35. Resourcefulness

To me the word resourceful has traditionally meant staying on top of whatever we encounter. Being aware and flexible enough to handle anything thrown in our direction. Responding with a practical, down-to-earth method for meeting challenges.

Or opportunities.

Avoiding being a victim of circumstances. Establishing a mindset that is more proactive than reactive.

Utilizing tons of common sense.

Additional definitions include: ingenious, creative, sharp, gifted, capable and spirited. Or enthusiastic, ambitious, and vigorous.

These thesaurus-related definitions conflict with my pragmatic, down-to-earth beliefs. They enshrine exceptionality. People who are better than most. With the rest of us somewhere in the ordinary middle.

Or below average.

I am a strong believer in science and the scientific method. But I have long believed the variances in human potential defy narrow, mathematically driven scientific classifications. Such as IQ. Or scores derived from how well students perform on pencil and paper tests. 

We have long been told the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), American College Test (ACT), and other standardized pencil and paper tests are good predictors of student success. These tests were once in the context of how college courses were traditionally taught, and students evaluated.

But today we know they are deficient in measuring resourcefulness. When using my definition as being basic common sense and amazing ingenuity.

Public schools, colleges and universities are starting to wake up. Education theorists have now moved creativity to the top of preferred learning objectives. Creativity encapsulates BOTH common sense and ingenuity. Resourcefulness.


Resourcefulness is added to this blog on Alzheimer’s and the Husband for a reason. Because my ability to be imaginative in the face of stark realities has allowed me to meet many challenges, conduct problem-solving exercises, and make both practical and unusual decisions.

Resourcefulness has also allowed me to seek out and be responsive to recommendations received from others.

It has given me the power to analyze information systematically. It has helped me draw logical conclusions and act on them. Then follow up.

Above all, my resourcefulness has overcome emotional paralysis.

Many men do not think they can be affected by emotional paralysis. I was one of them.

Growing up, my heroes were the resolute and decisive guys depicted in movies and on television. Steely-eyed, righteous, wise, courageous, and strong enough to face almost impossible odds.

Leaders among men. Chivalrous to women. Tender with children.

I still get a lump in my throat when reading Don Quixote of La Mancha, a book by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes. The book was published in the early 1600s and is the basis of a 1965 musical titled Man of La Mancha.

Most of you know the story. An ordinary old guy who goes cuckoo and believes he is a knight errant destined to fulfill a quest to bring righteousness to the world. He and his faithful servant Sancho Panza ride around the countryside looking for opportunities to serve his quest. Sancho Panza knows his master is a looney old fool but remains loyal because of friendship and recognition of his uplifting motives.

In the musical, Don Quixote sings The Impossible Dream, composed by Mitch Leigh, with lyrics by Joe Darion © 1965. It begins with this stanza:

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

What hits me every time I hear that song is how impactful it can be to many men. Men who believed and tried to make a difference in the world. Not because they were crazy, but because they needed something inspirational when confronted with an incomprehensible reality.

Like Alzheimer’s attacking their wives.

Don Quixote saw giants who needed to be subdued for humanity’s sake, when in fact they were windmills. A confrontation with one of them resulted in his being caught in a blade and slammed to the ground.

Yet he remained resolute. He used what was left of his addled common sense and ingenuity to continue his quest. Until he encountered The Knight of the Mirrors who showed Don Quixote that he was a mad old fool, convincing him that he was just a dysfunctional and ordinary man.

Ordinary men no longer have a quest for what is best in life. They let emotional paralysis make them lose their resourcefulness. Lose their ability to use common sense and ingenuity to face something like Alzheimer’s in their wives.

That becomes the issue for men who are caregivers. How many times does the windmill have to slam a guy to the ground? How many mirrors does it take to show him his inadequacies in caring for his wife?

The essential question is this:

How can husbands remain resourceful when the reality of Alzheimer’s causes emotional vulnerability? The precursor to emotional paralysis.


How did I become resourceful when others find it difficult? How have I continued to be resourceful in my early eighties while taking care of a wife with Alzheimer’s? The answers did not come in the form of great philosophical revelations. Or any sort of spiritual awakening.

The answers came mainly from hackneyed phrases I heard while a teenager and young adult. Common clichés used by school friends and military buddies, street corner admonishments I took to heart:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • This too shall pass.
  • Eat the elephant one bite at a time.
  • Use your imagination, stupid!
  • Get right back on the horse after it throws you.

I have used the word resourcefulness as a combination of common sense and ingenuity. Though clichés grow tiresome, they are firmly rooted in earthbound truths. They can be the trigger for setting off an explosion of ingenuity.

By not letting the small stuff bother me, I focus on creating a better solution to more significant problems. By chipping away at solving problems a little at a time, time itself can be part of the solution.

Resourcefulness does not depend on how well-educated we are. It does not depend on being remarkable in some way.

All it requires is that we look around and locate strategies that make common sense, then use our God-given and very human ingenuity to act in ways that serve our own needs as well as those of others.

Especially a wife afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

Continue to seek ways to take care of yourself.

©2020 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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