This month’s article is based on a very personal experience I am still working my way through. I realize that it’s easy to talk about balance when life is reasonably predictable and things are going according to the status quo. But what happens to our balance when life throws us a curve? I found that there are many questions and struggles that come to the surface.
In life, troubles and disruptions are inevitable. How do we respond when they come? If you’d like support in sorting through challenges that throw your life or career off-balance, schedule a coaching discovery call and let’s talk about it.
Staying Balanced in Times of Crisis
It is a Wednesday afternoon in January. My mom is having surgery for a lung procedure to deal with some unexplained but persistent symptoms. The procedure goes well, but they find something devastating:
My mother has stage IV metastasized cancer emanating from breast cancer six years ago – from which we all thought she was cured.
It’s interesting to observe how we react during a crisis. I have dealt with crises before and been the leader in times of crisis. My first reaction was often:
“This is information. That’s all. It’s a problem to be solved.”
So on that day in January, I kicked into rational problem-solving mode.
But in the days that followed my mother’s diagnosis, I was far from rational. There were days I didn’t want to get out of bed. Some days I just cried. Others I canceled all my appointments. I didn’t write the January newsletter. I couldn’t focus.
My mom lives 1000 miles away, which introduces more complexity. Three of my four siblings also live in the Houston area. The fourth lives closer to my mom, but not close enough to participate in her daily needs. We’re all facing the same questions:
How can we care for her?
How can we honor her?
How can we spend time with her?
How can we monitor her health from up to 1000 miles away?
None of us know how to manage our lives in the coming days, weeks, and months in the midst of this family crisis. On a daily basis, I ask myself,
“Should I give up or put on hold everything and everyone else for a while? If so, for how long? Is it selfish not to do so? Should I temporarily move to Iowa to care for her? How long is ‘temporary’?”
There’s so much uncertainty. Will I regret whatever path I take? How do I handle the emotions that are in the background every day? What is my role? How much should I take on and be responsible for? I know I want to look back and feel that I have honored my mother during this time. But…
HOW CAN I DO IT ALL?
In troubled times, the answers are not always clear. Emotion clouds our ability to see clearly. But I also know there are a few tried and true principles that I need to fall back on:
Time is precious. Make memories…with everyone.
Clarity of priorities matters. There are some things that don’t change in the overarching strategy of our lives. But on a day to day basis, we have to juggle and rearrange priorities. So long as we stick to the long term strategy, we can manage deviations on a short term basis.
We are put on this earth to be in community with and support each other. I can’t do this alone. Neither can my mother. Yes, I’m strong. But I’m only one simple human being. Confiding in others, asking the help of others, accepting help is necessary.
Self-care is not selfish. It enables us to care for others.
I don’t have it all figured out, but I know we’ll have to deal with each day as it comes. In the midst of a crisis, we have to maintain some degree of balance. Yes, my mom, my time with her and her needs will take priority, but other priorities remain. Our children’s problems don’t stop while we’re busy taking care of parents. The clock is ticking on the time we have with children as they grow. Marriages provide support, yes, but they still need attention and nurturing. A business or career needs attention or it will fade away. And I need to maintain those activities and practices that keep me grounded, healthy and able to support others.
Life is not always stable or predictable. In this world we will have troubles, but if we are clear on our purpose and priorities, if we make choices consciously and intentionally, and if we support each other, we do have the strength to handle it.
Susan Hodge created Women Leading Together in order to provide one-on-one executive coaching, seminars, workshops, and coaching circles to help career women move forward to create fulfilling professional lives. Visit our website for upcoming programs, articles, and resources to advance your career.
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