Last week, I had a tough week. Now, let me give you some background. I live with my significant other, Dennis, who goes by Dee, my adult daughter, and my two grandchildren., who are 8 and 5 years old We are fortunate to share a house with enough room for all of us and, even now, when we’re all at home all the time, we can be pretty comfortable. But last week was tough.
On Monday, my daughter’s work schedule changed. Changed for the foreseeable future. And will keep changing for a while. We had worked out a pretty good routine so that she could work, I could work, and the kids were taken care of. “Dee” is retired, and he spends a lot of time with the kids, thank goodness. But suddenly, our system was thrown into a state of upheaval and no one knew what we were doing when or what to expect tomorrow.
On Tuesday, I spent hours finishing my taxes. Having my own business, I knew I would owe money. I did not know it would be “that” much money. But that’s ok.
On Wednesday, I got a couple of bills that were more than I expected. And we were still dealing with figuring out new schedules and systems, the kids were out of whack, and we were too. There was more stuff in the house that needed attention. Seemed like everything was demanding my time.
On Thursday, I faced the reality that the kids are not going back to school in person . Not now, probably not for a long time. No, I don’t think it’s safe for them to go back, we probably wouldn’t send them if we could. So in a way it’s a relief to know. But at the same time, the prospect of who-knows-how-long with them home all the time and the on-going support they’re going to need for school to be good seemed overwhelming. I mean, how do you even do kindergarten on line?
So all of that was just weighing on me. But the worst part of it was that even when I had time to spend on my own work, I couldn’t get in the right frame of mind to actually do anything. Yes, I could see clients – when I have a client scheduled, that time is sacred – the door to my “office” is closed and even the kids know to leave me alone. But other work? Blog posts? Making some changes on my website? No. Not even planning – I’d sit down and try to get started but my mind was going in one hundred other directions.
Some of the time, I was thinking, “How am I going to do this? I can’t work like this. Omg, I’ll never be able to build my business the way I want to. I’m going to spend the rest of my life watching kids and doing house stuff and, sigh, nothing will ever get better. I can’t do this!. I just can’t!” I felt trapped, and alone and generally miserable.
But Thursday evening, I got a message from someone I know just well enough to respect them and their work. They wanted to schedule a consult with me to talk about some work I’m doing. And y’all. Suddenly, my world opened up again. Just the fact that they’d reached out to me, and I had the prospect of an interesting, new conversation was enough to shift everything. Like a kaleidoscope. Just one little twist and it’s as if my life had a whole new perspective.
In that moment, with a big AHA, I suddenly remembered that things change. I had forgotten that. For almost a week, I truly felt like things would be the same forever – and THAT is not true. We have no idea what’s going to happen next. Suddenly, I was back to my more usual self, where I can embrace uncertainty on some level and take comfort in the idea that change will happen.
When I look back on it, I have to laugh. As miserable as I was, I didn’t do any of the things that I might tell someone else to do to feel better. I didn’t talk to anyone about how I felt, didn’t challenge my thoughts, I didn’t exercise more, my sleep patterns were messed up, I didn’t journal, basically I did nothing but wallow in my own misery. I was lucky that it didn’t take a whole lot to snatch me back out of that mess. And it was a great reminder for me of what it feels like to “be in the stew.” That’s always how I think of it, when I’m sinking in that sort of soggy, yucky feeling – like treading water, but worse, and just barely hanging in there.
When I do manage to climb back out of it, it’s like a new world. For me, it’s like having a big rock to stand on. The stew is still there, nothing’s changed, but I have a place to stand. I can look at it from here, rather than being directly in the middle of it, about to get pulled under. I have perspective and room to breathe.
Note: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, to use as the basis for my first “Ten Minute Break” FaceBook Live video. When it was time to do the video, I discovered that I had a technical issue and had to switch to my iPad and couldn’t access my notes at all. So the camera is at a terrible angle, and I had to wing it, which I’m not too bad at, but it threw me off track a bit, and then… well, I won’t go into the rest of it. It was a great exercise in non-perfectionism.
In the future, I’ll be posting the video and the blog post together, but if you want to watch this one, I’ll invite you to visit me on FB here. The story starts at about the 7:20 mark because I do a brief mindfulness practice first. Join me on Wednesdays at noon if you want to catch the new ones live.