Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How do you handle yourself?

The most important thing you have after a crisis, is your behavior during it.

This is a saying I heard several years ago that's stuck with me. The statement itself requires no explanation. It's strongly and simply stated and makes you look inside yourself. It's a saying that immediately makes you feel accountable, putting everything into perspective. Crises, regardless of the degree, will always happen. The difference in your recollection of it will likely be determined by how you carried yourself thoughout it.

It's true most people are not their best during a crisis. It's easy to get twisted up in the game and react to everything with a knee jerk response. Feeling overwhelmed by an event that feels so big can make you feel small and vulnerable. At times it can throw you into the "why me" tailspin or how about the ol' "the whole world is out to get me" mentality. Not to mention the immediate sense of urgency that accompanies a crisis.

From the first time I heard this saying, I realized it would hold the key to how I carry myself from now on. That's not to say I don't lose it at times. I'm human and I do. But I've found that reeling myself in is much easier the second I hear those words in my mind.

When my brother, Jim, died last January I was devastated. He was the third brother who'd passed away and I was left feeling like I wanted to crawl into a hole and cry, forever. Jim and I were very close and had been from the time I was 19 years old.

With my family and I surrounding around his bed in ICU watching him slip away, my heart felt heavy with pain and heartache. Not at his moving on because I stand firm in my beliefs on what's next. It was more about never being able to see him again or hear his laugh or hear him tell me how special he thought I was. Admittedly selfish reasons.

Once he left us, my sis-in-law Michel turned to me and asked me to handle everything. She handed me several sheets of instructions the hospital had given her to aid in making arrangements. I heard her words and immediately felt angry at her. My brother just died. Leave me the fuck alone. And then I looked up into her eyes and the pain that she felt from losing her life partner was bigger than mine. I realized the man who protected her, who slept next to her each night, who made her laugh and held her hand and stroked her hair somehow seemed a heartache of bigger proportion.

Then I heard the words run through my mind. The most important thing you have after a crisis, is your behavior through it.

I reached up and took the papers from her and told her I would take care of everything. As I walked to the pay phone to make my first set of calls, I realized that though my heart was breaking and it was very real for me, I had things I was going to have to do and I was going to have to find balance in allowing myself to grieve while I managed these other tasks.

I look back on that period of time and am able to do so with a great deal of pride.

There have been times since I've been laid off that I've fallen into a hole. Though I have sought emotional support from friends, there are times I hear that saying in my head and it snaps me out of my slump.

When I land my next gig, I want to be able to look back knowing I stood strong through it and didn't let "it" win. Granted this crisis isn't like when my brother died, but that doesn't lessen the fact that, at times, it seems pretty damn big.

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