The past few years have been increasingly more challenging for me, as I've been taking on increasing responsibilities for my elderly mother's care, her home, and her finances, while continuing to run my business -- and trying not to let the stress undermine my health. I recently picked up a copy of "Your Resiliency GPS" by Eileen McDargh and found that it speaks to the very issues I've been struggling with: a frail mom with Alzheimer's, earning a living while trying to have a life, and more. So I thought I'd contact Eileen to find out more about resiliency -- what it is, how to cultivate it, and what to do when you find yourself feeling stressed to the max.
BJG: I've been reading your new book on resiliency and I like it a lot. What was your goal in writing it? Did you see a need in the marketplace that you wanted to meet? Did you have a unique message you wanted to deliver? What motivated you to sit down and write?
Eileen: I started my interest in resiliency after 9/11 when I observed different responses to the most significant event on American soil. I saw children setting up lemonade stands on street corners, selling the sweet drink to raise money for 9/11 victims. And on the flip side, I saw companies hunker down, cancel meetings, forbid their employees to fly, and -- I believe -- playing right into the hands of the terrorists.
I have been reading, researching writing, and observing ever since then. I see managers who keep innovation at a minimum -- afraid to rock the boat -- and employees huddled for fear of layoffs or mergers. In my own personal life, caring for my elderly mom began in earnest.
I believe the marketplace needs a resource that is accessible, practical and compassionate -- while at the same time being a bit provocative. I believe that one book could be a resource for professional and well as personal events.
There are already books out there, but my differentiation is in my definition of resiliency, and my coining the word "PREsilience." I believe resiliency is a life skill, not a behavior that jumps into action in response to an event. To my knowledge, no one has talked about GPS, or Growth Potential Strategies, which come as a result of moving through opportunity or challenge. And certainly, there has been no recalculating of questions.
Resiliency ultimately is helping individuals challenge the status quo, create responses that increase energy rather than deplete it, and enable people to emerge stronger. I see personal growth (translate: wisdom) as a never-ending journey. Also, since I have been speaking about this for years, it was time to consolidate my thoughts into written words to reach more people.
BJG: I especially like the chapter about elder care, in which you were caring for your ailing elderly mom while still running your business. I'm sure millions of women are going through similar challenges. I know I am, with my elderly mom who has Alzheimer's. Tell me more about resiliency and elder care.
Eileen: Great question! First, like individuals and organizations, we can play a game of deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic -- hoping life never changes. For many of us, denial IS a river in Egypt. And when it comes to aging parents, that river is hard to cross.
PREsilience encourages one to start now, finding out information, getting paperwork in order, having the difficult conversations, talking to siblings... and developing a support network, because elder care is hard when done alone. At least find a willing ear, a shoulder. Self-care can also take a beating when we are consumed with caring for a parent. Like you are doing now BJ, you are also re-framing this time with your mom. As heartbreaking as it can be at many times, you are treasuring the good times. When I could get Mom to sing along with me, to laugh, to put my head in her lap while she stroked my hair with her good hand (in the end, she was also paralyzed the entire left side) -- well, these are precious memories.
I love the way you punctuate your book with wise quotes from famous people. Do you have a favorite quote? Or several favorites? If so, what are they?
Eileen: Ummm, a favorite one? I really like the wisdom of Meister Eckhart. "If the only prayer you ever said was 'thank you,' it would enough." Gratitude is a great resiliency skill and one I am working hard to cultivate.
You have lots of practical tips in the book as well. How did you come up with those tips? From your own experience? Learning from others' experience?
Eileen: I have been speaking and thinking about this topic for a long time -- reading, researching, writing. Indeed, my experience is captured here but I am also a part of everyone I have met. There are so many teachers around, if we pay attention and are open to new insights,
If you could pick only one tip to help people cultivate their own resiliency, what would it be?
Eileen: There are two: Constantly look for alternative viewing points -- multiple ways of looking at a situation. Seek the wisdom of people who have been there before, as well as people who have never been there. Explore alternative ways to respond. Work on intelligent optimism. Practice reframing an event so that you see what it possible. It's our response to an event that creates the outcome. Choose that response wisely. (And laugh along the way).
Do you touch on spirituality in your book? Does faith have anything to do with resiliency?
Eileen: Page 84 of my book talks about faith. I love the words of Tagore: "Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark." So many experiences connected with my mom's death reinforce that where we want to put a period, a Higher Power puts a comma. Spirituality allows one to approach life with open hands -- for receiving as well as letting go -- knowing there is more here than one can touch or taste or put in the bank. Faith is trust and hope.
Any final words of wisdom for our readers?
Eileen: You can't live tomorrow today. So stop going there. Yesterday is a memory. Today is the coin of the realm and I am the steward.