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Rigidity of the Inflexible

Loners do not do well, neither do inflexible people.

Just as we saw in the last post how loners do not do well, neither do people who are inflexible and unwilling to make changes and adapt to the situations that they confront. Being flexible is another skill that builds and maintains resilience.

Flexibility requires that we be both flexible in our way of thinking as well as in our actions. To do this, we must not lock ourselves into a rigid perception of who we are and who we have to be.

Bird, another character in Reaching Home, has a very rigid way of looking at herself and the world. Like Robert, she isolates herself from others, and she is even more rigid in her way of thinking about herself and her life.

When we first meet Bird in the story she is dressed in brown work coveralls and a heavy blue parka. The narrator tells you that she seemed younger than her years; it is her shy and almost childlike manner. When Lee first meets Bird, who comes to his rescue when his truck breaks down on the highway, he is unsure as to whether Bird is a man or woman.

Once back at Vinny's Garage, Bird busies herself arranging and then rearranging the parts on the garage floor. As she works, she talks to herself. "V-V-V-i-n-n-y will not like this. N-N-Not like this at all. I should-should-shouldn't have told him Vinny was at B-B-Bambi's. He should-shouldn't have gone there. I-I-I shouldn't have told him. Shouldn't have told him." She shakes her head.

She is sure that Vinny will be angry with her again. He has hit her before when he was mad. She needs Vinny, she thinks. He took her in when she had no place else to go He lets her sleep in the room in the back of the garage and gives her money for food. She has no one else. He will understand, she hopes, but she knows he won't. But the man was anxious to get back on the road north. He needed a mechanic. He needed Vinny. He wanted to get his pickup truck fixed so he could leave. Bird knew how he felt. But things were just too much. She could leave. Maybe she would have to leave again.

Having a support network, being connected to others or not being connected to others, plays a major role in resilience. Relationships that can provide support and caring make for resilience. Having a number of these relationships, both within and outside the family, that offer love, encouragement and reassurance can build and support resilience. Being flexible, especially in the way in which we think of ourselves and our world, is also critical to resilience. If we lock ourselves into rigid ways of thinking about ourselves and others, then we severely limit our options and our ability to respond to adversity and crisis.