat their bedroom on a cold winter's night...we have it pretty good.

There are major disadvantages to living in bubbles, though. Climate control, motorized transportation, and sterilized landscapes all lead to their own host of nasty side-effects for our bodies and environment. What we lose in a more abstract sense though - the ability to walk or bike for a day at a time, to sleep under the stars, wander over rough terrain and experience new places, people and things - costs us far more. When we stop engaging with the world around us and view it only through screens, we lose a sense of why it's so important.

In a few months, weather like we're having today will seem like a warm summer afternoon. I've already been outside for over an hour already today, and will probably be outside for more later, and honestly, it's not that bad. We're starting to get that fresh winter smell in the air, and light dustings of snow and glittering snowflakes have been falling on and off for days, without yet making our roads too dangerous. It's a thoroughly beautiful time to be outside. But if you never experience it, it'll always seem inhospitable.

Great article, Michelle.

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By Grannie (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2010 at 15:15:33

But doesn't your comment though : "He glanced in our direction, apparently seeking some sympathy, and we studiously ignored him.

"Can you believe that guy?" I said to Stephen, well aware that I was within earshot, "What a priss. Talk about high maintenance. Glad I married you.""

also show a lack of resilience and stoicism? Don't we also need to change how we think of others who are stuggling in a situation and give them the benefit of the doubt. Making your comment out loud seemed to me to show a lack of resilience.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 18:14:34

Making your comment out loud seemed to me to show a lack of resilience.

If you read the rest of the article, you'll see that was my point.

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