Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Though I dealt fairly well with the anxiety when I first lost my job, fear threatened to overwhelm me when I realized my former employer had chosen to fight my unemployment benefits. Until an appeal hearing--a process that would take about five months-- benefits had been denied. That decision left me with zero income. After receiving the notification by mail, I called a friend and cried: “I can’t do this!”
That’s usually my first response when life’s circumstances rage out of my control. That may have been my niece Vicki’s response when she first learned that a horrific motorcycle accident had stolen her husband’s vibrant health and career as a “go-get-em” sheriff.
For several years now Kelley has required constant care. A feeding tube, a breathing tube—probably other tubes, too--keep him alive. His useless body needs help in almost every way imaginable. But, Vicki certainly didn’t stop with an “I can’t do this” attitude. Dealing with reality helped her overcome some of her worst fears and become a woman of unstoppable courage.
After the shock of change wore off, Vicki became determined to learn new skills. While Kelley lay in the hospital, something more important than her fear of living life with a brain trauma victim took over. Vicki began equipping herself with all she needed to take care of her husband. Finally after many months, she took him home. Under her nurturing care, he’s thrived to the point where he’s been able to attend his daughter's wedding and his son's graduation from the Marine Corp Academy--despite the tubes.(The picture with this post is with Vicki's son, Jonathan, who I wrote about a few days ago.)
Denial of her pain would never have permitted Vicki to deal with the bitterness and anger life’s twists and turns can provoke. By being honest about her feelings, she deals with them day by day and keeps jumping into life’s turmoil determined to make the best of this new reality. Vicki admires Kelley’s courage to cope with his changed life. He appreciates her in ways he never could have before. As a result, their love continues to thrive in the midst of great peace, joy, and a lot of laughter. Some of their escapades are hilarious.
Trying to pretend that everything's okay, when it isn't, stunts the potential for amazing growth and adventure. Though my circumstances are nothing like Vicki’s and Kelley’s, I too have discovered that being honest with myself about the pain of traumatic events, while acknowledging my need to learn, can begin transforming big problems into tremendous opportunities. For now, I’m still trying to figure out a new way of doing life. The 2-1/2 hour appeal hearing was decided in my favor--the cause of my termination was attributed to my employer being unable to sleep at night, which was what the president of the company told me when I was let go.
Life throws us strange curves. I've struggled through several. My goal in the process is to stay positive and thankful for what I have rather than what I don’t. Instead of focusing on my discomfort, I am trying to remember that my struggles are minor compared to some people’s. And, in the process, if I'm willing to work at it, I can find peace and joy. Different doesn't have to be bad, it's just different.
Tomorrow, I’ll share a poem that reminds me of concepts crucial to dealing with life’s difficulties.