by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
BIG PLAN A
I’ve had surprising challenges since I set out to achieve personal goals. I made bold decisions to leave a career I’d outgrown, sell my home, move out-of-state to be in place as caregiver for my aging parent, then use my new situation to apply myself toward my lifelong dreams of working from home as a creator.
CHANGE CAN BE AWKWARD
I’ve learned through this process that just because I’m doing something for a good reason (help my mother and relieve other family members) doesn’t mean it will be easy or even appreciated by others. Big changes bring out big obstacles.
People need time to adjust to significant transitions. Sometimes the initial shift brings out uncomfortable aspects within a relationship or from within a person. People just flat-out respond differently (including me) when facing new challenges. I’m learning to check my expectations at the door, lower my judgment, strive to listen to opposing perspectives, and work on the only person I have control over; me.
EXPECT NOTHING TO BE EASY
I’ve also learned that going after my dreams doesn’t mean they will be handed to me on a silver platter. It’s been my experience that thinking the hardest part is over is almost always wrong. Something more difficult or unexpected often presents itself. It is best to prepare myself to expect nothing to be easy, and to forge a life-state ready for impending problems.
I’ve found that being true to myself and going all out for my dreams means I may face resistance in the form of judgment from others whose values differ from my own, or who have an outdated version of me in their psyche. That means I must embolden myself to withstand countering views, to stand my ground and persist on paving my new pathway without support or understanding.
Again, expect nothing.
DISCOVERING YOUR ABILITY TO CREATE PLAN B
Reflecting on myself through this period of troubles, I’ve found my weaknesses as well as strengths I didn’t realize were in me. On the plus side, I’ve discovered that despite the fact my best laid plans were completely skewed from the start, I have qualities that enable me to push through and create Plan B.
Let me share a bit of my story to make my point. My plan was to sell my home, and use the profits to cover 6-months to a year's expenses for my out-of-state move while building my online business as a blogger, podcast host and course creator. This plan and timeline were both utterly botched by an inexperienced realtor, an unforeseen hurricane, and unexpected family health emergencies.
My home was under contract to close when I moved to Kentucky from Florida last July. But the buyer strung me and my realtor along a series of peculiar delays. In hindsight, I now know these delays should’ve been avoided by my realtor quickly cancelling that buyer’s contract early on, to immediately put my lovely home back on market. Instead, that buyer failed to win loan approval after three months’ delay, just in time for a hurricane of historic power (Irma) to strike near my home, causing a housing slow-down (but, fortunately no damage to my home).
After the hurricane passed, I stressed to my realtor my urgency to sell my home, as I had not anticipated moving out of state before my home sale. She had a melt-down during our phone conversation, and instead vindictively sabotaged my home sale. Though I attempted giving her time and the benefit of doubt, due to no showings in 6 months, I finally found a second realtor.
My new realtor showed the home 11 times in less than 2 months during the slowest (holidays) season, and in February, I finally sold my home after an 8-month delay. (Whew!)
FINDING THE VALUE WITHIN YOUR STRUGGLES
This is only a partial view of the story, as I simultaneously dealt with additional unanticipated challenges as a new caregiver, a bizarre botching of my investment funds from my previous job's Human Resources department, and with other family issues that slowed down my focus on establishing my online business.
But, I also had a variety of mystic protection and benefits.
I was eligible for disaster relief due to the hurricane, even though my home suffered zero damage! This allowed me nearly 6 months of freedom from one credit card and my mortgage payments! Thanks to my diligent juggling with living off my credit cards while waiting for my home sale, I achieved my goal to keep my credit score unscathed (currently 836!). Having struggled for many years to transform my credit score from horrible to stellar, and keep it there, was a true personal victory.
Due to the delay, I managed to grow my IRA to more than I anticipated, and finally got my funds transferred to my account. I had a wonderful local group of capable men volunteer (in 20° snowy weather!) to move my belongings from an expensive pod to an affordable, more convenient storage unit!
YOUR TRUE VICTORY IS WITHIN YOUR PROBLEMS
I’m grateful for these wonderful benefits, but find my struggles exponentially more valuable. Through adversity, I began to forge tenacity, resourcefulness, flexibility, appreciation, develop patience, tap into my inherent wisdom, and fuel my sense of empathy for others facing unforeseen challenge.
I also learned that my tendencies to doubt myself, complain about my hardships, or be inflexible and narrow-minded do not add value nor provide solutions, relief or comfort to me or anyone around me.
Having to experience a failed Plan A, move on to Plan B, while juggling all the complications that entails, is an infinitely more valuable chapter in my life than having had everything go smoothly from the start.
CHALLENGING WORKOUTS BUILD STRENGTH
Difficulties are like climbing mountains.
