Can any one responsible for caregiving relate to this? I was, as one of my best friends puts it, “feeling kind of puny” that day. I was tired. I had given my all in Professional Advocacy and case management to both clients and personal friends. I’d not been eating properly. I had been working until the wee hours. And I realized I’d succumbed to the “Just One More Thing” phenomenon.
The “Just One More Thing” phenomenon, as I call it, is a pattern we witness among caregivers: “I can take that on,” “I can incorporate that,” or “It’ll save time if I just go ahead and do it” – thoughts such as that. Eventually those poor choices can take us down, leaving us even more debilitated for caregiving or life in general.
I knew enough to know not to make any big decisions right then. And I knew enough to talk with those I trust to gain support. I was experiencing high resistance to any solution. In that moment I even resented my very need for resilience. The tired part of me scoffs “Yeah, just have some or get some. Let me simply snap my fingers, or open a drawer….”
Much has been written about resilience, I know. I was so exasperated and weary that I wanted none of it. But I remembered that I’d recently had the benefit of hearing a presentation by author Becky Sansbury who literally wrote the book on resilience called After the Shock. Time to use some of the wisdom found in her presentation, I thought.
Becky Sansbury and I had met privately before her presentation in our Raleigh, N.C., based Crucial Conversation series. She had captured my attention when she said that resilience is both inside and outside in its origin. I’d written it down thinking that it bears more thought.
What I’ve Learned About Resilience & Why It Pays in Caregiving
Often when I am going through something, I am given messages or clues. The solution is presented in multiple ways if I will simply notice. The first step was to open up my eyes and ears. Then the first clue (and gift) appeared.
I was watching a Shark Tank episode as the Sharks begin to dissect the presentation of a candidate who was vying for their business acumen and funding. No deal was reached despite the candidate’s “overcoming adversity” story. I particularly took note when more than one Shark told the candidate that the best thing that ever happened to them was for somebody to tell them “No” and that they couldn’t do it (the mission). I relate to that heavily in life and work. Sharks Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner were the first to admit that hearing “No” had elicited a response from them that created even more determination and strength, seemingly out of nowhere.
That was resilience, from the outside, that brought it from the inside.
Another example surfaced, I thought of the small child wading in the ocean waves. A large wave approaches that knocks the child down. Most often the child will stand back up, collect him or herself and look to the next wave. Sometimes the child will right him or herself and look to a nearby adult to gain a sense of whether to continue. Gaining approval – from the outside – they will internalize it and turn to greet the next wave. Resilience. Outside to inside.
I knew that more information would soon come my way about that which perplexed me. The next viewpoint came while leafing through a copy of Inc. Magazine. Was it a coincidence that there was an article inside about resilience?
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, author, and founder of Leanin.org, was expanding upon her life after the passing of her spouse, Dave Goldberg, SurveyMonkey CEO. She, too, shares her thoughts about resilience in her new book Option B.
Sheryl described her boss, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, as instrumentally being there for her and whose support had been key. She said “When we are there for one another and not pretending hard things aren’t happening, but acknowledged in them and supporting one another explicitly – we build better communities, better companies, better workplaces. We need one another.”
Her beautiful words drove it home for me and I wish to share them with you.
“What I’ve learned is that we don’t have a fixed amount of resilience. Resilience is like a muscle we build, but we don’t only build it in ourselves. We also build it in one another, by acknowledging the pain people are going through and by being there for one another.”
That day I found from the outside some resilience on my inside. I discovered that it is possible. I realized it can be delivered from the outside or perhaps even summoned from the inside.
I’ve seen it happen. As part of my work in acute caregiving situations with clients and their families, I will often stop the spokesperson in the middle of relating everything that they’re going through, the course of events, the debacle. I will encourage or even orchestrate that they take one minute to reflect on what is absolutely right: a family has gathered in conversation to care for their relative. A client in the middle of adversity is able to adequately summarize the situation. A daughter loves her mother, protects and reacts. A friend advocates for a loved one.
When I interrupt the cascade of seemingly negative events, the response I am given is nearly always “Thank you, I needed that. You made me feel better in the middle of all this. Thank you.”
Becky Sansbury tells a story about a kind and simple response she uses with an overwhelmed family member lamenting about lack of control: “Well, I see that you have your clothes on, and they are all pointing in the right direction.” Simple. True. It interrupts the pattern and, by gum, it is a WIN, given all that’s going on.
Today, as I write this piece, my resilience is intact. I write it to encourage folks, particularly those in a position or role of caregiving, to consider being open to forming resilience. Whether from the outside or the inside, it has proven achievable.
I hope I can be the outside for my caregiving clients. And I hope I get to witness their resilience.
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Featured image courtesy of pxhere.com