Resilience again

“In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”
― Edith Wharton

This notion of resilience has taken root in me. It seems elementary, but I’m just thinking about it in a more deliberate way, trying to be more intentional about it. Years ago I was obsessed with willow trees because of their nature, which seemed resilient to me. They would bend a great deal before breaking, or so I was told. And if they did break, apparently the broken piece would take root. Did I check these facts? No – I just went with the idea of being more flexible and that when broken, taking root was always possible in order to grow new life. Very Easter-like themes from my past, but not always well applied.

Edith Wharton’s words seen at the top of the post have meant a lot to me over the years. I would like to think I am innately curious, I wish I could believe that I am unafraid of change – but like most of us, I resist it. Sure, I can put on a good show of it, but am I really open to change? Yet to be a follower of Jesus means an ongoing journey of change, transformation, that old metanoia – whether we believe we want it or need it! Change is one thing we can always count on.

Ascension is coming up this week. Here in New York we celebrate Ascension on Thursday, but many Catholic dioceses have moved it to Sunday. In 1998 I was in Los Angeles, looking for an apartment of all things, and I realized it was Ascension Thursday. Finding myself near a church, I went in to attend mass – the recording on the phone said “Holy Days at 9am and 12noon.” Sitting in the cool quiet I prayed and prayed, looked at my watch, I was waiting, but it was 12:10 and no sign of anything. A maintenance worker came through and I asked him about mass. The man looked at me and asked, why did I think it was a Holy Day? That was my first introduction to Ascension Thursday being moved on the calendar.

Me, I love this time. Ascension – Jesus ascends and the disciples remain. Can you imagine how awestruck they must have felt? He just took off and once again they were left to their own devices, with some words about the Holy Spirit. We have been building up to this in our Scripture for days now. I experience this time of waiting, this liminal space of no longer and not yet as a gift. Each year I make a novena from Thursday to Pentecost, praying for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to come. It is not like magic, the answers are not always clear, but they are always there – like Jesus on Ascension. Visible or invisible, always there.

In the meantime, I will try to keep that curiosity and flexibility thing going. Like following Jesus, it does not always make sense or come easily, but given the choices, it is the only way to go in my way of seeing things. Wharton’s words remind me of the resilience needed for the journey of every day. May we all press on in this spirit, alive in the moment, ready for what comes.