By Annie Gebel
I’ve had some changes in my life over the years. I’m sure you have too. There’s puberty, right? And graduating from high school, vowing to be friends forever, and losing touch. Marriage, kids, jobs, moving…plenty of things to unsettle what we work so hard to balance. And how do we get through all of this uncertainty with as few breakdowns as possible? Well, I have been told I handle it ‘oh, so well.’ But, I’ll tell you a secret. First, I panic. My bullet-proof image, however, comes from what follows the, “Wait, what?” moment: perseverance with positive perspective.
I had already started this article when I was given some of that life-is-changing-right-now news. Since real life examples are great for explaining things, here’s a glimpse into my life and my mind. I know, you may not want to go there, but it’ll be fine – promise!
I woke up one day last week two hours earlier than normal. I thought that was silly and, although I didn’t feel exceptionally tired, decided to try a trick I know to get back to sleep. I think of a letter and go through all the words I can think of starting with that letter. Normally, my brain tires out and I drift off. This time, though, I didn’t fall back asleep. I chose the letter P and I kept getting derailed in my goal by random tangents with each word.
“Pudding. I don’t even know the last time I had pudding. But pudding sounds good. I’ve never made Paleo pudding but I think it has avocados. I love avocados, but that weirds me out a little. And I’m out of avocados.”
See, train off the track – passengers milling around lost – and not sleeping. But, here’s the silver lining. I noticed that many of the P words I was thinking of, other than pudding, had a theme running through them: how I handle change. Panic, pause, plan, persistence, perseverance, positive, perspective. So, let me lay them out for you with the phone call I got from my husband about an hour after he got to work that same morning I woke up before the sun.
We’re a military family. I knew we’d be moving sometime in the next year, but when I answered my ringing phone my husband said, “We’re leaving next month, as early as we can.”
This is mostly on the inside, for me. (If you panic for all to see, that’s ok too. You can still apply the same steps following your initial shock.) I think out loud I said, “Oh…kay… So, I’ll find some rental homes to inquire about, let the kids sports know we’re leaving, give the ortho a call, and let the landlords know. Anything else you can think of before we have a firm date?”
Inside I was thinking, “Wait, WHAT!?! Three WEEKS?!? The kids are in sports! We have plans on the calendar! I have braces on my face! What if we can’t find a house to rent? I was going to take the kids to Arizona and we never went to Denver! I really don’t want to start over with these braces. Weeks, really?”
Breathe in. And out. Repeat. (Really, pausing is good any time. Take a moment to center yourself before tackling any number of tasks.) Breathing deeply rarely hurts and it works to calm me when the thought of, oh…I don’t know…picking up our lives and moving them over 2000 miles in such a short time seems a little daunting. So, I paused. After I got off the phone, I made some hot chocolate and drank half the cup before I started in on list making.
I made a mental list of what needed to be addressed that day. First up – tell the kids. Since I was about to be on the phone and internet addressing the practical side of this move, there was no sense waiting to break the news. Like me, they knew it was coming sometime so two of the three weren’t completely surprised and remember moving before, so they were excited. The little guy, though – he cried in my lap while I finished my hot chocolate. Thankfully, he calmed down and we talked about what and who we’ll miss and what makes moving hard. Then we moved on to the things we have to look forward to. The older kids know this drill and helped him come up with joys to focus on when he’s sad about leaving his friends here.
Once they were settled, I started calling people – the landlord to give notice, the orthodontist to see what needs to be done with my braces, the kids’ activities, even my parents to say, “Hey, we’ll be visiting next month!” Then I hopped on the computer to look up rentals in our soon-to-be new state. I emailed and left phone messages for realtors. Then I started the paper trail.
I know my phone has a place to make notes and my computer has Word, but I really like paper and pencil – it’s grounding. So I found some purple paper and a dinosaur pencil (Might as well have some fun, right?) and compiled a few lists. I put the properties in order of preference. I recorded all the places I’ll need to update once we have a firm move date and to update our address when we know it. The last list I created was follow up calls for that afternoon or the next day.
Once my husband got home, we mulled over all the questions we’d come up with on our own. We developed plans A through D or so. We included options for leaving in the middle of the month, at the end of the month, departing together, or one of us heading out before the other. These are conversations we’ve had every night since, discussing the details of who will take the kids or if we’ll split them up, whether we’ll try to see anything or anyone on the drive or just head straight to our destination. Many amendments have been made to the original plans and there are more to come, especially once we finally get a definite date! (Feeling the panic rise again? Take a moment to pause and then focus again on the plans you’re making.)
You know the old saying, “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”? I’m in the midst of that right now, although I didn’t have a chance to preplan. The day we got the news and the days following were full of phone calls that went something like –
Me: “Hi, we’re moving in a few weeks and I was wondering…”
Them: “A few weeks? We usually require more notice.”
Me: “I understand that, and I’m sorry about the short notice, but we just found out yesterday that we needed to move next month.”
Them: (with skepticism or pity) “Oh, well, let’s see what we can do.”
If the party I’m calling takes pity on me, that initial reasoning was enough. If they’re skeptical, though, that’s where persistence comes in. In the last four days there are several places I’ve had to contact more than once in order to insist action be taken in the next week or two because we’re moving! I am patient and pleasant in my emails, voice mails, and on the phone but clear about my needs. (If you’re more direct or assertive, you may ask to speak with a supervisor or something like that, if you’re not getting anywhere with the person who answers the phone.)
Perseverance with Positive Perspective:
What it all comes down to in the end, at least for me, is that often times change is something that’s happening – like it or not. I could drink a bottle of wine and throw a temper tantrum, but we’re still moving, soon. I could melt down about the people I have to leave, the places I haven’t seen yet, things I wanted to do again – but it doesn’t change the facts. I choose to look at the bright side of changes, especially those that are sudden and unexpected because I think they have the most potential to overwhelm me, because if it’s happening anyway – why set myself up for depression and frustration?
I still settle down with an adult beverage to take the edge of the stress and cry over the things I’m mourning about losing or losing out on, but my main focus is always the excitement that is to come. (I know this cheery view of the world doesn’t come naturally for everyone, but I’ll never understand why you wouldn’t want to give it a try, at least. I think if you’re begrudging driving a few thousand miles across this beautiful county, you’re likely to miss out on the beauty. Moping doesn’t let you see the flocks of birds or changing leaves.) So, while we’re still settling on what, exactly, our move will look like, when it will happen, and where we’ll live when we get there – I’m looking forward to living much closer to our families and being able to spend the holidays with them! I’m focusing on the joy of getting to meet my newest niece or nephew before she or he is a month old! I’m smiling about the old friends that I haven’t seen in years that I’ll be able to visit in the next year! And I’m putting one foot in front of the other to make a little progress, or a lot, on preparing for our move every day.
We all know that the only real constant in life is change, right? Hopefully the fact that it’s brought to you by the letter P will help you meet it head on, like a change champion!