Not Knowing What’s Next. And Surviving It.
We’ve been in the field about a week now and it’s been going well. Yesterday I drove the combine all day picking corn and overall it was a good day. It started raining about 4PM and we quit and called it a day. Dad dries his own corn and has on-farm storage so our game plan tends to be a little different from farmers who don’t. Either way, we knew rain was in the forecast for last night and today, but enough to keep us out? Corn dries fast and combines can run thru sticky dirt, even mud sometimes, so we just weren’t sure.
This morning gave us no clear answers. Yes it had rained but not too much. How fast would it dry? Would this next front hit us or not? I knew we wouldn’t start early but aside from that it was anyone’s guess. The plan changed a few times and then when I finally left I got about a mile down the road and Dad called and said Nevermind; it’s raining here. I’ll call you in a bit.
So I sit here in my farm clothes, my lunch bag nearby packed and ready to go. Do I start something big? Can I run to the store? I hate starting on a project when I don’t know how much time I really have. It quit raining here but that really tells me nothing. I’m stuck in the middle.
Stuck in the middle is a pain-in-the-rear spot to be and everyone knows it. We’ve all had to endure our times of transition and they generally make us nuts. Whether it’s the next few hours on-call, the next four weeks before the new job starts, 3 months till the baby arrives, or a year before the house will be ready – it’s uncomfortable to say the least.
Step 1 – Recognize You Have a Problem
I’ve discovered one key aspect to surviving these uneasy rides is first and foremost to identify what’s going on. If you are in a time of transition it’s good to realize it is what it is. Unfortunately sometimes it takes me a while to figure out why the heck my brain feels seasick. The tumultuous ride of waiting or not knowing what’s about to happen next makes the average brain short-out here and there. So I wander around for a while trying to figure out why I’m so anxious and how I can get more of a grip on my reality until finally one day I realize I’m in one of those circumstances where it might be nearly impossible.
This is why it’s good to have friends. Sometimes I need my friends to identify the obvious for me. They’ve been helpful at recognizing patterns (every 3-6 months I freak out about how I “should” get a “real” job). They asking if I’ve been taking my meds after I’ve had the third meltdown in two days. And they can see the bigger picture when I’m too buried to grasp the next few hours. If you don’t have friends, you should really get some.
Step 2 – Day by Day Isn’t Just a Vitamin
Taking it “day by day” has become a cliche, but it’s one of the most useful pieces of advice I’ve come across when it feels like life is altogether up in the air. Sometimes hour by hour is necessary. Times of transition are tricky and we can easily get swallowed up in the fears/frustrations/frets of NOT KNOWING.
So we have to focus on the immediate future:
- What can I be doing right now that is healthy and useful?
- What needs addressed right now that will help me be less fretful or frustrated?
- What does my family/core community need from me right now that I can actually give them?
Many of us are so used to functioning on the 5-year-plan, only being able to see the next 5 hours can feel like teetering on the edge of a rocky cliff while a pack of wolves threaten to knock you off. But somehow you’ve got to find a way to tame the wolves, sit down on the rocks, and take a breather. (Just do it!) And after a while, when you get used to sitting and waiting, you might glance over and see it’s not a cliff at all; it’s just a slight drop – a decline really. Yes the trail is rocky and uneven and you can’t see far because trees and cliffs are in the way; but it’s manageable and really your 5-year-plan was a long shot to begin with. #realitycheck
Step 3 – Making Peace
The other day I was delighted to have the opportunity to get to know a Twitter friend and we were discussing our “stories.” I told her about how I had planned to work full-time while raising my kids but it became clear that wasn’t in the cards and I’ve been doing random work since then that allows me to bring in some income but also stay sane and available for my kids. (whew! Long sentence. Hope you kept up.)
She asked “Was it hard to give up your vision of how your life would work?”
A loud laugh blurted out when I read the question. Hard? Ha! I struggle with it every… single… day. I’m still not sure it’s possible! My vision of how my life “should” work is constantly in conflict with my reality. That’s what started this blog and everything else about my ministry. I needed an outlet for sorting through it all.
The struggle to make peace with our reality can be long and hard. When someone goes through something really crazy and right away say they are coming to terms with it… I tend to be dubious. Really? Because it’s taking me a lifetime. (This is what often leads me directly into the comparison trap where I beat myself up for being a slow learner. FYI: Not a helpful place to be.)
Maybe some people ARE better at this than others, but sitting on that “cliff” trying to stare down the pack of wolves that you invented as punishment for when your plan fails… all of that is exhausting and usually involves some kindof paradigm shift.
It might require multiple conversations with a trusted friend or spouse. It may demand a new worldview as all you thought you knew seems to suddenly float off into the distance. And/or you might just need TIME to see that reality, (i.e. new plan) isn’t so bad and might actually be tolerable. TIME is an interesting thing. I’m not going to suggest that the passage of time is magical and can heal all wounds. But something CAN happen over time when life unfolds in an unexpected way and we see that things might just end up ok after all.
Step 0 – Where Does Prayer Factor In?
I know I’m not the only one that forgets to turn to Prayer at the first sign of a freak-out. Sometimes it happens sometimes it doesn’t. The fact is praying God’s Word can help calm the nerves and praying for clarity can be surprisingly enlightening. It’s not a magic formula (like time, right?), but it’s powerful. And for goodness’ sake ask some people to pray for you! Don’t act like you are too good for it or like your problems aren’t “prayer worthy.” I know we all feel that way sometimes, but grab one of those friends and ask them to lift you and your circumstance up to the Holy one who can grant a peace that passes all understanding. Sometimes He moves mountains and sometimes He holds us tight, but either way He’s the one we can trust to always be listening when we are falling apart about not knowing.
Bonus fact: He knows. He knows the future and how you feel and He loves you through it all. Go to Him.
Transitions are tough and no one warned me about them. I’ve had some big painful ones in my life and I’m sure you have too. Let’s get real about this stuff and encourage the community of people we love that they too can survive the rocky, confusing trails ahead. And let’s be sure to allow people the space and time to take a break when necessary to process what may be an unexpected reality.
Dad called and said he’ll be ready for me to arrive soon. We will see if the rain holds off this afternoon or not. Might have to take it hour-by-hour. It could be frustrating and I might get some mud on the tires, but (to borrow from another cliche) my survival rate so far is 100% so I feel like the odds are pretty good I’ll get thru the afternoon ahead of me.