A Creeping Crisis
Some crises develop gradually. Some are excruciatingly slow.
Perhaps it is the approaching death of a parent with terminal cancer. Or it is the military dad/son/husband who will be deployed to an overseas conflict. Or it may be a huge financial crisis, which will likely take away the family’s savings and home.
In these situations, the anticipation of the looming crisis is a danger in itself, for anxiety can take deep root early, and that can be paralyzing.
At some point a person facing a slow-moving crisis makes decisions (conscious and subconscious), to deal with it or ignore it. Psychologist call it the “fight or flight” response. We can run from our problems or fight them head on. Of course, we often do both. We fight something for a bit, then flee it for a while. I suppose, that is not a bad strategy, actually, as long as the general attitude is to win, not just avoid. So, we can fight. Regroup. Then, fight again.
The point is that we should fight, not flee, but we must be wise about it. We must employ some strategy to work smarter, not harder.
In a pivotal scene in the great naval war movie, Master and Commander, Captain Jack Aubrey addresses his troops prior to a major battle at sea on the far side of the earth, one which they very well might lose.
They have spent months sailing across the globe, fighting an overpowering enemy, repairing their ship, surviving the high seas and deadly weather of the Antarctic, and training for this moment — a chance to engage the enemy with a new strategy, renewed vigor, and the element of surprise for once. The battle is imminent. Some will die. They all may die. But victory is the high hope.
Captain Jack says, “Right lads, now, I know there’s not a faint heart among you, and I know you’re as anxious as I am to get into close action. But we must bring them right up beside us before we spring this trap. That will test our nerve, and discipline will count just as much as courage… England is under threat of invasion, and though we be on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship is England. So it’s every hand to his rope or gun, quick’s the word and sharp’s the action.”
When you are facing a threatening storm or a deadly enemy, you need to have what Capt. Jack advises: courage, a team committed to the common cause, and discipline in preparation.
Don’t Just Stand There
Start preparing early. Do something, but not everything, right away.
Get with someone who has been through the trial you are facing and starting making plans. Because “failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Just be sure to pace yourself as you plan and with your plans. Remember, by starting early, time is on your side, so don’t try to solve every problem early on. Many of the things you want to solve, should be approached later. Some bridges should be crossed only when you get to them. So, try to plan smart.
Again, some level-headed, experienced, wise counsel can help you do just that.
Assemble the Supplies
Get the things you need to physically handle the situation. In our situation, with a physically disabled child going through surgeries and needing therapies, we have to shop for and order equipment many months in advance, so it is often the first thing we do: get the gear ordered ASAP.
So, make your lists of the things you will need. Become a “prepper” and start shopping and stockpiling, so when the storm hits earlier than expected, which happens often, you can focus on something other than running to the stores frantically.
All Hands on Deck
You will need a team of people with a variety of skill sets. On the old sailing vessels there were dozens of jobs: captain, carpenter, cook, gunner, rigger, surgeon, etc. They had to be a self-contained floating village to care for every human need while at sea for weeks between ports.
Assemble your team in the same way. Think of who are the best people you know who can help you with each specific problem: scheduling, cooking, financial planning, organizing, building, counseling, etc.
Ask them politely, well in advance, to help you with a very specific set of problems. Give them a time frame of start to finish, and be as specific as you can about what exactly you need.
Explain how incredibly helpful it would be to your and your family. Make them feel needed and appreciated before, during, and after your crisis.
When times get tough, lean on each other. Be loyal to each other. Give and take. Serve and be served. Remember to fight the enemy, not each other.
Develop an appreciation for reservists. There are people who care about you and would like to help, but they are not in your inner circle, or perhaps they live out of town or have other issues that keep them from being able to directly help. For example, most of your Facebook friends are in your corner but can’t do much to help. They can pray. They can encourage. They can like your status updates. And that is good. Enjoy that for what it is. Support. You belong to a larger tribe, and that is good. Foster that.
If you are a skilled manager then use those skills, just as you would for any large project, or have someone else organize all your preparations: your people, your supplies, your timeline, etc. Surely, there is someone in your life who can knock out a calendar, a flow chart, or some set of lists that will save you countless hours of frustration. So, once again, seek help.
Use the power of the internet to communicate the news and needs that you will have (and they will change daily). Use Caring Bridge to inform your friends and family of what is happening. Use Care Calendar for meals, visitation, household help, etc.
Be instructive. Do not assume people know what to do or what to say. Be specific because people need that and want that.
Your Anchor, Your Courage
“In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.” – hymn, Edward Mote, 1834.
You need to know your anchor, for at some point, the anchor is the key, and yet it is least thought of. A ship that loses its anchor is in big trouble, just as mast and rudder are critical. The anchor is needed for every port and especially in the midst of storms to keep the ship from crashing ashore.
Know your sources of strength. If you don’t feel that you have one, then get on that right away. Your strength may be enough to get you through normal days, but it won’t get you through what is ahead.
Courage will be needed, perhaps as never before in your life. Go to your sources before, during, and after the crisis. Don’t lose your anchor, mast, or rudder.
My anchors are in my Christian faith (in God’s ultimate good will) and in my family (my wife in particular). They keep me from crashing and burning on the rocks of a ruthless shoreline.
Life is hard, sometimes brutally unfair and vicious. It will knock you down, then kick you, then spit on you, then walk away. Don’t put all your faith in the circumstances of life. Yes, life will get better. But it will get worse again. And sometimes it maims and kills. So don’t put all your hope in circumstances getting better.
Instead, lean heavily on your faith and family and friends. It is those relationships which will transcend all of life’s circumstances. For you will need good people and a higher power to get you through to the other side of the stormy battle.