Privilege Blog

To Feel Relief Or Not, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:43am


I hired someone to come every other week and clean my house. I managed two good walks. I cooked an actual dinner, twice. And so life flirts with normal. I am in no way ready to say we’re clear, my mom is not yet stabilized, too many factors in flux. I’ll take one moment.

Which brings up a question –  how to approach life when you’ve just been through a series of emergencies? Better to focus on optimism? Enjoy the calm even if it may disappear like grass on fire? Or better to wake up in a state of high alert, imagining the worst cases and living through them in advance. Hmm.

I do understand the principle of yogic calm. Live in the moment. I think that works really well for general anxiety and modern discomfort. But during prolonged difficulty, you have to review the past for hints of a pattern, observe the present for data, and forecast a future. Or, futures with an S, because nothing is yet certain.

I guess that’s the nature of emergencies. Nothing is yet certain.

Here’s something else. The ebbing of distress feels good. When you’ve been flat out coping, and then you have time to actually take a walk, or, hey, get your house cleaned, or restake that olive tree that you worry that it isn’t getting enough sunlight, regular tasks feel like little jigs.

I’m not going to argue that everyone should go out and get themselves a crisis, but, maybe, as recompense for all this work, in future my being can better acknowledge the underlying layer of non-pain of my usual life.

Have a good weekend everyone. Deep breaths all around.


39 Responses

  1. My husband & I refer these moments as Plan B.
    We will have made a plan (or, simply, life is just moving along quietly)and then a wrench is thrown in the works.
    Just yesterday we spent over 4 hours in the ER with my elderly mo-in-law. My husband was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes when I was two weeks away from finishing my Master’s thesis. My husband passed out at work when I was two hours away tending to our daughter who had had emergency surgery a week earlier. We now just sigh and say, “Plan B.”

    1. @Carol, Oh gosh you have really been through the wringer. I’m kind of amazed you still have a sense of humor. My best wishes for more Plan A, and, yes, I think we’ve said Plan B once or twice.

  2. I go on organizational binges after challenges: dinners in the freezer, extra paper towels, will and POA in a red folder. I will make lists and schedules, as if being prepared will be a silver bullet for the future.

    1. @RoseG, Yes! I find myself, I guess, full of adrenaline and therefore stocking up on toilet paper, cleaning smudges off the fridge with alacrity, and planning trips to Orchard Supply for a plastic shed to house my woodpile.

  3. What I’m living through right now is not a crisis as yours is, but it’s a tough time nonetheless, and although I try to manage pockets of nourishing calm and I try to pace myself, I can’t help but be frustrated by admonitions to stay cool, live in the moment, be zen, whatever. There are deadlines with significant financial and logistic and social implications that must be attended to, and both past and future impinge forcefuly — and helpfully, I believe.
    Adrenaline carries health risks, we know, but it also helps as perform as required. That said. I’m so glad you’re touching down occasionally on small patches of normal. May they grow larger. . . xo

    1. @Frances/Materfamilias, “There are deadlines with significant financial and logistic and social implications that must be attended to, and both past and future impinge forcefuly — and helpfully, I believe.” Exactly. And at a certain point, backing off feels like childish irresponsibility, and not Zen at all. May your small patches of normal grow ever larger too.

  4. I have just gone through a crisis period with someone very close to me which had (and continues to have) a very profound effect on my life. It has both encouraged me to do some preparation to ease future crises and relish all the ‘normal’ times as if they are a gift. Which they are. Enjoy your bits of normalcy.

  5. When my father had a series of emergencies I found that housework between periods of “high alert” gave me a sense of control over something since I had absolutely no control over his cancer. It was followed by mindless tv watching, though in hindsight a walk would have been better for me. I’m heartbroken for you.

    1. @Leslie K, Thank you so much. Organizing folders seems to be my drug of choice. And I do recommend walks on hills, the vistas remind me that there’s so much out there that’s free and open.

