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Friday, June 8, 2012

Manage Change/Laugh When Your Baby is Dying

Friday and I'm struggling to keep my head in the game, my spirits up and things moving forward. This morning final inspection of the office by the buyers and now a nice couple here looking to buy a couple of the cubicles. They're aeronautical engineers so it's fun overhearing their calculations. There is SOOO much to do for me to be out of here by next week. I get why folks are traumatized by moving. By many standards what I'm going through is simple, unlike, for instance, when my parents were forced to sell the family home in Plymouth, Mass. They'd lived there for 25 years or so and every crevice was was jammed full of precious things. They had a few yard sales but when moving day came and the movers showed up, the place was largely unpacked. They just weren't able to rise to the demands of the occasion. At one point, my father went missing - no one could find him. Mother finally located him curled up like a baby in a corner of a vacant room - like he'd been shell shocked - fetal ball.

There is a lot of change in the air. I'm thinking of many of my friends who are faced with seismic upheavals. One friend who is going through a horrific divorce is struggling to hold onto the things that are precious to him - not lose too much in the settlement. Another friend overextended himself with a property purchase that's become a financial black hole - he's trying to stay afloat. Yet another friend is going through a divorce at the same time demands from work have tripled and his kid is struggling and requires focus. And of course, there is me, going through my own painful downsizing.

In each and every case, the change is a blessing of sorts. It may be forced upon us, sometimes feel like a runaway train, but at the end of the day, if we manage it decently, we will find our lives to be more manageable. It's hard to hold that perspective, though, when you're in the middle of crisis, but truth is that, when the forest burns, it creates a clean slate for good new things to grow. New relationships, new career paths, new simpler lifestyles and more.

Talked with friend Josh this morning - we talked about divesting the accumulation of stuff we've accumulated over the years. Friend Carol refers to it as the carp syndrome - when I met her she lived with her four children and husband in a tiny house which was packed appealingly with antiques and collectibles. Since then she's moved to a house that's more than twice the size and she joked that she would carp her way into filling the new space with even more stuff. Stuff begets stuff it seems. Josh, who is in the middle of Craigs-listing old layers of his life said, "More Stuff, Less Life." Ain't that the truth! He and I are hellbent on being reverse carps, shrinking the bowl, throwing out the fake plants and plastic treasure chests. Good riddance!

I've been a good listener lately, helping friends put their problems into perspective, assuring them it's 100% guaranteed their problems will play out with an acceptable resolutions if they keep their head in the game. I encourage them to identify the worst case scenario and ponder if they they could live with it.  Had a friend who, years ago, lost his high paying executive job and decided to start his own business. It was dicey - not guaranteed to be a success and he was going to have to liquidate most of what he owned to fund the start-up. It could have been paralyzing, but Ed played all the possible outcomes in his head, including the worse one which was losing his house, getting a room at the "Y" and wearing the blue vest at Walmart. Seriously, that was what he figured was the worst case. He asked himself if he could survive that outcome and he decided that, yup, if he had to, he could wear the blue vest and share the bathroom down the hall with homeless people. For him it was empowering, examining the worst case scenario. Some people might think it was an unnecessarily pessimistic mental exercise but for Ed it was what he needed to make the bold move.  He was pretty sure he would make a go of the new business but if he calculated wrong, he knew he'd be OK. And he was more than OK - the new business thrived.

That is what I'm telling my friends these days. Look your worst case scenario square in its face - shed some light on it - talk about it with friends. Laugh about it even. Soon, it will bear little power over you - you won't lay awake paralyzed with fear. Saturday, Josh will come over and we will laugh and laugh about our struggles. Liza will be there and she will, in her Liza way, make us all feel better by spinning horrible, ridiculous scenarios. If one of our friends is faced with ruin, she will assure him that, when he moves into a refrigerator box in Lower Wacker, we will have a housewarming party for him. He'll need things like a portable commode (I actually found one in cleaning my office - think it was a pandemic flu supply for someone stricken with the flu who couldn't make it to the toilet - not sure what I had in mind), hand warmers, a switchblade for defense and more! She will have us in stitches! Liza is all about laughter. When her baby was on his death bed from meningitis (he recovered), she and her mother, who hadn't slept in days and were beyond punchy, made jokes about his condition, cracking each other up with their macabre humor. The staff didn't understand how a mother and grandmother could be laughing at such a terrible time. I do.

Challenge today is being there for friends who are managing difficult change. Difficult changes are everywhere - effects of the bad economy that continue to trickle down into ordinary folks' lives. Lots of people I know have held strong for a time, tightened their belts and hoped for a quicker turnaround that just doesn't seem to be coming fast enough. So, big life adjustments all over the place: children moving back in with parents; folks selling ancestral homes; elder care taken in house; vacations cancelled; entertainment budgets slashed. It's all traumatic - change is never easy. Thinking, though, it's going to be good in the long run to live in a more pared down way.


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