I sleep at night with the security of knowing that there is a box of snowcaps in my night-table. This box of snowcaps has remained in my night-table unopened for over twenty years. It has accompanied me through multiple moves, various trials and tribulations, and a multiple of life changes, players and personal iterations.
For those who know me personally, I live on carrot sticks and hummus. I rarely even eat chocolate. So why the Snow Caps? The answer is quite simple; it’s symbolic and synonymous for comfort. It is for the same reason that when I was preparing for Hurricane Sandy I bought water, gas, flashlights and five boxes of snowcaps. After all, if life was going to become challenging, I wanted to make sure I had my comforts available!
I have spent the past month, as I do the open of each year, cleaning (well organizing), purging, and setting the stage for the upcoming year. While cleaning my night-table I came across this ancient box, smiled, and began to contemplate the other “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” habits I have adopted over the years. Further I pondered how important these survival habits, safe guards and rituals have become to my well-being and survival in today’s crazy, surprise laden, 24-7 world.
Looking back on simpler times, before the age of cell phones and constant internet contact, having an emergency contact list really had meaning. When leaving the house as a pre-teen and young adult one was told to be home before dark and handed a couple of quarters so you could call someone ”In case of an Emergency”. We all instinctively knew just who to call. For me it was my Grandma Fanny. She would get you anywhere, anytime, no questions, no judgment. Who is that person or those people for you? Who will you call when the stakes are high and the chips are down?
It’s wonderful when your children become adults and you can have really honest conversations about what kind of parent you were when they were growing up, and how you continue to support them today. I have come to learn that I am an “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” Mom. What does that mean I asked? Apparently, when it came to the simply day to day stuff like teaching them how to change light bulbs, do laundry, boiling eggs and making beds neatly I failed my kids miserably. After all we were always in survival mode, who could be bothered! Thankfully, everyone turned out great in the end. We skipped egg boiling and went right to omelets. We would be appalled if we got less than A’s in any of our classes, a project (present company included) or showed up late or unprepared to a game or practice! We lived by the golden rule, “Do on to others as you want to be treated yourself”. Most importantly, if you dropped any of us on the set of survivor I am sure we would all make it off the island.
Here are my favorite in case of emergency break glass habits and rituals:
I used to be the queen of running away from my issues. NO MORE!
In fact I was so skilled at the art of self-deception that I have multiple degrees, a wall of certifications, a laundry list of accomplishments and success beyond my humblest comprehension, all to cover up for problems neglected.
Consequently, I have left shipwrecks of astonished people and boat loads of unanswered questions in my wake. Those days are over.
You can mask running with productivity all you want, but in the end you will need to face your demons and issues head on. Today is as good a day as any.
Slow down, dive in and face the music. This too shall pass!
Empty, Not Fill
As an ex-chronic runner, filler, busy making problem avoider, and collector of both people and things, I have actually made this one of my New Year Resolutions!
There is nothing better in times of stress, trial & tribulation, and deep contemplation to go on a Personal Purge.
What does this mean? If you need to ask yourself more than once, “Should I hold on to this? The answer is NO. This includes people places and things!
Chances are if you run, you also hide. Waiting till you feel better to contact your friends make no sense and defeats the purpose of having them?
Misery does require company. There are others that have walked in your shoes, find them and they will comfort you. Open up to the people you trust. You will be amazed to learn you are not as unique as you think.
Know When To Let Go
Knowing when to let go is always a challenge and often what brings us to our “In Case of Emergency” state.
It is helpful to remember that
“Some people and circumstances present themselves for a reason, some for a season and some to stay.”
I have used this phrase to comfort myself, my clients, my children, and many a saddened friend when they did not get or lost their job, gone through a horrible break up, divorce or life just did not live up to their expectation.
Should I stay or go? Hold on or cut bait?
Knowing the difference is crucial and knowing when to let go is critical!
It helps to remember that life and relationships are dynamic, cyclical and fluid. Be open to all possibilities, and keep your eyes open and learn to read the signs. The right people will actually seem to appear out of thin air.
Trying to make a situation work when it shouldn’t is futile, staying too long may be counterproductive and often destructive. Trust and move on.
The people and things that are supposed to be there will. The ones that aren’t won’t.
Definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results!
Break the Rules
I am a definite do gooder, non-corner cutter, live by the golden rule type of girl, but desperate times may call for desperate measures. In times of emergencies you just might be forced to cut a corner or two. Step out of your comfort zone or just push boundaries a bit to experiment with what is possible. Hey you never know? You could stumble into something positive. Just be mindful that you don’t push too far and that you can live with the consequences of your actions.
Sweat the Big Stuff!
I am a firm believer that there isn’t an issue or problem that cannot be worked out through with good old fashion sweat and a pair of sneakers, bicycle, yoga mat, weights or whatever physical activity floats your boat. Once a gym rat always a gym rat. I started my Entrepreneurial track as a personal trainer 25 years ago and have always kept a gym membership since, even though I prefer outside workouts (even in the dead of winter). I suggest you do the same. The point is not to isolate. Get up, get out, sweat and start your day right. If you prefer working out at night then go straight to the gym not to your couch. Not to sound unoriginal…JUST DO IT!
I have recently developed a love hate relationship with Hot Yoga. Seriously, who comes up with these things? As if balancing all of your body weight on one leg while holding perfectly still for 60 seconds is not bad enough, now add the element of 104 degrees. Sheer insanity! Yet I show up every Sunday. Why you ask? Discipline? It’s good for me? I’m nuts? My logic, it is mental conditioning. If I can do an hour of yoga each week while being roasted alive, everything else that is going to happen to me will be uphill from there.