  6. Going through a lot of crisis really teach one to be thankful for small blessings (or smaller crisis than it is:-)).
    Or as W. Churchill said :”If you’re going through hell,keep going”
    Some things happen and you think that you couldn’t deal with it- but you do! Believe me…..
    Take care! Deep breaths!
    It is not forbidden to enjoy moment(s) of something nice outside the crisis

    1. @dottoressa, Winston to the rescue. Thank you. And the nice moments seem to be necessary in order to lift that next foot, at least for me, not being quite as bellicose as Mr. Churchill:).

  7. Hello Lisa
    I am glad that all is now okay.

    It is true, after the turmoils of life, being able to return to the mundane is such a blessed relief.

    Here’s to embracing the normal and also being that much stronger from surviving the dramas that have now passed.

    Much love

    SSG xxx

    1. @Sydney Shop Girl, I hope that I can bring forward some lessons. And I wish that all were now OK, it isn’t. But, we are focused completely on trying to get things to their best possible realistic state.

  8. This is very hard. I find making difficult decisions a bit easier when I remind myself that if something does not work as planned, I can, as the decision maker, make adjustments to improve outcomes This approach provides me with greater control. Control over what might be a series of decisions.

    Also, taking time out for yourself, as you are doing, is most important. Take care – Susan

    1. @Susan, I believe that this will prove to be a series of decisions, and I am just not sure when we will dig ourselves out of being so behind in understanding the situation.

  9. I hate to upstage Carol, but MY husband is the absolute master of creating emergency situations. About 10 years ago we were sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner with the ENTIRE family present. For some unknown reason hubby decided to go get one of his guns to show “the guys”. It went off in our master bathroom pinging around the tiles until it went through a wall into our master closet. In the process, Hubby shot himself through the arm and had to be taken to the ER. I told our son to just drop him off at the ER and come home to eat with the rest of us. Son was white was a sheet but returned 30 minutes later to have dinner with us.

    Another time hubby decided to JUMP into his pants. Hubby is a senior citizen. He broke a leg and had to be taken to the hospital AGAIN. I could detail another 5 or 6 similar episodes relating to horses and chainsaws but you get the idea.

    Many years ago I had a panic attach while driving on the freeway in a sudden snow storm with our infant son. That sent me to a friend who is a psychologist. He helped me to understand that I cannot control everything. Since that time, people have been amazed at my calm in the face of adversity.

    That’s life. It’s always interesting! No one can control everything so take a deep breath and just go with the flow.

    Smiles from Charlotte

  10. Some wise words that really helped me get through a 3 month crisis period consisting of my father’s passing, my husband’s infidelity, and finally my brother and my own mother holding a hostile takeover at our family’s 25 year old business. THIS TOO SHALL PASS. These challenges also changed my whole life perspective in regards to respecting the NOW and filling it with contentment and joy instead of always wondering what’s around the future corner.

    1. @Irene, Those were a really, really bad 3 months. My issue is that I have tasks to perform, and research to day, this isn’t all wholly out of my control so I just can’t let go:(.

  11. Speaking of coping, my sister and I share a disturbing trait when we are together – we fall into fits of hysterical laughter when under great stress (at grampa’s open casket when we were very young, as she shaved my head during chemo). When our dad was actively dying we took a break from the stress by sitting on the front porch, and yes, laughing hysterically. Dad died that same morning and in my memory we were merely watching twinkling stars in a very dark night, and together we found the dawn. Be well.

    1. @Janet, My siblings and I have found much respite in black humor. I love the image of your porch and the stars.

  12. Hi,

    My favourite feeling ever in the whole world is relief. Nothing beats it.

    In 2010, so many things went wrong for me. I had a late term miscarriage, my Grandmother died, 2 weeks later my uncle died and then a few months later my aunt died. Work was insane and my nerves were on edge.

    I just kept thinking, it won’t feel like this in 6 weeks time, 6 months time, 6 years time. And it kind of doesn’t. The grief never goes but the coping skills improve.

    I like to prepare for the worst- savings, meals in the freezer, close friends nearby, always telling people I love them…And Domestic Minutiae is absolutely the most comforting thing ever during these times. It’s mindless, it’s comforting and it’s soothing. I cannot tell you how many risottos I made, just for the stirring action.

