Resilience in the Time of Chaos

This year, I realized how much I love and undervalue protagonists. I’m an avid consumer of books and movies where protagonists weather challenges and succeed. The more I consume such stories, the more I expect that the hero will continue fighting against all odds, be it a multi limbed monster or a trip to the underworld. Before you ask, yes, I did recently read Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, and five stars out of five would recommend. 

As the protagonist of my own story, I have weathered 2020. It has been A Year, zero stars out of five, would never recommend. Like too many this year, I lost loved ones, and felt isolated, disconnected, and at times, hopeless. I resigned myself to being locked down, to helplessly reading the news, and to ordering a heck of a lot of Taco Bell.

In stories, heroes always have something that drives them, that bolsters their emotional resiliency to keep doing the thing. Because that thing is worth it, even if, as we saw in Avengers: Endgame, worlds are changed and lives are lost.

So what was my Thing? What keeps me resilient? My 2020 journey led me to discover what I value and what keeps me going, and it came from asking myself a whole lot of why. 

Now, this might sound a little corporate – I know a number of companies and teams that use Sakichi Toyoda’s Five Whys exercise, and this is very similar. But pestering yourself with and reflecting on the question of “why” turns out to be a surprisingly thoughtful way to uncover your underlying motivations, your personal authenticity. In a show of vulnerability, here is how one of these “Why” reflections went for me:

It’s 2020: why do I get up in the morning?

Because I have a loving partner, an awesome dog, and a job to tackle. And somewhere in this world is the promise of coffee. 

Why do those matter?

Because even when the world is dark, it makes me happy to be a part of societal structures that involve those I care about. 

Why is that important?

Because by being a part of these structures, I can actively help improve them. 

Why improve these structures?

Because if I can improve them, or create new, better ones, I have a chance at enhancing experiences for others. 

It’s a personal exercise, and you’ll likely find yourself asking different “why” questions. The exercise is about digging deeper, about exploring your root causes. For me, in going through a number of these “why” reflections, a common theme surfaced: that I’m driven by helping others, and that I want to make everyone’s experience on this earth better. As the protagonist of my story, this is my authenticity, and what keeps me resilient, even in the face of 2020. 

Photo by Tbel Abuseridze on Unsplash

Bilbao

For what may be the last trip of 2020, Bilbao did not disappoint. The weekend was spent wandering Las Siete Calles, or Casco Viejo, eating pintxos at Mercado de la Ribera, and taking in all that chic architecture. Of course, the Guggenheim Bilbao was not to be missed, and I loved walking through Gehry’s modern marvel.

Regrettably, I forgot my camera! Despite that, I was impressed by the quality of the photos captured on my iPhone 11.

Cuenca

Cuenca is a charming town surrounded by lush trees, fields of sunflowers, and peculiar mountain landscapes. As a UNESCO site, it’s known for a number of historic landmarks, including Las Casas Colgadas (The Hanging Houses), the remaining example of homes that were once common along the Huécar river.

I love a good myth, and Cuenca is steeped in old legends. My favorite is that of “La Cruz del Diablo“, or “The Cross of the Devil”. In short, it’s the tale of a handsome Lothario who falls in love with a stunning, new woman in town. She plays coy with him for a while, before inviting him to join her at Las Angustias at night. They meet and canoodle, but surprise! She’s actually the devil and scares the pants off of our Lothario, although, the legend is unclear if he has pants on at this point. Lothario runs to el Convento de los Franciscanos Descalzos, and clings tightly to the stone cross. The devil strikes a blow that leaves a mark (still visible to this day!) on the stone cross. The man, whose name is actually Diego, renounces his womanizing ways by entering the Convent and never leaving it again.

Three

In a year where everything feels abnormal, it was refreshing to do something as normal as celebrate our anniversary. We marked the occasion with a long weekend to Cádiz, a gorgeous port city in southwest Spain. It was a joy spend that time together and to go on a vacation, and a relief to escape the Madrid heat.