Nancy’s Resiliency

As mentioned before, I am a proud Hospice Austin volunteer. As such, I receive periodic words of inspiration from one of the many wonderful Hospice Austin staff members. Below is a recent one that I wanted to share, with permission. Enjoy – Melody

Resilience: Adaptability

When we are no longer able to change the situation,
We are challenged to change ourselves.
~Victor Frankl~

It is not the strongest of the species that survives,
Nor the most intelligent that survives.
It is the one that is most adaptable to change.
~Charles Darwin~

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 back packs. 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 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 shower head 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 shower head sputtered, then gurgled, and finally released a slow, labored stream of cold water that followed the green line down the wall and across 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, peaking 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 got hurt.

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.

Nancy Chester McCranie

Rev. Nancy Chester McCranie, M.Div.
Director of Volunteer and Bereavement Services
Hospice Austin
4107 Spicewood Springs Rd, Suite 100
Austin, TX 78759
P: (512) 342-4716

Resources and Help …

In my opinion, one of the greatest resource organizations involved in end-of-life care is hospice.  One of those groups is Hospice Austin located in my hometown.  For many years I have had the privilege of volunteering with Hospice Austin.  Sitting with patients and clients and their loved ones is a true blessing for me.  In the hectic days, weeks and months of the year, among the most valuable and sacred parts of my day are when I can spend a little bit of time with someone who is facing a serious illness.  After such an experience, my day oftentimes becomes completely transformed in a positive, illuminating and grace-filled way. 

While working with Hospice Austin, I have been reminded of the many resources that exist, usually at no cost, which many people never know are avaible.  Some of the Hospice Austin resources I’ve come across in the past few weeks are:

Hard Choices for Loving People by Hank Dunn

Gone From My Sight: The Dying Experience by Barbara Karnes

A Good Death by Rev. Charles Meyer

Perhaps some of these resources would be of interest to you and yours.  If you cannot find these books for some reason, let me know.  Melody