Voice Over - Resiliency is a Muscle

There are many change resiliency muscles we encourage people to exercise when they don’t really need them. The metaphor is that big change is a marathon, not a sprint. Just as you wouldn’t start training for a marathon after the gun goes off, you don’t want to strengthen your ability to move yourself through a big change while you’re actually in the middle of it. It’s far, far and away more useful to get into a regular practice of green framing, mindfulness, self-awareness, and gratitude long before the shit hits the fan. In addition to coaching and training folks on tips and techniques, I am forever ‘self-hacking’. I try apps, I go on weird diets, I attempt to learn new ways of getting to sleep or exercise or mediate or organise my day to increase productivity.  I’m no Tim Ferris when it comes to self-experimentation, but I do try to practice what I preach. I’ve also had opportunity to test whether or not it really works to build change resiliency before a big change.

As many of you know, roughly three years ago I was called out of a team meeting by our local medical clinic to come get my husband. He was in agonising back pain, drugged up to his eyebrows and still hurting. It was the first in what was a sequence of events that shook our family right down to the foundations. The pain was from crushed spinal vertebrae, often the first obvious sign to those with a blood bone cancer known as multiple myeloma. It’s an ugly disease which basically causes the bones to dissolve and at least to date, we have ways of delaying the process, even reversing it for a time, but it we don’t have a ‘cure’. Yet. I’m not gloom and doom here; I’m just telling it like it is. We don’t have a cure. Yet. Most sufferers die within a few years.

Dean’s diagnosis was an opportunity to test my strength and flexibility in the change resiliency space. Looking back, I can report that many of the little hacks I so glibly instruct others to undertake actually kick in even for a situation this challenging. The big one for me is that I almost immediately recognised the physical symptoms of stress. In my case when things go really pear shaped I don’t eat or sleep. I took proactive measures to intervene on both. I also drink too much. Okay, I probably always drink too much, but when things suck I drink more than too much. So, I made a point of reducing my wine consumption during those early months.

What didn’t work? Well, like many ‘nurturers’ I absolutely suck at asking for help. I’m even worse at accepting it. I am pretty close to catastrophic at letting go of what I perceive to be my responsibilities and just tossing them in someone else’s lap for the duration… which let’s be honest is another form of asking for help. I was surrounded by close friends and amazing work colleagues who did their best to make me stand down, accept help, just say no to work obligations. My boss even ordered me home at one point. I spent a surprising amount of energy digging in my heels and pretending I didn’t need it.

Here we are nearly three years later and Dean is still going strong. Don’t ask why; I don’t any more. We’ve still got him and as long as he’s here, we keep doing our thing. Grumpy, bearded, never-stops-moving, never-cleans-the-last-dish Dean is not the husband of anyone’s dreams, but he is categorically the love of my life. He is a loyal friend, a wonderful father, an excellent doctor, a truly good man. He’s mine, he’s healthy, he’s remodelling the house god help us, and he’s planning a trip to Europe. We are all okay – wonderfully, statistically improbably, and absolutely lovingly okay.

So I’m using this okay time to learn how to reach out, ask for, and gratefully accept help. I’m trying to learn how to let other people carry a bit of my burden. I’m practicing resiliency.

I’m asking for your help.

Four wonderful women at IAG and I are participating in a fundraiser for the Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand. LBC is the very same group that supplied our family with information, support, counselling, and community during those early difficult months. This is the group that continues to provide for my family by paying for New Zealand specialists to attend medical conferences abroad to learn about the latest treatments in myeloma. They pay for Dean’s doctor to learn more about “Yet”. “Yet” is expensive but it’s not impossible, improbable or even out of reach. These are the guys that will lobby to get it on shore, in our country, and into Dean.

So… please help.

Sometimes in life, you can fall down holes you can’t climb out of by yourself. That’s what friends and family are for – to help. They can’t help, however, unless you let them know you are down there.” ~ Meg Cabot