Along with my gym rat mentality is my zest for adventure. I am a definite adrenalin junkie and know this has served me well to help me through many rough patches. For me stepping out of my comfort zone is most often around trying new kinds of physical activity. Parachute Yoga (I know who thinks of these things, but my favorite!), Mountain Biking (15 years ago before it was cool), Rollerblading (when they first came out) to name a few. My son is still traumatized from when I would blade past his bus in middle school and people would say, “Isn’t that your mom?” He would say no, as if there were many other rollerblading moms in the neighborhood.
Bottom line is pick your poison. Live on the edge just long enough to get out of your head for a bit of a break.
Fun & Laughter
As hard as I work is as hard as I play. If you read my blogs, or perhaps know me personally, you know that I find the humor in even the most awful situations and topics.
I am a survivor but aren’t we all, we could not have gotten to where we are today without a few bumps or bruises.
I have surrounded myself with some of the best people in the world. Trust me; we have had no shortage of fun. I have laughed at myself, we have laughed at each other, but most importantly we have never stopped showing up for life, and having fun, fun, fun.
I recently described a best friend of mine as a “Party in a Bag”. This is such a great description of many of my closest friendships. Many of us don’t live in the same state. Our relationships take extra work. So we put in the time and the effort, schedule phone calls, we drive in traffic to see each other, we get on planes and when we arrive we make it count! We laugh, we cry (if necessary) and we have FUN.
LAUGHTER, FUN, CONNECTION are truly the best medicine.
Calling All Contacts
This will sound like such a contradiction to so much of what I have preached, but I used to be in the habit of waiting till I fixed my problems and then reporting my progress back to my friends. This is absurd!
I am happy to report that I am over this. I will admit that I have had to call myself out to my friends on this habit and they know to reach out if they do not hear from me.
I recommend having regularly scheduled times to speak to out of town friends and specific times you meet your local friends and actually put it in your calendar. This way it actually happens!!
Surrounding yourself with creature comforts in times of trouble is a great thing to do, but remember when you popped that last snowcap, finished the bag of potato chips, and drowned your sorrows in a pint of rocky road you will feel no better about yourself the next day. News flash, your problems are still going to be there.
Remember Rome was not built on Fast Food and French Fries! Think “Brain Fuel” and make healthy choices especially when the chips are down. My rules of thumb, “If it does not fly, swim, grow or have a mother, don’t eat it.” In other words, stay away from anything processed if you want to think clearly to work through your rough patches.
Do treat yourself but make healthy choices. Like one glass of heart healthy Red Wine (good red wine of course!), or a square or two of dark chocolate.
Times of trouble are no times to let yourself go. In fact you should step up your game even more. My sister-in-law and I have a running joke. She will always say to me in my darkest hours. “You look fabulous, how can I help”?
If you are a girl, don’t leave the house without make up, if you are a guy shave for heaven sake.
Keep up with manicures and pedicures, dye and cut your hair, schedule a massage, update your wardrobe.
This too shall pass and the last thing you are going to want to do when the dust settles is personal triage, nor should you require a full make-over once things have settled down.
Your grandmother was only partly right. You should never leave the house without a nice clean pair of matching underwear. Only you shouldn’t do this in case you get in an accident, you should do this because it makes you feel good about yourself!
Spoil Yourself With a Little Retail Therapy
For me there isn’t a problem in the world that cannot be solved when I have found the perfect pair of new boots and a matching handbag. This I know might not work for everyone. I also don’t recommend retail therapy if your problem is in relation to finances!
Retail therapy comes in all forms and defined is purchasing anything large or small that makes you feel good about yourself, if even for a moment.
Truth be told my favorite retail therapy is gift giving. I love buying gifts and sending my friends random things in the mail spontaneously. No occasion required. I do this out of the blue when I come across something I think will be helpful, or just because it reminds me of them. I do this a lot so they no longer think it’s strange. I highly recommend it. It definitely gets you out of negative thinking for a while.
Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude
Every night before I go to sleep I write down at least three good things that happened to me that day and/or three things that I have to be grateful for. It does not matter what is going on in your life, there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for at the end of the day. As you start doing this, the positive things will out way the negative things and before your know it the tide will turn.
“What brings me to the mat can most often be worked out on the mat”
For those of you who have not read my blog the “Is the Finish Line Really a Dotted Line” please do.
Your face down in the ring moment is when your face is on the mat and you are down for the count. The crowd is waiting. What are you going to do? Stay down or get up? Let the other win or claim your rightful victory? This moment is golden; however, it is important to remember this moment is yours to claim and choose alone.
That is where the other mat has always come in for me, the yoga mat that is. Here I can strip down the noise, adrenalin, anxiety, outside influences, and conventional wisdom to decide what I really want.
Find your means of peaceful contemplation. Then ask yourself what you really want? What is your gut telling you? It is in those quite moments of peaceful contemplation that the healing takes place and the answers come. Follow your voice. Don’t the next right thing.
So in conclusion dear reader I wish you neither malice nor harm. I do hope that you read this blog and file it someplace safe and never need to use this list of “In Case of Emergency” tactics. My list is safely nestled next to my snowcaps as you conclude. It is however an uncertain world and life will continue to throw us surprises and curve balls. Today I do hope you wake up emergency free; nevertheless, just “In Case of Emergency” my list of tactics is my gift to you as you never know, “Maybe one will come up?”
About the Author: Joan Axelrod Siegelwax, a previous guest contributor to Women of HR, is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the Founder and President of Powerful Possibilities Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture. Through creation of Powerful Possibilities Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specializing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.