How Commitment Engages Our Hardiness

For many of us car owners, a trip to the service department is stress-inducing (as in: ka-ching!). But it was during this trip that I met the two opposing faces of stress management: meaning and despair.

You Take What You Get and Work With It

My service adviser, Victor, is one of my favorite car guys. I’ve known him for several decades, and he’s a straight-shooter who always takes good care of my car—and me. I feel like a member of his family.

Awhild back, we were talking and I noticed he was shifting around in his chair. I figured that his back hurt (because that’s what I do when my back hurts) but didn’t ask.

Fast forward to last month when I arrived for service. Victor spotted my swim bag and asked me where I worked out. I said swimming is like giving oil to the Tin Man and helps manage pain from a car accident decades ago.

He nodded empathetically and then shared that he takes boxing lessons. “Boxing?” I said. He didn’t look like the type.

Then he smiled and asked, “You know I have Parkinson’s, right?”

I did not and never would have guessed.

He continued: “I do a boxing class that’s just for people with Parkinson’s. You know how a lot of boxing is about footwork? Well, I don’t shuffle my feet anymore! They’ve taught me how to walk."

“And you know how the voice trembles with Parkinson’s?” he asked. “They’ve taught us how to stand with our backs up against the wall to straighten our bodies—and our vocal cords. Then we yell and yell and yell to strengthen our voices.”

His eyes were sparkling as he told me all of this.

Wow! Fantastic!" I said and then quickly added, “Well, not fantastic that you have Parkinson’s, I don’t mean that…”

He jumped right in. “I know, right? It is fantastic! I was diagnosed in 2017 and they asked me then if I wanted a handicapped sticker. I don’t want one now!  I wake up some days and forget I have Parkinson’s. You just take what you get and work with it.”

When the Rubbish is Overflowing

Totally inspired by Victor, I headed out to the car wash and to vaccum my dog dirty car. But when I pulled up, I saw a man with his hand stuck all the way up into the vaccum hose, pulling gobs of trash into a white pickle barrel. Not a pleasant job for the manager (as he quickly revealed to me).

He kept yanking out garbage until the pickle barrel began to overflow. Then he pulled a huge wastebasket from a nearby metal container and dumped some of the trash from the barrel.

Mission accomplished. Or so I thought. But now he couldn’t get the wastebasket to fit back into the metal container.

He was MAD and I was puzzled. As the manager, hadn’t he faced this situation a thousand times before?

He tried to wedge the wastebasket into the metal container. His face was getting redder as he gave it one more shove, which up-ended both the basket and the metal container and dumped trash all over him.

Oh, God. I felt his frustration and the sense of losing control over the most idiotic and simple thing in life.

He looked like he wanted to punch someone, and then turned around and walked away, leaving the trash sprawled in front of me.

How We Bounce Back Under Stress

The contrast between him and Victor, just five minutes prior, was striking. We've all been there - at our wit's end, sometimes repeatedly. Yet how we bounce back from stress is the essence of the term hardiness.

Hardiness is not about winning, or glory, or one-upmanship. It's not obsessive positivity or unrealistic optimism.

Hardiness, the Three C's and Commitment

Instead, hardiness offers us inspiration and a path for regaining our energy in the three C’s—areas of challenge, commitment and control, as defined by Stein and Bartone, authors of Hardiness: Making Stress Work for You to Achieve Life Goals.

Victor didn’t view his diagnosis as a threat; the challenge appeared to energize him.  And he found a way to live with his limitations—and gain a meaningful and rewarding sense of control with the ongoing obstacles of Parkinson’s.

Additionally, I imagine Victor lives with a strong sense of commitment and purpose.

Commitment to your calling, whatever that may be. Commitment to your joy and fulfillment, and equally important, a commitment to something bigger is often the lifeline that keeps us from spiraling into despair.

Our journey of resilence is not straightforward, as so aptly described by Dr. Seuss in a favorite book of mine: Oh, the Places You'll Go!  It's wobbly and wiggly and that's all how it's suppose to be.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
You’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather may be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies may prowl.
On you will go
through the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many a frightening creek
though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike.
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

We are all in this together. May you pursue your passions and find meaning in your life work. May you know what brings your pyour purpose and share this in both your personal and professional communities.

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