We have all been there. Cruising down the highway of life at 90 miles per hour 70 MPH (because we always obey the speed limit, right?) everything is going as it should, minor bumps are soon passed and we are enjoying the scenery. All of the sudden there’s a detour, not an exit that takes you to paradise, but rather an exit that isn’t on the map, and has your GPS yelling at you in a strange British accent, telling you that “you are now traveling in the wrong direction! Recalculating”
When my husband was injured we took that exit. Gone was the fresh new pavement and reflective green road signs telling me which way to go. We were now cruising down a dirt path in a covered wagon (I think it may have only had three wheels!) trying to read Boy Scout trail markings from the 1800’s, with no one else in sight…
So what do you do when the super highway turns into the Oregon Trail?
1) Cut yourself some slack. Or a lot of slack. However much slack you need to get through right now. Things are not ok, and might not be for the foreseeable future. Let go of everything that is not essential to the wellbeing of your family. No one is going to die if you wear yoga pants and skip the makeup today. Shockingly, your family will survive if you have to eat frozen dinners or take out this week (or month!). As long as everyone is clean and fed, you can survive.
2) Write it down! That means everything. You aren’t going to remember every single thing, and you will only beat yourself up for forgetting (see #1 above). Buy a notebook, steal a stack of sticky-notes from work, swipe a roll of TP from your neighbors, but find something to write down everything you need to do or might need to reference later. Getting yogurt and diapers may seem easy to remember right now, but when you are in the market and have just answered your seventh call in ten minutes, it might be a little more challenging to remember! (Also, try remembering those seven phone calls after you make it home with your yogurt and diapers.) Write. It. Down.
3) Call in those favors! The neighbors that you always let use your parking space? Let them know that for now, you need it. The coworker who asks if you want a coffee while she is out? Take her up on it! The friend who asks if you need anything while she is at the warehouse store? Yes! Right now it would be great if she could bring you a 55 gallon drum of peanut butter! When people offer, let them help! Now is not the time to be pressing your super-woman cape and stuffing yourself into leotards you haven’t warn since 1998, let other people do some grunt work for you right now!
4) Don’t make things harder on yourself in the long run. Watch you funds. When we are in crisis mode we tend to forget about the long-term impact of our situation. Maybe this means only spending cash, and locking up the debit/credit cards to avoid those “feel good” purchases. Maybe this means breaking out your emergency fund to avoid the stress of worrying about how you will pay for _____ right now. Either way, you need to plan for how you are going to deal with the financial impact of your current detour.
5) Breath. Nothing lasts forever. Whether or not this chapter in your life has a happy ending, the pain you are facing right now will not always be the all-consuming nightmare you are currently in. Things will never be the same, and you will always carry the scars of this trip down the rutted trail, but that doesn’t mean that things are not going to get better. Maybe better than before—but you will have to keep going to find out.
6) Don’t be afraid to get professional help! You can’t handle everything. That’s ok. Counseling, support groups (online or in person), childcare, lawn maintenance—if you need help get it! If you are active duty or retired, call up Military Onesource and ask for help, they can connect you with the right people. Civilian? Call your local United Way, Church, Synagogue, or community action program and let them know you need help, even if they can’t help, they usually know people who can.
We all experience crisis in our live; big ones, small ones, short ones, long ones. Some we leave behind, some we work through, and some we just have to live with. Remember, that no matter the crisis, you can move forward. Whether you spend a day, a month or a decade on the Oregon Trail you will eventually get back on the highway. …Just don’t die of dysentery while you are looking for the on-ramp. (And if you don’t understand that, pretend that you do, because I don’t want to feel old. Mmmmk?)