Comes in pieces

Resilience is contentment with incomplete jigsaw sets. It is rare enough to be so bored or unsettled as to attempt to open up’s open life and piece together the stills, notes and anecdotes into one coherent picture. Trouble for no obvious gain, a few suspicious witnesses on the sidelines – a game begun often enough but rarely seen to completion, one gets sleepy or restless with these things. Jigsaws are time-consuming, attention demanding and thoroughly antisocial. They often also come with a piece missing, a fact only discovered near the point of completion. Learning how to live as an uncompletable picture is one of the strangest parts of early adulthood.

One can’t blunder in now with hopes that the final piece will be found beneath, or some angel might scuttle in with the piece between her lips. That’d be crass and, besides, being hardy means above all living with but never making peace with unfortunate circumstances. The psychologists have an answer, one neither false nor true but “whatever’s right for you”, another bad dream of completion. Resilience, or being hardy, is laughter without hope, a fool’s laughter. In practice, it’s an inflexible commitment to developing a meaningful purpose in life, however fictitious the basis of such a purpose; a belief that everything is adjustable and not eventual, that people and places can be changed; and a confidence that every person has the capacity to learn from their experiences. It’s finally the fatalism too that jokes that much of the last sentence is lovely but for only half-true, incomplete.

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