Sunday, January 13, 2008

When the Going Gets Tough

I’d like to say that I’m the type of person who immediately goes into problem-solving mode when the going gets tough, but the truth is that I have a personal freak-out period before I’m able to do anything. I freeze up. I’m paralyzed. And that’s scary as hell to me.

The worst type of news to receive is news that’s both bad and unexpected. The kind that you have to take immediate action on and the kind that has completely blindsided you at the same time – the kind that you’ve never even considered to be a possibility, so coming up with a solution is completely outside of your realm of comfort.

A year and a half ago my dad died unexpectedly. There were many factors that contributed to his death, but all were accidental, so I feel completely comfortable saying that his passing was 100% unexpected. It turned my life upside down. My dad was always the primary breadwinner in our house, and this was no exception up until his death. My mom works, but it’s not nearly enough to live off of. When we got the call that he had died, I think I grieved for all of 20 minutes before I started having the practical freak outs. What were we going to do? How would we pay for the funeral? How was my mom going to live? Where was she going to live? Was she going to have to live with J and me? Oh, fuck. FUCK.

I was paralyzed with all these thoughts swimming around in my head. On top of it, my mom was relying on me to come up with a plan. Not only did she have absolutely no idea how her own household was run, but also she was completely overwhelmed with the idea of having to learn how to run it and do it herself. I was completely freaked out trying to figure out how I was going to piece it all together. It’s hard enough learning something new with instruction, but having to search and dig for clues in a foreign environment is ridiculously hard.

The months following my dad’s passing were filled with visits to the bank, the lawyer, and the social security office. We went to court, spent hours on the phone, dug through piles of paperwork, and followed an endless amount of bureaucratic processes. I lived each day not knowing if the plan I had made was going to work. What if I missed something? I tried to be conservative with all my estimates. If I failed, I had no one to blame but myself, but my mom was the one who would suffer the consequences.

I think I instantly grew up the day my dad died. I no longer had a place to go if my own life didn’t work out. My safety net was gone, and now the roles were reversed and I was providing that for my mom. There was no room for failure, because at the very least I needed to be able to provide a sense of security – a secure, safe, comfortable home – for my mom. She’d already been through so much. She needed to know that things, on a practical level, were going to be all right.

Only time provided feedback for me. Luckily, I got it right. Well, I got enough of it right that nothing completely disastrous happened. My mom has been able to stay in her house, pay her bills, and continue working her job. The emotional impact of my dad’s death is a completely different story that isn’t reflected here.

This blog, posted out-of-cycle on a Sunday, is more for me than it is for you. I’m in the middle of another tough situation, albeit a drop in the bucket compared to my life a year and a half ago. Still, I’m writing this to try and gain perspective. To rid me of the paralysis I’m currently feeling. I know if I can make it through helping to get my mom’s life back in order, I can handle what I’m facing now. I can do this.

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