The higher the altitude gets, the more the climber has to develop and expand in survival capacity. Just walking down a straight, flat road doesn’t test or build one’s abilities in comparison to climbing a mountain.
But after climbing a mountain, a walk down the road feels like a vacation.
What I’ve learned is that Plan B is about my behavior as a human being.
How do I become the most capable, compassionate, wise, person?
How do I fulfill my greatest potential?
Setting goals that seem impossible to achieve, getting my plans crushed and having to devise a new way through--being forced to find innovative ways to get through a challenge--is what dreams are made of. Responding to each surprising obstacle with the determination to win victory no matter what is crucial to my becoming the best I can be.
The developments I make through struggles in one aspect of my life interconnect and apply toward other aspects of my life. Through my 8-month journey, I forged discipline to write, compose and network, bringing me a sudden burst of freelance work, creative projects, and personal connections. I'm also becoming a better writer, social media manager, and have expanded my content to podcasts and affiliate marketing. These are in sync with what I envision as my lifelong dream path to manifest my full potential as an artist for peace.
Plan B is about my behavior as a human being. It’s about how to respond to the difficulties in front of me. It’s about how I create a better me out of the situation. Creating value out of any situation is transformational for me and those around me.
Plan B, from this moment forward, is about brilliant transformation.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about my perspective on struggles as a means to make improvement. Please share your comments below.
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(This piece originally appeared at TheCaregiverSpace.org )
By Jenny Leigh Hodgins
I segued into the role of caregiver for my aging parent quicker than expected. Last year, I left my 30-year career, and sold my Florida home to move back to Kentucky as my mother’s caregiver. I planned to be in place well ahead of need, while I transitioned to working remotely as a freelancer.
1. LIFE’S CURVEBALLS AND SLEDGEHAMMERS
Things don’t always go according to plan. Life hits with big moments whenever it damn well feels like it. Like many adult children, I face the bittersweet reality of being a caregiver to my parent before either of us are ready. I thought I’d have time to ease into the role, but sometimes health issues pop up or wallop like a sledgehammer.
What a wake-up call, being there when Mom is ill, pained face, weak and trembling, incoherent and out-of-it. Alone in that moment, feeling the full burden of being responsible for her well-being can be an enormously scary place. Facing the impending reality of that final chapter in the cycle of life is not for sissies.
The foreign world of medical terms, insurance and co-pays, increasingly hectic medical appointment schedule, and daily living responsibilities can add up to an overwhelming mountain of pressure. I hadn’t anticipated how my own daily rhythm would be derailed, interrupted or flat-out sacrificed at times.
2. GET AHEAD OF THE CURVE
The learning curve comes swiftly, so I’ve found it best to get my game plan in place, and build my life-state to be ready to play. I’ve discovered the importance of taking care of myself. Putting that oxygen mask on myself first enables me to ward against getting overwhelmed or sick, and be better prepared emotionally, spiritually and practically as caregiver.
3. GET YOUR GAME ON
That means I have to protect my daily rhythm. To be effective in my work as a writer and composer, as a caregiver, and more balanced in my wellness, I have to establish ‘me time’. I rise early to pray, eat and have uninterrupted workflow when I function at my best.
I schedule exercise later in the day to maintain my energy. I use my smartphone calendar app to send me alerts so I stay, or get back on, task. Mapping out my own daily schedule and preserving it as best I can keeps me on top of things and less overwhelmed when Mom’s needs arise.
4. PLAN TO BE THERE IN ADVANCE
I’m grateful to have already settled in, so I’m here when Mom needs me. Not having to rush from another state, or even across town, or leave my workplace, is one load of worry off our minds. My being in place takes some burden off my other family members who don’t have the liberty of leaving jobs, children or properties.
5. TEAM HUDDLE
Keeping open communication with Mom and family members about her health, financial and social needs, as well as legal plans, distributes the caregiving load and assures Mom that we are onboard and unified to uphold her wishes. Getting things in place beforehand helps alleviate worry from all.
This attempt to keep all in the loop brings us closer in harmony to one another. For the caregiver, that support from family team players is indispensable to peace of mind, providing further strength for the tasks ahead.
6. KNOW WHAT YOU KNOW
Getting to know my mother’s daily rhythm gives me knowledge useful for effective emergency response. Being familiar with her usual mannerisms, daily lifestyle, energy, verbal and cognitive responses makes it easy to recognize when something isn’t right.
Paying attention to symptoms early on allows early detection and an upper hand in maintaining her wellness. Knowing her doctors, appointments, medications, and health issues is powerful ammunition against mishaps, and preventative against health problems that could run undetected.
The role of caregiver can present itself sooner than anticipated, bringing unexpected, new challenges. But I’m finding that having a game plan, a great team that communicates well, a strategy for maintaining my wellness, and tackling challenges with gusto allows me to respond well even to the hardest curveball.
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