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You might have heard something along the lines of “what you give your attention to, grows”.

So, in thinking about that, what happens when crappy things happen?  If you give them attention, are more crappy things going to happen? Should you just ignore them and move on?

Here’s the thing.  Repressing the bad things and not dealing with them isn’t good for anyone.  At the same time, letting them take over your life long-term isn’t the answer either (because then they really will keep growing).

 

How I deal with the bad stuff

The Background

The end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 were a bit of a struggle.  I had booked a multi-city ticket in August that would take me from Washington to North Carolina to New York to Florida to Texas for Christmas and New Years and then back to Washington.

North Carolina – I lived there for 6 years prior to moving to Washington.  I was looking forward to spending time with a friend and taking the opportunity to drive down to South Carolina to meet with a business I had been working with over the last year, but we had never met in person.

New York – for those of you who don’t know, I am a living liver donor and donated 65% of my liver in NYC in December of 2018.  It was time for my one year post-op visit and it also meant I would get to spend a few days with my sister.

Florida – my liver recipient and his parents live in Florida, so I was heading down there for a week to spend some time with them and enjoy a little sand and sunshine.

Texas – my final stop was at my best friend’s house where I would spend Christmas and New Years with her and her family.

I had booked this trip in August and was really excited about it.  And then in September, Tucker, my dog of 12 years, started to show signs of something not being quite right.  Over the next couple of months he had multiple tests and procedures and we eventually determined it was his liver (how’s that for karma?!). But with medications and a change in his food, he was back to 90% by November.  While I didn’t like the idea of leaving him, I knew there was no reason that he shouldn’t be just fine…

So, back to the trip. I hadn’t done anything quite like this before, so by the time I found myself in NYC, I was already operating on less sleep than I needed and indulging in foods I don’t get to eat regularly.  By the time I was wrapping up things in NYC, I got hit with a nasty cold.

I spent my seven days in Florida on DayQuil and NyQuil.  While I was in Florida, Tucker started showing some disturbing symptoms and my vet drove up from Seattle to pick him up for me and care for him.  I wondered if I should head home, but she wanted to get him sorted out and figure out what was going on before I panicked.

Two nights after I arrived in Texas, I was hit with the flu (that took me out the week of Christmas)… which also came with a nasty cough.  After my MRI at my one year appointment, I found out that I had a small hernia where I had been cut open, but it wasn’t visible or uncomfortable, so it was nothing I really had to deal with.  The nasty cough I ended up with made that hernia far worse – it was now visible and while not necessarily painful (unless I coughed), it had become uncomfortable.  And then there was Tucker who was getting by, but I was pretty sure that when I got home it would be time to say goodbye to him.

The Bad Stuff

I flew home from Texas and stayed overnight in Seattle.  The following day I went to see Tucker and he was not ok. I knew it was time (or past time at this point) to have him put down.  I had prepared myself mentally the best I could, but it was excruciating. The following day I made my way back to the island where I live inconsolable, filled with guilt that I hadn’t come home sooner, in pain when I coughed and ready to go to bed and cry for a week.  Two days later, the company I had been working with for the previous year decided that they needed to hire a team to deal with their needs and I was no longer needed.  While this was actually a huge blessing and I knew it was ultimately a good thing, it also meant that I was now faced with losing the majority of my monthly income.

Now I had stress about money, to figure out what to do about this hernia that seemed to have tripled in size over the course of a week, and I was dealing with guilt and a huge hole without Tucker.

I’m not going to lie, life absolutely sucked.

My Process for dealing with the bad stuff

For the first week or so, I just sat in it.  I didn’t talk to anyone.  I ignored messages and emails. I just wanted to be alone and cry and sleep and cry some more.  So I did.

Letting myself be pissed and sad and think about how crappy things were was absolutely necessary.  It allowed me to get used to my current reality without taking action.

Slowly, I started to respond to the messages people had been sending checking in on me.  For some reason, those still made me cry, but at least it wasn’t constant.

Now that I had felt my feelings, I was also able to evaluate the individual situations and re-frame them a bit…

The hernia… besides just being annoying and something new I needed to deal with, it was also extra frustrating because I had begun making tentative plans to make a big move in 2020. While I love my little island, I knew it was time for a change and I had started getting excited about it as I had officially decided on where I would be going next. Now I had to deal with this and fixing it which would likely mean surgery and a period of recovery.  The bright side: If I hadn’t gotten the flu and the cough and this hadn’t become an issue now, it likely would have in the near future.  I might have moved to a new place only to have this pop up at a less opportune time when I had less options to take care of it.  Or worse, it might have gotten worse and then turned into an emergency situation and since I was looking at needing to fly across the country to get it taken care of, an emergency situation would have made that really interesting.  Now, I could take the time to deal with it, heal from it and then start fresh.

Tucker… I just have to keep reminding myself that everyone dies and there is no escaping that. This one is really hard to see a bright side to because it just feels wrong.  That being said, the bright side of the way everything happened probably saved me from multiple trips down to Seattle, not knowing the right course of action… the way everything played out, I knew immediately once I saw him and spent time with him that he was done and it was time to let him go.

Losing my client… other than the loss of money at a really inopportune time, I knew deep down that this was the best thing that could have happened for me. So many bright sides! The relationship had become extremely unhealthy for me and over the last year they had not only drained all of my time and attention, but had made me not want to look at my phone or email because there was always an “emergency” or five to be dealt with.  Now, I didn’t have to worry about them while I was dealing with my stuff, I could return my focus to the clients I felt like I had been neglecting because they had sucked up all of my time and energy, and could even enjoy what it is that I do!  Plus, the fact that I would be down at some point this year from surgery would have been hard for them to deal it.

So, when life sucks, which it absolutely does sometimes,

  1. Feel your feelings.  Be mad. Be sad.  You don’t need to do anything.
  2. Once your are able to pick yourself up, look at what is going on… how could it actually be working/have happened in your favor?
  3. Take the actions to move forward.

My actions for dealing with the bad stuff

I have reached out to New York Presbyterian to set up a consultation with their hernia specialist.  Once the consultation is done, surgery will be scheduled.

The pain and sadness of losing Tucker will lessen over time.  In the meantime, I have found people who needed pill pockets, dog food, and treats and have given away those item so that other puppy dogs could use them.  I’ve also found a couple of Etsy shops that make jewelry for commemorating the loss of a pet that I will order from once I have his ashes and paw prints from the vet.

I have started re-branding and changing the way I offer my services so that I never end up in a situation similar to the one I found myself in with my former client.  I have also sent an invoice to that client for all unpaid hours (they were paying a monthly fee to allow them to budget) that once paid, will take the financial stress off as I rebuild my business and the way I want to do things moving forward.

 

How do you deal with the bad stuff?  Are you going through something right now that you could use support with?  Comment below.

 

Need some extra resources to help you through the tough times? Check out these journal prompts.