Monday, June 6, 2011

Now What Do I Do?

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"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all." Dale Carnegie 
There are times in our lives when we know, without a doubt, that we're in control.  Everything is going just the way we planned.  The kids are doing what we want, the job is working out just as we planned, you and your partner are cruising right along, and the weather has even been perfect for all of your activities.  Boy, life is really good!  You know God is smiling down on you.  You're not really sure what you've done to deserve it all, but you're not complaining.  You know, don't look a gift-horse....?

Then all of a sudden, without warning-OK sometimes there is a warning, but we ignore couldn't really happen to us-the world gets turned upside down.  Your children wake up one day and they're no longer the lovable kiddos that were living in your house just the day before.  Suddenly they have a mind of their own and it seems as if they are just deliberately taking opposing views to irritate you; the more the better!  You can't find common ground any more, primarily because they don't want to find common ground.  If they can find a way to oppose you on something, anything, then they do!  And they like it!

You wake up one morning and your life partner tells you that they're not sure they want to be together any longer.  No, there's no one else.  No, they don't really have a reason.  They're just not happy with their life the way it is and they think a change in their relationship status might be the answer.  After all, they've tried changing jobs and that didn't make them happy.  They've tried new hobbies and none of them seemed quite right.  If they could just trade you out of their lives, that might solve all their problems.

You're pretty happy with your work, your job.  It's satisfying to do something you really believe in and that helps others.  You enjoy getting up each morning and preparing for the day ahead of you.  You like the people you work with; they are your friends, not just colleagues.  The work is challenging, never dull or boring.  And then you go to work one day and find out there is a new boss, who is changing things.  And one of those things is YOU.  You haven't even met the man (or woman) yet.  There's been no conversation about what you do and why it's so important to the company.  As far as you know, he/she isn't aware of any of your projects or the bigger picture that includes you, but you get called to his/her office and the first time you meet him/her, you get canned.  You're out.  You'll get two week's notice and a severance package, but the work you love to do will stop...effective immediately.

The home place is looking great.  With all the spring rain, everything is green and lush.  You've worked for years to get that tree to a good height that will provide shade for the patio and the house has that new coat of paint that you've tried for a couple of years to get finished.  The landscaping is exactly as you hoped it would be.  The flowers are so pretty this year.  And then word comes from the city or the county that people in two states north are releasing water from the reservoir that has gotten dangerously high.  You must leave.  Pack everything up and get moving.  You've got five days to uproot your life...everything.  No more farm.  No more school.  No more community.  For now, for the next several months.  Maybe forever.

Your first reaction to any of these life situations, and we've all faced them at various points in our own lives, is denial.  "This can't be happening, to me!"  There's no anger...yet.  There's no sadness...yet.  There's just shock and disbelief.  You're certain you didn't hear correctly.  You're sure that there's been a mistake.  This is just a very bad dream and you just need to wake up and end it NOW.  You pray to God.  You bargain with him...if He'll just fix this for you, then you'll do whatever He asks of you the next time.

No answer from above.  You wake up one day and the reality begins to set in.  This is real.  Now what?  People try to console you with all of their platitudes:  "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  "God's got other plans for you."  "Just have faith!"  "It's all going to work out."  These may be true, but right now all you can feel is sadness and loss.  You worked so hard!  You did everything you were supposed to do!  Why??????  You accept that it's happening and that there is nothing you can do to change it.  The picture was so perfect, so clear.  You knew exactly what the day would bring, and have no idea where to turn or what to do next.

And then the anger sets in.  This is not fair!  This shouldn't have happened to me!  Joe's the one that never gets his work done well or on time!  Suzy just married the guy for his money and prestige.  He should have left her a long time ago!  I've been a good wife, always supported him and his work!  Well, Sam and Judy never took their son to church, never spent any time with him.  Their kid should be the one that's in trouble, not mine!  The anger feels good.  You could spend a lot of time in anger.

