Four Things I Learned In Crisis Mode

crisis modeAs I type this, I’m on a 6 am flight from Palm Beach to Syracuse due to an emergency on top of an emergency. And I’ll step out into the frigid air with a suitcase full of skirts and flip slops. The outfit I wore driving to the airport in Spokane will have to do while in New York.

I’ll back up for a quick minute: The short story is my Father had a heart attack in Palm Beach over New Year’s weekend and underwent quintuple bypass on January 2nd. I didn’t even know they did five, did you? While he was recovering (very well I might add), news came that my grandmother (his mother!) passed away the morning of January 4th in New York. My siblings and I had to break the news to my Dad in intensive care. and now I'm flying north with a suitcase packed for the south.

I'm not writing about it for your sympathy or to be melodramatic. I'm writing because I learned some valuable lessons while I was in personal crisis mode, and I'd like to memorialize them because they apply well to everyday life.

Four Valuable Lessons from Crisis Mode

1. Things don't go as planned. Get over it.

I’ve been working hard to plan for 2013. In fact, January was all plotted out with professional and personal goals and I was ready to get started right away. When my Dad called me on the weekend prior to tell me what happened, I wasn’t going to go to him. I had plans. I was busy. Until my husband, (a father), stepped in and told me I was going. “I can’t. I have too much going on. I’m supposed to be doing...”

Things don’t go the way we intend. We can plan all we want. Don’t let your head get stuck in supposed-to's and deal with what is. I didn't know how I could leave. But you know what? It was simple. I just left. And anyone who was affected by this change in plans understood. The earth still turned; the sun still rose. Hearing my Dad under anesthesia saying how happy he was I came made all of that other stuff not matter.

2. Double-check your perspective.

My first instinct was to say, "Holy shit, 2013, give a girl a break, won’t you?" And my girlfriend said, “Lisa, 2013 is excellent. Your Dad survived and is recovering and your Grandmother didn't want to suffer any longer.” She’s completely right. My Dad survived by a miracle the doctors say. They don’t understand how the heart attack didn’t kill him. My grandmother lived a full and wonderful 89 years. I'll miss her, but she's in a better place.

This was my reminder to make sure I’m looking at events and emotions from the right perspective. I bet there is always a way to turn it around. Always.

3. Dudes don’t do that here.

In other cultures, men kiss each other on the cheek and it makes me sad our culture is so closed off from that beautiful expression. I spent some time sitting in a crowded ICU waiting room. That’s better people watching than any airport. Families gather in clusters as a volunteer manages the chaos from the desk. A monitor on the wall shows patient numbers and their status, much like your Chick-Fil-A order: “Patient is prepped for surgery.” “Surgery in progress.” “Surgery complete.” and the phone rings, and the volunteer calls out a last name and an eager cluster gets to go see their loved one.

I saw families of many different nationalities and when men arrive, they kiss each other hello on the cheek. That should be socially acceptable in our culture.

4. We tend to jump to the most paranoid conclusion first. 

As you can imagine, there are a lot of emotions running high right now. Suddenly, small requests from others take a lower priority for me. I can't even bring myself to respond to some people. When we're on the receiving end of someone giving us a curt reply or ignoring us, we take it personally. We think it's because of something we did. Because for one reason or another, we were the ass and now we're being punished.

Remember, that person could be dealing with a father who just had a heart attack and who's beloved grandmother just passed away. Have compassion first, don't jump to the paranoid conclusion and remember it could be something going on in their own world, completely unrelated to you.

As I fly over the Atlantic coast descending into Philadelphia, I am reminded of Sandy. And I’m reminded of Newtown. These events happen that bring us together, and remind us what truly is important in life. But often, we forget weeks or months later and go back to getting upset and honking at the car in front of you because he didn’t step on the gas the second the light turned green.

I’d like to remember. Gramma Jean had a favorite expression she used any time we were hanging up the phone with her. She wanted us to remember that she loved us, or to call her, or to visit her, and it means so much more. She almost sings it so the last syllable ends on a high note:

“Don’t forget!”

 I'd love to hear what you learned from your own crisis situations. 

PS. photo comes from Blog of Corey Lambert.