What to do When Life Disrupts Your Plans
For Chicks on the Case, February 2023
I was on a roll, writing regularly with focus and discipline, religiously attending my critique group, getting work published and then, life, as it inevitably does, totally upended my plans. A fall on the ice, a concussion, years of dizziness and a limited ability to focus ensued.
After crying, denial, lots of anger and cursing, endless rehab, I slogged through the stages of grief because I knew nothing would ever be the same again. I finally struggled to acceptance, a state I’m in at least most of the time. Okay, maybe half the time.
From this experience, I gathered a few things to remember for when the ‘big unexpected’ strikes again, as it inevitably will.
Stop regarding upsetting events as interruptions of one’s “real” life. The truth is that what one calls the interruptions or crises are precisely one’s real life. All the fiction we write can’t replace that fact.
2. Grieve Your Disruption/Loss
Not grieving can result in irritability, anger, illness, obsessive disorders and other behaviors that are bad for you. A stiff upper lip will only paralyze your face.
3. Simplify and Triage
Separate what’s critical from what isn’t. Let the latter stuff go, even if it causes a bit of guilt and discomfort. It’s better for you in the long run to cast off the less important work and put that energy into recovery.
4. Recallibrate Your Expectations
You’re not going to be able to do the same things at the same pace after a traumatic event. Be willing to adjust your expectations to the circumstances and give yourself the blessing of grace.
5. Reach Out to Others
Don’t isolate. If you feel you’re struggling, seek support from your colleagues, friends, and family. Give them the opportunity to love you and be there for you. My relationships in the awesome Colorado writing community were a great source of encouragement.
6. Find the Good in the Situation
Now this one can seem impossible. Although my brain will never function the same after my accident, I have a new appreciation for folks who live their lives productively with disabilities, many much worse than mine. I included a quadriplegic vet as a major character in my latest thriller The Rx for Murder. Had it not been for my own struggles, he would not exist and he is very cool.
7. Exercise and Breathe
Do something physical that puts you ‘in the moment’ where you can leave the stressors behind even if for a short respite. Walk, run, garden, do yoga, whatever—do something to give your mind and body a break.
8. The Overwhelming Immediacy of the Crisis Will Abate
Remember the Hebrew saying by wise King Solomon, “Gam ze ya’avor,” which means, “This, too, shall pass.”