There is nothing you can do for these people, except to love them.  Love them through it all.  I'm not suggesting that you feed their feelings.  That would accomplish nothing for them or for you.  Certainly we want to acknowledge their loss, their pain.  We want to support them THROUGH their feelings, but we must recognize when they are 'stuck' in their pain and not support that portion of the process, for grief is a process.  We've all heard of the stages and that it takes time, sometimes a long time.  We must be a mirror for those folks who have become glued to a particular feeling and show them in a kind and loving way that it is possible for them to move on.  When we have done that, then there is nothing more for us to do.  We must stand back.  We must love them with all of their feelings.  We must remind them that we're here, waiting for them to come back to us; that we're not leaving them, too.  But we must not support their 'stuckness.'

“It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get up again.” Vince Lombardi 

For those of us in the midst of these events (and hopefully, it's just one of these at a time) the only way through is one step at a time.  Sometimes that step is a baby step.  Sometimes it's a giant step.  And sometimes it's a step backwards.  They're all OK.  Just keep moving.  It doesn't feel good.  It doesn't seem right.  You don't know the answers any more. You're afraid you're going to make a mistake!  You will...and that's all right.  After all, you're just human.  You're not supposed to be perfect or to have all the answers.  You just do the best you can do right now, in this moment.  You take care of the things that you can, and you know you'll handle the rest later.  You will! 

Each step will  take you a little further down the road toward your next life.  You've lost your equilibrium but it's temporary.  As long as you keep moving, it will come back to you.  It will be a slow process and there will be days that you are certain you cannot do it.  Believe me, you can!  Just take that first step.  Right or wrong, you will have learned something.  That will lay the groundwork for the next step.  Again, right or wrong, there's another lesson. 

Find a friend, someone that you can count on to be honest with you, someone that will hold you accountable, and rely on them.  Share with them your journey and how much you need their help to travel this road with you.  You may think that you can't tell anyone.  No one will want to listen to you and your problems.  There is someone...someone you worked with, a sibling, a support group, a counselor, a neighbor.  Find someone!  No one can do it all alone.

Write down your thoughts and feelings.  Write down next steps, and faltered steps, and backward steps, and giant steps.  Write it all down.  Eventually, this will be a good record for you to review and see that, while it's been a bumpy road, you have made progress.  You're not necessarily where you want to be, but you're not where you were anymore either!  Surprise!  You're doing what you thought you couldn't!  Congratulations!

Now celebrate.  Celebrate all your victories.  It doesn't matter how large or small, celebrate them!  Have a party and acknowledge to everyone, especially yourself, that you mastered this challenge, or at least this portion of the challenge.  Life threw at you some of it's worst, and it didn't kill you.  It didn't stop you.  You faced it, and you are moving through it.  Maybe you've even made it through to the other side.  Pat yourself on the back!  Be proud of yourself!  Acknowledge that you are stronger than you thought you were.

And thank God!  I don't mean to thank Him for the problems (although you could do that too).  I mean thank Him that He was there with you every step of the way.  After all, without His loving hand, you wouldn't be able to move forward.  You see, when you were stuck, and we've all been stuck at some time in our lives, you'd forgotten that He was right there.  You didn't feel Him.  You didn't see Him.  He must have forgotten about you or this wouldn't be happening, right?  Wrong.

God was always there.  He didn't cause it to happen, but He was always there and on those days when you couldn't face any of it anymore, He faced it for you.  He was there when you opened your eyes, he was there when you took that first step, He was there when you messed it all up.  He's been there all along.  Every time you heard that little voice inside you encouraging you, moving you, loving you, He was there.  He is still there.  He will always be there. 

Through it all, God was there to guide you through.  He showed you the life lessons that could be learned from it all.  And He loved you.  On those nights when you didn't think it would ever end, He loved you.  He's still loving you. 

Sometimes, life just gets hard.  Living is not an easy thing to do.  We all will face challenges at various points but it's how we deal with them that's important.  We can choose to wallow in our grief and make it our goal in life to remain stuck here for all the world to see, OR we can choose to wade our way through the muck and debris and finally end up in the light again.  We'll never be what we were before, but maybe, surprisingly, we'll be a little better!

"Keep on going and the chances are you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I have never heard of anyone stumbling on something sitting down." Charles F. Kettering

"Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people.  But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out." 
1 Corinthians 10:13

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