Over the years, I have had many times when I thought that life happened to me. I knew that those happenings would forever alter my life because my progress and journey were slowed to what felt like a crawl. Often, I felt that my movement was stunted by the figurative boulders and gravel blocking my pathway. There were other times when I just felt like the road just blew up into a million pieces and made the road completely impassable.
I remember shortly after my mother had a stroke about six years ago I found myself holding my breath. I found that I was anxious and afraid. I couldn’t believe that the circumstances in my life meant that I had to manage affairs at my house in addition to my mother’s affairs three states away. I had to think about her medical care, the best places for her to receive the care she needed, and how to maintain her stuff. I had to deal with the critics who always had commentary about my decisions, but no demonstrated desire to step in and provide a refuge or source of positivity for my mother or for me. I had to trust the opinions and information of many strangers while keeping my emotions and physical weariness under control. Well, at least I thought I was keeping it all under control. The moment you realize that you are having recurring episodes of holding your breath and feeling like you are going to hyperventilate you have to admit to yourself that life is happening to you and that you must figure out how to manage the madness. Involuntary episodes of shallow breathing frightened me and made me feel insecure about my ability to manage my life and the lives of those in my care. I had to learn to take intentional breaths, six counts in and six counts out, while I envisioned beautiful sunsets in the distance over the bluest body of water imaginable. I imagined brilliant rays of sun brushing across the waves.
Once I calmed my insides and my mind, I did what anyone in the midst of life happening would do – cry and wish things were different. After shedding some tears of disbelief, talking to God about this unbelievable situation, and wishing it was different, I had to do what my son’s kindergarten teacher said her mother would tell her to do, “Buck up, Joan.” Haha. In times of crisis and chaos, there is just not a lot of time for crying and wishing for change. I had to retrieve some memories of good days past, develop a plan, breath, and keep things moving in a positive direction. Over the years, I have entertained myself and used verbal power to infuse the positive forces I needed into the moment. Those powerful words enabled me to rise up and take control of the madness. I dug deep for memories of comments and situations that made me chuckle or laugh. For example, when we lived through what I called “The Kentucky Experience” a friend told me that my church should be upset with me for using up all the prayers when life handed me the top five things that cause stress – a hiring, a firing, a move, the birth of a child, and the death of a family member in six months. Well, it’s funny now. I remember the laugh I got when my mother was finally “passing” the test with the long term care insurance company and she asked me how she was doing. As sad as it was, I found reason to be happy that she was finally going to receive the benefit of the years of paying premiums to the company and not being able to qualify when we requested consideration previously. I would entertain myself by creating bumper sticker phrases to describe my world like “chaos is my normal” and “Laughter is all I got.”
I heard Justin Timberlake tell Oprah in an interview that he practices his routines so many times that it looks easy when he performs for an audience. I have had times in my life when I wondered if the Master plan for me was to look like an expert at adjusting my emotional, physical, and organizational registers to deal with chaos. I have thought that life brought challenges repeatedly until I demonstrated the ability to manage the crazy. However, that train of thought failed to produce the positivity I needed to overcome the challenges. In past and present situations, instead of thinking about the fact that there were recurring chaotic situations, I learned that I needed to force my brain to own that I was not that much of a failure. My story had to be more about me being the best person on the planet to deal with the parade of chaotic situations moving through my space. Moreover, I had to be the one uniquely designed to make the decisions and provide the direction that would guide my family members through whatever situation arose. I had to learn to celebrate the gifts and skill sets that made me able to manage it all. Prayers, perspective, breathing, laughing, and a positive attitude are key factors in managing your world “when life happens.”