    I also find that having extremely low expectations, and finding joy in the simplest thing, like a smile or a flower is Key.


    1. @Faux Fuchsia, Oh I had no idea you’d had such a series of troubles. I am so glad you are in such a better place now. And this will be my mantra for today. “I also find that having extremely low expectations, and finding joy in the simplest thing, like a smile or a flower is Key.”

  13. Yup, I know what you mean. It’s like being well again after having a cold – being able to taste food properly, go outside, have a shower and clean sheets. Lovely stuff.

    I hope you have times of rest and peace and productiveness to help keep you in balance.

  14. My sisters & I nursed our mum with cancer for two years before her death . She desperately wanted to stay at home & one of my sisters is a nurse , so we set up a rota & we coped . I’ve never been a jigsaw fan but for those two years we had a succession of jigsaws on the go . Everyone had a turn including mums friends who visited . The concentration kept other thoughts at bay . We also kept telling ourselves it was normal , most people have to care for elderly parents & they cope . When they go there is relief for all sorts of reasons & that’s normal too . Day at a time .

  15. “The ebbing of distress feels good”. SOmetimes we need to just take that breath, sigh, and savor it. Crisis makes that all the more real.

    But I am no expert at coping, or recovering. Three years after the death of my spouse, three years after the end of what proved to be pretty much a seven-year state of constant crisis, I still find myself struggling to accept normalcy. Some part of me can’t quite believe I don’t have to fight, can’t believe those moments of peace aren’t a false lull before another storm. That crisis trigger is still lurking in the back of my mental muscle-memory and although I’d like to disarm it, I haven’t quite figured out how.

  16. Lisa, sending you a big virtual hug. Hoping things continue to settle and that those normal moments become, well the norm again.

    Not crises, but going through some major changes/upheavals, including making some decisions that will have long-term ramifications. It’s all good, but still anxiety-making. I’ll be grateful to have settled into our New Normal, once we hit that point.

  17. Enjoy this respite and I do think optimism and doing things you truly enjoy are the answer.

  18. I’m so glad you have cleaning service now! it is a little indulgence that does one a world of good, plus it provides someone a paying job.

    Sometimes life is like an apple cart. From time to time a few apples fall off here and there, we pick them up, put them back on, maybe rearrange a bit.
    Then there may come an occasion when the whole apple cart is tipped over, maybe even broken into pieces. We may be need right it, rebuild and redo the whole thing. It will look differently, maybe missing or different apples even. They are put back on slowly, perhaps while grieving, with intention, to bring a new sense of stability and peace.

    I’ve rebuilt a few apple carts in my life and Churchill is right. Thank you @dottoressa!

  19. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s accounts of their struggles, it reminds us that we are not alone and that it is part of the human condition. This is such a lovely community here. <3 xxx

  20. I know everyone is different, but when there’s a situation that is not really controllable, I feel calmer controlling what I can in my life. Clean house, overnight bag packed, fuel tank full, and exercising when I can.

    1. @Kathy, I agree Kathy. Crisis always leaves me feeling wind-blown so I also tend to do things that help me take control of my world, like putting my house in order and taking better care of myself. This allows me to better cope with the crisis at hand. Knowing I have control over some parts of my life allows me to focus more clearly on the crisis.

  21. This seems to by the cyclical nature of life, n’est-ce pas? You’re right: the time after any such crisis does feel like a fresh start of sorts. I wish you zen vibes during this difficult time, dear Lisa.

  22. My life is feeling difficult right now. Several situations to be dealt with. Most days I must remind myself to “buck up” and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. What’s that saying? If you find yourself in hell, just keep going. I agree that when life seems out of our control, it’s calming to do those things we can control. Sending you love and keeping you in my thoughts.

  23. I had a call SUNDAY that my MOTHER was pointing a knife at her CAREGIVER!By the time I got there the POLICE HAD ARRIVED……………..I talked them out of carting HER away and am holding my breath until the NEXT episode.I did take ALL KNIVES and SCISSORS AWAY with ME!


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