Accidents, death and Robin Williams can teach you to turn heartbreak into optimism and action.
As a self-employed member of the sandwich generation, no matter what happens, I have to try to keep working. In the last five days, my son broke his foot, my mother sprained her ankle and I learned that a colleague, 10 years younger than I, was killed in a car accident. And Robin William died. Talk about a downpour.
My son is halfway across the country, almost 21, and said I didn't need to come. He has his teammates, trainers, coaches, gf and her parents. This being the first week of soccer pre-season, it's heartbreaking. I hope he will learn more about coping with adversity and grow stronger for this experience.
There's nothing to be done about my colleague who was also halfway across the country. It's heartbreaking but it reminds me that life is short and I must try even harder to use my time wisely.
I had a few cries about the tragedy of losing the comic genius of Robin Williams. I am talking about it with almost all of my clients who suffer with, or have suffered with, depression or addiction, or…and this includes everyone else…have someone close who does or did. It's heartbreaking but it motivates me to keep trying to make a difference in people's lives.
One day I had to excuse myself to a client so I could take a call from my son's surgeon-to-be, a transgression I was forgiven since my client knows me well and I rarely take calls during sessions. Despite getting home late that day and still having work to attend to, I had a long conversation with my ex about the foot, and another with a colleague about our deceased colleague. I've resolved not to put off any longer calling another colleague to tell her about the death. Perhaps she needs this to give her perspective on something in her life right now.
My mother called as I was getting dressed, about to go get my haircut, see a couple of patients in the hospital, then a couple more in my office, stop to pick up my packet for the 5K I ran today, make dinner and chillax. Of all these things, rescheduling the haircut would have been the biggest nightmare. Thankfully, my bf was in town, able to take my mom to doc-in-a-box and it turned out to be a minor sprain.
One of my clients had to cancel last minute because he had to help someone out who is, by the sound of it, also a member of the sandwich generation, so that bought me an hour. While working in the hospital I kept looking at my phone when it vibrated so I could take the call from the surgeon. After two false alarms the patient I was talking to said, "Why don't you just answer that!" The patient was taking care of me instead of vice versa; hopefully this was empowering for her.
In between all this I'm thinking, What if I'd gone to Omaha and then my mother had this problem and my bf wasn't here, or it turned out to be more than a sprain? Although it was a Friday and a light day, I'm used to juggling much more, including more what if's. Luckily, the day I heard about the foot I was still able to go to yoga that evening, and run the next two mornings. Last night I was even able to catch an episode of Real Time With Bill Maher I'd missed. Those political jokes ("Supreme Court rules female orgasm unconstitutional") hold up remarkably well even after a week or two, and laughter helps reduce stress.
Now, a little about the guilt. I feel terribly guilty I wasn't there for my son's surgery. I might not have been able to get there in time, but I could have been there afterwards. I'm mildly guilty I didn't cancel my haircut and take my mom to urgent care. There's also nagging guilt about doing my sun salutations and being out running while my baby is barely able to walk. But, and this is really important…you have to take care of yourself, or you will not be able to keep doing all the other. Maybe it sounds like I hardly did more than field a few phone calls, make a few decisions, worry and delegate. But if you're the ham, turkey or tofu in the sandwich, you know it's the stress that'll eat you alive. Delegating is one way of taking care of yourself.
What about the guilt? If you're going to be stuck between two hunks of bread, you must relax and say, Que sera, sera. I knew I could fly out immediately if my son really needed me. He'll probably need me more a few weeks into the season as he's grumpily recovering instead of out on the field playing. My mom was probably just as happy with my boyfriend since I'm sure she welcomes a new face. Not to mention that my boyfriend sometimes has more patience than I. He would have called if it was critical.
Then there's Robin Williams. I'm with the, Let's celebrate all he gave us, contingent. Whether they're the bread in my sandwich, my friends or my clients, I'm inspired to try a little harder to help them find a suitable umbrella if it's raining, and their happiness whenever possible.
I'm thrilled to report sunshine for my 5K today and first place in my age group. As Williams once said, "Comedy is acting out optimism." Nothing heartbreaking about that.
Judith Tutin, Phd, ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. Connect with her at drjudithtutin.com where you can request a free coaching call to bring more passion, fun and happiness to your life.