Imagine someone crashes into your car while you are at a stop light.
Worse yet, you hadn’t taken the time to put on your seatbelt. What could have been a fender bender becomes that, plus bruises, cuts, and broken ribs? All because you didn’t prepare for the unexpected.
What about having your life in a steady state of chaos when you get the news that your child has cancer? Taking simple steps can prepare you for life’s unexpected events. It will not prevent things from happening, but can certainly equip us to overcome the unexpected.
You get the call from your child’s doctor, “It’s cancer.” You are furiously dealing with a missed deadline. You are sick, but unless you are dying you must keep working. You must pay your bills. Now you are going to have to deal with your ex-husband. You hate him for dating some bimbo half his age and spending the money that you need to make your payments. You realize your sister will come and help, but you cringe knowing she’ll see how filthy your home has become. Not only is it dirty, but there are piles upon piles of junk to go through. You don’t sleep because when you lay your head down, there seems to be an onslaught of stress and worry. The only break you get from the pressure cooker of your life is when you have a drink. You feel guilty doing that, as people have accused you of having a problem. You feel you must hide your drinking. You can’t even pray because of the guilt for all the things you aren’t doing, and you haven’t made it to church in a long time. You have done things that you know aren’t right and you wonder if maybe this is God’s way of punishing you.
You’re already at the end of your rope,
how can you possibly handle this?
Imagine if the year before you found out about the cancer, you decided to make some valuable changes in your life. You committed to working on having balance in your life. Despite your insane schedule and lack of time,you promised to take a few minutes to care for your soul.
You started by committing time and energy to yourself. You dedicated 30 minutes to evaluating four different areas of your life.
Spiritual: Not so good. There simply hasn’t been any time for God. You feel guilt and fear that God is disappointed with you. You carry a lot of regret for the things you’ve done wrong. You feel unworthy.
Environmental: Your living space, office and your car are dirty. You can’t even bring in a housekeeper. Even if you did have the money, it would take so much energy to pick up; you wouldn’t know where to start. Your life is a constant barrage of responsibilities; you must drive here there and everywhere when you aren’t working. You have strained relationships with others and try to avoid running into certain people.
Emotional: You are so angry that your ex-husband doesn’t provide for you, but has money to run around with his new girlfriend. The bitterness feels like a steady energy-zap on top of all you must do. You realize it’s not healthy that you are hiding your drinking. You hate yourself for not being able to lose weight, and when you look at Facebook, it seems like everyone on earth is happy but you.
Physical: You hate having to wear your fat clothes. You don’t eat healthy foods because you don’t have time to cook. You are desperate for a good night sleep. You are burnt out and run on fumes. The last thing you have time to do is go to the doctor for a checkup. You are always exhausted because you can’t sleep.
Having identified these four areas of your life, what small improvement can you make in each space?
Here are some ideas.
Spiritual: You can go to church or a place of worship this week. You can commit to praying; maybe just saying thank you before you eat is a good place to start. You dedicate some quiet time of prayer and meditation, even if it is only five minutes. Maybe signing up for a meditation class or joining a Bible study is a good place to begin. You decide to listen to Christian or other uplifting radio on your commute and let it fill your home.
Environmental: You commit to cleaning your car inside and out, and keeping it clean. It might be the first space in your life that you commit to keeping well maintained, inside and out. You can eventually add, space by space, in your home and office. You decide to stop watching the news and let the uplifting music fill your space. Set some limits on your screen time, social media, and games. Add your new commitments like prayer, exercise, cleaning, counseling and cooking to your calendar. Set up three boxes: Keep, Give Away and Throw Away. Go through your closets and drawers and begin placing things into the appropriate bin. Don’t focus on maybe needing it one day; it will feel great to share with someone who needs it today.
Emotional: Make an appointment with a counselor, coach or find a meeting like Al-Anon, AA, or Celebrate Recovery where you can address some underlying issues. Commit to sitting for 30 minutes a day and watching something that makes you laugh. Volunteer, it may feel like you don’t have time but the rewards are priceless. Identify three people with whom you feel you can share. If you can’t, then you need to hire a counselor, coach or see a spiritual advisor. Perhaps, like many people, you have a chemical imbalance, depression or some other neck-up medical concern and you need to see a psychiatrist for something to help balance your emotions.
Physical: Determine what exercise you like and commit to doing it three times a week. Start by just putting on your workout clothes and shoes and walking out the door. Take it one step at a time. Call your doctor and go for a comprehensive physical. Make an appointment with the dentist and eye doctor. Commit to three meals a week you that you can have at home. Get your nails done. Be certain you have clothes that make you feel good, don’t save them for special occasions. Go ahead and dress up for a regular day.
Imagine you had already begun the journey to get your soul into balance when you learned of your child’s cancer diagnosis. Your response would come from a place of strength, and you would have personal resources and margin in your life to handle unexpected things. You would be far better equipped to handle any situation. Rather than becoming unglued, as you might without having cared for yourself, you are a source of strength for your child and others.
Setting your life into balance requires a commitment to one thing- that is caring for yourself. You wouldn’t get in the car and not put on your seatbelt.