Survival Mode

Over here at the Cartwright’s, we are in full-blown survival mode. Okay, that was a bit dramatic. But we are definitely in survival mode. For us that means we are managing a crisis and so it is time to batten down the hatches and hold on tight.

After 3 years of off-and-on pain, I have finally succumbed to the fact that I am really hurtin’. I’ve ignored it, pushed past it, whined about it occasionally (or a lot), visited with a doctor here and there…and ran a marathon, 3 Ragnar Relays, a half marathon, a few 5ks, and completed miles and miles of training runs up and down mountains. I’ve cycled, Zumbaed, yogaed, hiked, and lifted weights through it. But, the pain is exhausting and I’m finally crying “uncle” and a few other words that I shouldn’t repeat. And once I give in, I really give in. I have to, because I’m not going to get any better until I do.

That means I’m down and out for the count most of the day for now and the near future. I can’t sit without a lot of pain, so I avoid it as much as possible…that means no driving or riding in the car. I can’t move around a lot without a lot of pain later…that means no anything else. I can’t lay down without a lot of pain…that means no sleep and that means tired, grumpy, dazed mom. So, what is a family to do when mom just can’t do it?

Move into survival mode, baby! And we’ve learned a thing or two about survival mode over the years. When it was just the two of us, survival mode was one thing, but when we added our four daughters, we had to really tighten up our plan for getting through crises. Here is how it usually goes down:

10 Tips to Survive “Survival Mode”

1. Play tag team—the unsick, uninjured, or least exhausted parent steps up and manages everything as best as they can. In the midst of the crisis they deliver lots of hugs, shoulders to cry on, and Diet Coke. After the crisis passes, they are showered with lots of love and appreciation.

2. Engage the family team—the crisis is explained to the kids and the whole family steps up and does what they can to help. Sometimes, that means extra hugs or homemade cards when the kids are little and extra chores and running errands when the kids are bigger.

3. Eliminate everything but the basics—laundry, food, clean kitchen counters, pet care, and dishes. When our family is in survival mode, we put our collective efforts into making sure that basic needs are met so that everyone else can still function reasonably well.

4. Appoint a hunter/gatherer—Joe announced that this was his role very early in our marriage, so he is usually our hunter/gatherer when we are in survival mode. I have also discovered that licensed teenagers are very enthusiastic hunter/gatherers.

5. Relax—your schedule, your expectations, your breathing, everything. Survival mode at our house means we are low in the nutrition department, but high in the quality time department. When mom or dad are down, there is more time to really talk and cuddle together. Even my older girls will come and lay down by me and talk or read or watch tv with me. Right now, Halle and I climb into my bed every night after dinner and read Harry Potter 5 or watch Bones on the Ipad. Some nights she even sleeps there until Joe comes to bed.

6. Remember that this will pass—when we are in midst of survival mode, I sometimes forget that we don’t live like this all the time and I start to feel a lot of guilt. As soon as the crisis passes, and life gets back to normal, I realize this isn’t true. Sometimes, though, normal doesn’t come for a long time because with a family of seven, someone always seems to be going through a crisis. That is okay, I’ve just learned to really appreciate non-survival mode.

7. Be ready for full-blown survival mode—this happens when both parents are down or the entire family is involved. You just have to hang on tight and get through it. Sometimes you might even need to ask for help from family, friends, or neighbors. Our family’s first experience with full-blown survival mode was one miserable December when daughter One, Courtnee, was 9 months-old. She got sick, and I got sick, and Joe was in the middle of law school finals, and I was working 2 jobs, and we were packing up for a 3 week Christmas visit to family. There was lots of vomiting, and Kleenex, and crying, and sleepless nights. It definitely wasn’t pretty…it was really quite ugly! But we had understanding employers, and helpful friends, and each other, and we made it through.

8. Be prepared to pick up the pieces—the aftermath of survival mode is not fun, and can sometimes be quite terrifying. Give yourself one more day before you dive in and start to pick up the pieces.

9. Be grateful—things are always worse for someone else. Be grateful for the things that are going well for you…and when your crisis passes, help someone else through theirs. And be sure that you involve your children in this step. Gratitude and Service are important life skills for them to learn.

10. Don’t live your life in survival mode—sometimes it is easy to slip into this because although survival mode is unpleasant, it is sometimes easier. Get going again as soon as you possibly can so that you are prepared when the next crisis hits. Because it will…it always does…isn’t life fun?

Do you have any great tips for dealing with survival mode? Please share.

P.S. I think we really are in full-blown survival mode. As I write this, Joe has just finished getting a root canal and is back at the dentist in a few hours for more work. True hunter/gatherer that he is, though, he is texting me from Costco to see what we need. I text back, EVERYTHING! Lots of ice cream tonight for my sweet lawyer husband…and lots of hugs and kisses, too.

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One thought on “Survival Mode

  1. Right now I'm eating an elephant, only have to remember not to get too close. The elephant becomes huge the closer you look at it. Step back, only one bite at a time, and realize that before long it will be totally manageable again. Big Hugs for you my sweet sister-in-law!

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