“I just abused a really nice Philippine AT&T tech guy who was trying to help me online,” I told a friend yesterday.
“Why?” she asked.
“He was talking too fast, I couldn’t understand what he was saying and he kept putting me on hold. I couldn’t take it any more and I got rude and short with him.”

If this ever happens to you (I expect it will), I hope you do better than I did on the phone yesterday. I was ordering something minor – a new SIM card for my iPad. I call that privileged people’s problems and it seemed simple enough. I told the tech what I needed and kept it together during the first hour. But when I hung up, realized that he had made a mistake on my order and called back, when I found myself on hold once again, listening to mind numbing music intermittently interrupted with sales pitches, I lost it. When the salesperson got on the line with me, I gave it to him, even though he was just doing his job. I knew it wasn’t his fault. It was the system but you can’t blame or complain to a robot.

As I went through my day, I felt guilty that I had treated someone else so harshly. He had maintained his cool. He hadn’t gotten pissed off at me so it was hard to forgive myself for making an anonymous and kind person the target of my anger. I guess we all have our breaking points but I’m trying to extend mine, to realize what’s important, to breathe and to remember that the person on the other end of my tirade is a human being just like me. And that my obstacles, great and small, have eventual solutions.

We are all facing multiple challenges and fears like severe cold, energy outages, a life threatening pandemic and running out of vaccines. My little problem yesterday was hardly important in the current climate but that isn’t what this blog is about. It’s about resilience. It’s about finding a way to cope and get back in balance before we absorb too much stress or dump it on someone else. It’s about being patient with other people when there is no one to blame and keeping in mind that everyone deserves respect and consideration instead of rage and self-righteousness. It’s about curbing judgments and frustrations in a world where nothing seems to work any more.

I’m not suggesting we repress or sublimate our feelings. We need to acknowledge that anger and frustrations are real and they can eat us up inside. But resilience means finding our way back to ourselves before we target our irritations onto the person at the other end of the phone or in line in front of us. It means being patient with friends or family members who aren’t behaving like we want them to. Just like we have to get up each time we fall, we have to stop beating ourselves up and bounce back when we get pissed off and find our balance as quickly as we can.

During difficult times, looking for a way to open up is better than allowing ourselves to shut down and retreat into a downward spiral. When we cultivate the ability to take a breath and withstand adversity, we will be healthier, kinder and more resilient human beings. I got a call yesterday that sobered me and brought me back to reality. One of my writing students who lives in Texas reported that she’d had no power or water for a week in below freezing temperatures. She and her husband don’t care about SIM cards. They care about broken pipes, electricity and hot water. I wish them the best and when we speak again, I know she’ll have some firsthand views to share with me on the importance of resilience.

How do you find resilience when you feel angry and frustrated?