What do you do when it’s all gone? What do you do when one day you wake up and you realize that many of the things that you considered to be part of your life and your identity are gone. What you have built is gone or in a much smaller form than it once was. These things have perhaps, through self-fault and/or the fault of others, been wiped away only to now be a recent memory. The things that you felt comfortable with…your comfort zone…no longer exist. What you built is not there. What you had is gone. Life is very very different. OMG! As Karl Malden used to ask on those old American Express commercials… “What WILL you do?”
In the course of our lives we have one or several of these pivotal moments where we find ourselves at a major-life-changing crossroad. This crossroad can happen all of a sudden or it may take time to come into focus. Either way the cross road in which we all find ourselves from time to time is always startling and it is never easy. When this happens, you constantly ask yourself …
How will I survive?
Who am I?
How could I have changed it?
At this point you have a flood of emotions that are difficult to telegraph and control. You don’t see them coming but a picture, a thought, a smell, situation, whatever…bring back the memories of what once was. Then the sadness, the anger, the despair, the hurt, the confusion…etc…it all comes flooding …without warning and seemingly without provocation. Again…I ask…What WILL you do?
Lately we’ve all seen things that have just “poofed” before our eyes. The world-wide financial crisis has seen markets and capital simply disappear overnight. What once were bastions of fortune and captains of industries are now simply the rabble of a system that collapsed under its own weight. The safe and secure feeling we once knew from our childhood has now been replaced by the the terms “terrorism and swine flu.” Where once we were comforted by coming home at night from our jobs to our lovely house and sitting on the back deck with those we loved has been replaced by searching for a job, alone and in a tiny, cold rented apartment.
“Wow” you say. “What a downer man.”
I paint this picture to ask you what you would do when this happens to you? It may never happen in the form that I mention, but something similar will happen. We all have cross roads that we encounter and we all have crosses to bear. that’s life. Nothing stays the same. Things change. I’ve talked about change on here many times and I’ve talked about how to deal with change on a professional level. What to do when change happens and how to maximize yourself during change. It’s nothing new. You hear this from everyone…not just me. I will not repeat all of those tips and tricks to riding out the rough waters of change, but instead I will harken back to what I learned as a boy.
The reality of today’s situation goes back to what my great-grandma always said. “When the Lord throws you lemons…make lemonade.” Obviously, Granny wasn’t the first one to say this but, as a young mom during the depression, she lived by it. She had to make due. She had to, in today’s vernacular, – suck it up – she had to adapt and she had to change. She had no choice. This isn’t to say that Granny didn’t get sad or angry or a whole host of other things; rather though she simply made the best of the situation. She played the cards she was dealt. During Granny’s time, most lost their homes…their jobs…their ways of life. I’ve heard the stories of family and friends during the depression back in the hills of West Virginia where my people lived. They weren’t pretty stories but they were stories that, even as a little boy, I cherished. Back then, those folks hurt…it sucked…they hurt bad and lost much. Not only possessions like their big houses on the hill or their huge farms, but lost things like their identity, their pride, and pieces of them that, for some, were never to return in the same form. Many back in the day as they do now, turned to other things to ease the pain and forget about the hurt. Habits were born back then that were to haunt some of them for the rest of their lives. One thing though…a lot of these people, like my Granny had an undying and unwavering spirit. They had a sense about them that life was to be lived and whatever came one’s way was just the way it was. “Accept it and move on and live life damnit” is what they would say. Might as well enjoy it because the alternative is gloom and who wants that. I was amazed how Granny and others would talk of the hard, almost impossible life that they had to bear but that they always managed to find the nuggets in the moment however small. A laugh here…a smile there…a hug over there…another laugh over here. They found these nuggets and they used them to get through. To survive…to live. A baby’s smile. The fresh smell of a spring iris growing in the flower garden. The sounds of the guys playing the banjo on the porch on a steamy summer evening. THAT is what mattered. THAT is what made them happy.
“But Granny…you lived in a shack up on cinder blocks with dirt for carpet?” I used to think to myself. But as I grew older and experienced life…I realized that the shack wasn’t what was important to Granny. It was so much more than that…so much more. Granny was no saint mind you…and she was as stern as the hickory switch that she used to whip your butt if you misbehaved, but she was still soft. She still appreciated the small things in life. She still had heart. She still loved. Sadly, Granny passed in 1979 but I will always be thankful to her and others with whom I spent many evenings sitting on the porch listening to them pick music and pontificate about life. It was there I learned to appreciate what I have instead of yearning for what I had.
So what’s a person to do now…we are faced with many of the same problems – in different form and on a different scale – but the same concepts of loss of pride, dignity, safety, etc…are the same. Banks foreclose, companies go out of business, people lose their job and everything they have worked for, people who once loved get divorced, and our standard of living goes down. What’s a person to do? What’s a society to do? Will we fold under the pressure or will we marshal all that is within us to live and think like my Granny and so many others did so many years ago and to appreciate what we have instead of what we had?
I wonder…what will we do…