According to the news, the world is falling apart.
However, on Tuesday Ryan Taylor, 30, a theater director in Washington, got the last serving of pumpkin curry at the Fojol Bros. food truck. He waited in line for 15 minutes, found a shady patch in Farragut Square and just as he sat down with his curry, which was delicious, the chef came out of the truck and erased the item from the menu. That was very, very satisfying.
“The news seems to be so bad,” Taylor says, “that you have to appreciate the little things.”
The world appears to have hit a particular nexus of awful: debt ceilings, credit ratings, London riots. One is tempted to go searching, full of hope, for pinpricks of light that poke holes through the black. If one is willing to look hard enough, to go small enough, to recognize that people often don’t measure life in Dow points but in tiny pleasures — extra cream, friendly dogs, pumpkin curry — then Tuesday was an extremely good news day in Washington.
“Today, a Facebook conversation led to a friend planning a visit,” says Chelsey Christiansen. They haven’t seen each other in more than a year, but on Tuesday, the friend posted a review of a play at the Kennedy Center. Now they are going to go see it together. That was good news.
“This cranberry-almond cookie is delicious,” says Wayne Emilien in wonder. He normally would have purchased chocolate chip, but on Tuesday, he let his friend talk him into something new. “I never thought a cranberry cookie would be that delicious.” Good news.
On Tuesday, Marie Manteuffel rode her bicycle to work and noticed a cool breeze — she didn’t arrive at work sweaty for the first time in months. On Tuesday, Jessica Alouf, a recruiter, found someone a job. MacKenzie Mahoney had lunch with her boyfriend, Tom Hensel, for the first time since they began dating five years ago. Their work schedules had never meshed before, but on Tuesday, they did. The couple sat outside, on toasty metal chairs, and ate Potbelly.
The ability to appreciate eating lunch outside is a triumph of the human spirit. Literally, evolutionarily. Psychologists call it resilience — the ability to keep marching on, despite the fact that there are bad things happening. We do it as a survival mechanism.
“If we’re not resilient, then we become hopeless and helpless,” says Andrew Shatté, a professor at the University of Arizona whose focus is resilience. “We might sit there and say Afghanistan seems to be going horribly, and there’s tremendous chaos with the debt ceiling, and possibly there’s a double-dip recession, and I can’t do anything about it, and it’s possible even the president can’t do anything about it.” The resilient among us sort through the muck and find the things we can control. The things we can take pleasure in. It’s not ignoring the larger problems of the world; it’s finding a way to see them, then see beyond them.
“Once we have a small victory, it galvanizes us to go out and tackle the next problem,” Shattésays. “Small victories spur us on to greater things.”
On Tuesday, “I had the perfect commute.”
This is Nasseem Shaat. On Tuesday, the traffic to the Friendship Heights Metro station was good, and just as Shaat’s brother-in-law dropped him off, a train was arriving. It was the first time that he had commuted from Germantown, and it was faster than he thought it would be. He got to work earlier than he could remember ever getting to work.
And he was coming from Germantown because?
“My fiancee and I broke up last weekend.”
She got the apartment in the District; he moved in with his sister. Appreciating a perfect commute is a small moment of resilience in the face of larger grief. Finding things that worked tangled with all of the things that didn’t.
“I work for the VA,” says Dean Yorgey, 65. “Today I got a couple of clients approved for service benefits.” He got to call five American veterans and tell them that paperwork had gone through, that they would start receiving benefits and back pay, that things in their lives would get better. “They were ecstatic.”
On Tuesday, sometimes the good news was profoundly great news, and the world, a small corner of it, was right.