“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans…John Lennon”
This is a favorite quote of mine and boy has it proven to be true this summer. I had some really grand plans this summer and let’s just say they have not materialized. My oldest son was going to be working out of state and my youngest son was going to be home but working multiple jobs over his summer break so I was ready to make this the summer of Holly. I was going to pump out two fabulous blog posts a week and work on getting some freelance writing gigs and life was going to be fabulous.
Well, if you read my blog with any regularity at all you’ll see that this is only my 5th blog post of the quickly disappearing summer. I have not been able to work on any freelance writing or even my own personal writing projects for that matter. Some family issues arose that have been very time and emotionally consuming for me.
I’ve realized, through both this summer’s current drama and even my previous experience with marriage, that everyone handles stress differently. Some people blow up when their angry/hurt/frustrated. Some turn to vices such as smoking or drinking or spending money they don’t have. Some withdrawal completely and shut down. In my own experience, when things got tough early on in my marriage, my husband was the type to blow up but then it was over. I was/am the opposite. I will worry myself sick and dwell on things much longer than I should.
Anyone that knows me knows that life has definitely thrown me some curve balls over the years. My husband died at 35, I’ve had to raise our two sons on our own, our oldest was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 13, natural disasters, financial problems, etc. I’ve had to learn to adapt and roll with the punches and for the most part I feel like I’m a survivor. Here are a few coping mechanisms I use or have used:
Find your tribe
I have several close friends, some family by blood and some family by choice. They have been my shoulders to cry on, my sounding boards, and my financial advisors. They’ve helped me out with house and car repairs, they’ve been mentors to my sons, and sometimes they are the ones who tell me it’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself and get it done. Everyone needs people like this in their lives. Find yours! But don’t take advantage of their generosity and make darn sure you’re there for them when they need the favor returned!
This doesn’t mean go on a shopping spree if you don’t have the money or sign up for a vacation or other activity you can’t afford. There are plenty of frugal/free ways to treat yourself to some self-care. I’m happy to just browse (not buy) my favorite bookstore once a week. It might be getting a bottle of your favorite body wash to start the morning off right. You can take a walk through your local park/neighborhood. Take in a matinee at the movie theater (but don’t buy the overpriced concessions if you can’t afford them). Learn to meditate. Sign up for a free intro Yoga or gym class (but don’t get sucked into an expensive membership). Download a free meditation app. Play with your pets or your kids. Read a book or stream your favorite series on Netflix.
Find your inexpensive activity and treat yourself on a regular basis. You have to take care of you before you can take care of everything else in life.
Don’t Shut Down
Some people have a tendency to shut down when things get overwhelming. Believe me, I get it!! I remember when I got home from the hospital immediately after my husband died. I got in the shower and cried and cried and thought I’m just going to stay in here forever. I think I did stay in there until the hot water ran out but afterwards I got out and I started to at least try to make some plans for the rest of our life. I had two very young children counting on me and burying my head in the sand just because everything felt hopeless at the time wasn’t going to be good for any of us. So have your good cry or your temper tantrum if need be and then get busy looking for solutions to move your life forward.
Make a List
Okay, you had to know this was coming because I love my lists. Make a list of everything you need to do, from the small things to the big things. Pick the most important things and try breaking it down into smaller steps.
Need a new job? Sign up for a job site. Dust off your resume’. Put in some applications.
Financial problems? List all your bills and your pay dates. Make sure your essentials are paid as soon as you get paid, that’s housing, utilities, car payments/insurance, gas and food. Extras may have to wait. Look for a part-time job if necessary until you can get back on your feet. Sell anything you can. See if you can find some temporary government assistance if necessary.
I know most people aren’t as crazy about lists as I am but I find it extremely helpful to have a written list in front of me reminding me of what needs to be done. It’s also very satisfying to be able to cross things off the list as I accomplish them.
It’s easy to want to play the game of Woe is Me. I will be the first to admit that I love to moan about the bad luck I’ve had in my life. And yep, maybe there has been some bad luck but there’s also been bad choices made.
We didn’t have near enough life insurance for a couple with two young children. We were young and a little naïve and thought my husband’s company-paid life insurance was plenty. It wasn’t.
I bought too much house for my first time out because I assumed I would make a lot more money when I graduated with my accounting degree later that year. Not a smart move on my part. Never make decisions based on life events that haven’t happened yet.
I could go on but I think you get the drift. I can whine about life kicking me down over and over or blame my husband for not having enough life insurance, or gripe about the mortgage company lending me more money then I should have been allowed to responsibly borrow, or I can take responsibility for my part in these situations and move forward and try to make better decisions now.
This really isn’t the type of post I like to write but I can look around and see numerous people in my life and my community that are struggling with so much right now. I just want people to see sometimes life is hard and you have to just hang in there and keep moving forward until you can find the light at the end of the tunnel. In my experience, you don’t get into these bad places overnight so you can’t expect to get out of them overnight either. Take a deep breath, realize it may be bad for a bit, but keep moving forward.