Resilience – Adapt, please?
This is part two of the guest blog series on Resilience by Nancy McCranie. This series looks at resilience and explores self-care practices you can use.
The biggest challenge was the frog. A few months after we married, my husband, Bill, and I embarked on an open-ended trip around the world beginning in Mexico and Central America. Prior to leaving we whittled our possessions down to whatever would fit in my mother’s attic or our two backpacks. Once we left the United States we traveled by bus, train, bicycle, rickshaw, ox-cart, and even on the top of a few buses when there was no room inside. We stayed in the most basic hotels and we ate in the street markets. For a girl who grew up in the suburbs of Austin, I thought I was doing pretty well at adapting to our ever-changing circumstances, locations, and accommodations. Until the frog, that is.
Several months into our travels, somewhere near the border of Mexico and Belize, we checked into a simple, two-story, cinder-block hotel in a dusty little town. Our room, although spare to the extreme, met our standard of a clean floor, clean sheets, and clean bathroom. The ceiling fan worked and the windows opened, ensuring a cooling breeze. The sheets, whisper-thin from use, were freshly washed. The bed, while small and hard, was nevertheless inviting after a long day of travel on a crowded, un-air-conditioned bus. And we had a private bathroom, often a luxury in international travel. With all my heart I was looking forward to a hot shower, a bite of supper, and a good night’s sleep. Grabbing my towel, I headed to the bathroom while my husband fell back onto the bed and closed his eyes.
The bright green line of mildew meandering from the showerhead down the white tile to the floor should have been my first clue that things might not go according to plan. I turned on the faucet expecting a refreshing spray of water. Instead, the showerhead sputtered, then gurgled, and finally released a slow, labored stream of cold water that followed the green line down the wall and across the floor before lazily winding its way down the drain. No matter which way or how far I turned the spigot, the result was the same. No! I thought. This can’t be! I’m sweaty and grimy and tired. Is a hot shower too much to ask?
And that’s when I saw him; a large, warty frog sitting in the corner of the shower eyeing me defiantly. I stared back, equally defiant, feeling a tide of frustration wash over me. Suddenly the choice before me became crystal clear: I could either (A) allow the frog to push me over the edge and throw the wall-eyed fit I was capable of, or (B) take a deep breath and roll with it. Realizing that I simply did not have the energy needed for a respectable tantrum I went with “B.”
“Hey Bill,” I said, peeking around the corner at my snoozing spouse, “Guess what?”, He opened one eye. “There’s no hot water or water pressure, and there’s a frog in here.”
Now he had both eyes opened.
“I haven’t figured out how I’m going to take a shower in the first place, but I’m absolutely positive that it’s not going to involve this frog. For all our safety, would you mind re-locating him for me?”
Bill yawned, pulled himself upright, and ambled to the bathroom. Leaning down he scooped up our visitor, “Come here little buddy, he said, let’s find you another safe, cool place outside.”
While he was gone I found an empty water bottle and, filling and emptying it over my tired self repeatedly, managed to get thoroughly washed and rinsed. And you know what? It was almost as refreshing as a long, hot shower. All right, it wasn’t even close. But it was oddly satisfying, nonetheless. Instead of falling apart because life didn’t go as planned, I found a way to adapt to a less-than-ideal situation, discovering an unexpected store of inner resources. And no one was harmed in the process.
The ability to adapt to changing or unexpected circumstances is crucial, not only for our happiness and well-being but sometimes even for our survival. The organizations and individuals who adapt to change quickly; who decide to deal with what is rather than hanging onto what should be, are the ones who thrive in the midst of chaos; who find their way through seemingly impossible situations; who discover new and sometimes better ways of doing things.
To Practice: Because of built-in survival mechanisms our brains are naturally wired to notice negative experiences more readily than positive ones. But in reality, we experience positive events with much greater frequency. One way to build greater resilience is to notice and appreciate the positive things that happen to you, even in the midst of the crummy ones. For the next week, write down three good things that happen to you each day.
Visit our grief resources page for additional tools that may provide comfort through your grief journey.
Nancy McCranie is the author of our guest blog series on Resilience. She began working for Hospice Austin as a chaplain in 1996. Since 2009 she has served as the Director of Volunteer and Bereavement Services. Nancy is an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and holds an M.Div. Degree from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She is Chair of the Clinical Pastoral Education Committee at The Seton Family of Hospitals, a member of Mission Presbytery, and Parish Associate for the First Presbyterian Church, Elgin, Texas. Nancy is married to Bill, an organic/bio-dynamic farmer & rancher who raises blueberries and beef. They have two sons, three dogs, two cats & a donkey.