A young woman I know just went through an overwhelming crisis.
It wasn’t life-threatening, but it was lifestyle-threatening, life-as-you-know-it-threatening, and life-may-not-ever-be-the-same-threatening.
It involved lack of employment, lack of wages, lack of health care, lack of a vehicle and even lack of housing.
Let’s just say that, in the great American way—where so many people have so much to lose—she’d lost everything.
It was overwhelming and terrifying and caused many people around her to freeze.
She, however, did not freeze. In fact, as the saying goes, “When the going got tough, she got going.”
I’ve known this young woman for a long time, and I don’t think she ever thought of herself as tough.
While she may not have been quite ready to hear about her strengths, so relieved was she to have made it to the other shore that all she wanted to do was rest there for a while. But I made a note of these strengths so that I wouldn’t forget.
May it be a guide to others in times of crisis:
1) She took one step at a time, asking herself, “What is the next thing that has to happen and how can I make it happen?”
2) She just kept putting one foot in front of the other, even if she didn’t seem to be gaining much ground. I remember her telling me, “If I stop moving I’ll fall. I don’t want to fall.”
3) She kept it simple. “I’ll just do this,” she said many times. “It’s a simple, easy thing to do.”
4) She swallowed her pride. “I had to call on my family for help. I never thought I would have to do that, but in the circumstances I was in, it was the only thing I could do.”
5) She didn’t criticize anyone or blame anyone else. “What good would it do to be angry with this person or that person?” She said, ”It won’t solve any problems. Maybe later I’ll get angry. But now, it won’t help matters.”
6) She never felt sorry for herself. Never said anything like, “Why did this happen to me?” or anything of the sort. If she thought that, she didn’t give it voice.
7) She surrounded herself with people who didn’t blame her or criticize her for being in the situation she found herself in, distancing herself from anyone who didn’t in some way help keep her lifeboat afloat. “I just can’t be around those people,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to keep from going under emotionally.”
8) She watched for indications that she was in the flow or that she would ultimately get where she was going, and she didn’t question the signals. When she got a green light, she celebrated: “Can you believe it? The guy said he would wait to get paid for the car repairs!” When she got a red light, she turned and went another direction. “The rent on that place was too steep and they wanted a credit check. I’m not going down that credit check route, it will just depress me.”
9) She had resilience. Rather than letting failure overcome her, she “found a way to soldier on and rise from the ashes.”
I myself have never been through such a thorough stripping of everything that was familiar to me. I’ve been divorced twice, but each time I had a soft landing. I’ve been without a job, but each time it was of my own choosing. I’ve even been without my health, but not in a way that left me without hope.
I was inspired by her.
“You’ve really come through something,” I told her many months later when the storm was over.
“I don’t know how I did it,” she claimed.
I believe that one day my friend will look back on what she called “the worst time of her life” and acknowledge the woman she was at the time and just how many personal strengths and gifts it took to get her and her family to the other side of the ravine.
I believe that one day she will look back and see that as a result she has become a mighty woman, the woman she is today.
I believe that she has been changed forever.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Image: Oscar Keys/Unsplash
Editor: Toby Israel
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