Monday, June 24, 2013

How to Survive a Life Implosion

As some of you are already aware, I recently sustained a Life Implosion.

If you're unfamiliar with the term Life Implosion, and you probably are, since I recently made it up, allow me to explain. A Life Implosion is defined as a period during which you endure multiple disasters simultaneously in key areas of your life.  

My recent Life Implosion involved 1) breaking my ankle and 2) being on crutches over a period of weeks encompassing the following challenges: 3) discovering black mold in my house, 4) packing for a move, 5) moving, and 6) quitting my job and emptying my classroom. Also, 7) my phone died.  

If you are of the persuasion that a phone dying is not catastrophic enough to be included in a list of personal disasters, then you're most likely from a different generation: the one that uses a phone just as a phone. 

But that's beside the point. 

While enduring a Life Implosion, conventional wisdom would most likely offer vastly different advice from what I'm about to submit.  Not that it matters much. Once you've hit the black ice of a Life Implosion, all advice that you've ever been given pretty much falls out of your head. You're too busy just trying to survive to worry about much else. 

So it's best to absorb the philosophy of someone who's been there. Who has successfully flailed her way through the abyss of a Life Implosion and therefore knows how it feels to be lost in the void.

How to Survive a Life Implosion

1. Type it out. As you're no doubt already aware, one of the best and most logical ways to deal with your problems is to post about them on Facebook, as early and as often as possible. Make sure that there's nobody on the planet who can claim ignorance as an excuse for why they haven't offered help. In this way, not only will you open avenues for all of  the attention and comfort that you crave, but also as an added benefit, you will give everyone on your contact list an ego boost as they view the state of their own lives in comparison to yours. 

It's basically win-win.

2. Refuse to be comforted. The truth is that as much as you may crave comfort and assurance during times of duress, there's also something inside you that will refuse to accept any attempt on the part of your friends and family to help you find a silver lining. 

I know that when I broke my ankle, people were quick to note that now I had a genuine excuse to sit around with my feet up all day. That now I would be completely vindicated in letting everyone else pack up my house and move my furniture for me. That now I didn't have to clean up years of my own accumulated dust bunnies and soap scum but instead got to loll on my sofa watching women from my Bible study do everything for me. 

The entire situation made me feel as if I might actually die of shame. 

Because the truth is that no matter how hard people try to help you look on the bright side, you're very well aware that the only person who can help you see the best in a bad situation is you. If anyone else says it, for some reason, it only seems to add to your shame. Because the truth that we're loath to admit, even to ourselves, is that we'd much rather help than be helped. Be the one doing the serving rather than being served

Refusing to be comforted will help you deal with the shame of feeling needy and will go a long way toward restoring your damaged self-esteem.   

3. Get out of town. Lest you mistakenly assume that I'm advocating a cowardly avoidance of problems, allow me to explain. While it's not healthy to flee from the consequences of Life Implosions, taking a little time away can definitely help mitigate the fallout. In such cases as these, there are definite benefits to a change of scenery. In the first place, most of your out-of-town friends and family are relatively new to your dilemmas, and therefore are more likely to offer a sympathetic ear, unlike your local friends, who are most likely ready to block up their own ear canals with sealing wax rather than hear you rehash your issues one more time. Unless, of course, your out-of-town friends have been keeping up with your Facebook. In that case, they may not have as much sympathy as you would like, but they will, on the other hand, be able to offer you external feedback from outside your own personal loop. And that can only be helpful. In addition, these friends may express an eagerness to help you that your local friends tired of long ago.

I'm not going to lie: when I broke my ankle, my younger sister/roommate was an absolutely amazing help. For about the first two weeks. After that, she seemed to buy in to the notion that I would never learn to fend for myself if she kept pampering me. So there I was, tottering around the house on crutches, kicking my laundry basket in front of me on the tile because I couldn't carry it. I moved my coffee cup slowly from the Keurig to the table by degrees, lest I spill 20% of it on the floor. 

Crutch, set coffee further down counter. Crutch, set coffee further down counter. Crutch, set coffee further down counter.  Crutch, set coffee further down counter. Crutch, set coffee further down counter.

Then, toward the end of my two-month imprisonment in crutches and hard cast, I went to visit my older sister in Georgia.  

"Sit down!" she adjured me. "Let me make you a sandwich!" 

And, "I could have gotten that for you!"

And, "Would you like for me to carry that?"

Cue the angel choir.

* * * *

The truth is that at some point, Life Implosions come to all of us. One day our lives will be humming along as usual, and the next day we sift through the ashes of life as we knew it, praying for strength. We will suffer danger and the loss of loved ones while dealing with health emergencies. Car crashes will come in the wake of embarrassingly clumsy accidents, ushering in financial catastrophes. There will be floods. Our houses will burn down. Our pets may die. Our neighbors may steal all of the ripe veggies from our summer garden. We will lose jobs, have our family heirlooms stolen, or be sued by crazy clients. 

Some day, you will wake up and realize that you've been chosen to undergo several of these crises all at once. And when you do, you will think, It's happened. It's here. MY OWN PERSONAL LIFE IMPLOSION.

You won't be afraid: you will know exactly what to do. You will hold your head high, secure in the knowledge that you have now joined the ranks of a hallowed band. You can now claim kinship with those who have gone before you--those who stared down their own Life Implosions and lived to tell the tale. 

When the inevitable happens, you will not quietly succumb to despair. 

You will remember to type it out boldly, smearing your problems across the internet for all to see. You will look disaster in the eye and refuse to be comforted, thereby inspiring those around you with your stoic fortitude. You will unabashedly get out of town, seeking the distant, exotic balm of remote places. 

In the end, you will have been glad that you tucked these little nuggets of wisdom away against the expectation of your own Life Implosion. 

Because knowing is half the battle.

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