Stressful events - how to respond well
So the start of 2018 turned out to be a bit of an epic adventure for me and my family, despite our plan to keep things calm, simple and quiet.
I'm going to tell you my story and at the end of it, I'm going to ask you, what would you do in this situation, and how do you think we reacted?
We were lucky enough to spend New Year's Eve and Day up near Mooloolaba in Queensland with my family. [Actually, by chance I was in the Courier Mail two days before that talking about just that!]. We had a relaxing stay and enjoyed the gorgeous location, but the next day we quickly packed up our things to head back down towards Sydney.
Our journey consisted of a loooong drive from Mooloolaba to somewhere near Port Macquarie where we had a campsite booked for 3 nights. This is a journey of about 8 hours without stopping. We've done the long trip before, even with a baby, so we were estimating a 10 hour trip, which gave us plenty of time for lunch and nappy changes.
Little did we know, along the way we would be met with many human-made and natural events that would hold us up and set us on a new course, whether we liked it or not...
We started the morning well, saying our goodbyes and getting on the road at 6.30am. The early morning went well and we stopped for a quick break just near Byron Bay. Back on the road after a quick stop and we met with our first obstacle....roadworks. After travelling along nicely, we were slowed right down to 20km an hour and we crept along at that speed for over an hour.
Spirits up, we sang songs and talked our way through the crawl, however it became apparent during our roadworks hold-up that our sweet little bub had an upset stomach as he made some quite audible noises which indicated the third nappy change of the morning was imminently necessary. Like many little cherubs, our sweet baby was making it perfectly clear that he was not interested in waiting until we get to a suitable location for a stretch and nappy change so we pulled off at the nearest exit for the emergency procedure.
Nappy replaced and back on the road a few minutes later, the traffic was starting to clear. We were on target to reach our destination and wake up to the sound of birdsong and fresh beach-side air.
Not 10 kilometres down the road, however, and our horizon began to look dark and broody. As we approached the dark clouds, lightning forked the sky and, though it was only a thunderstorm, we got the feeling we were approaching the tornado in the Wizard of Oz.
The rain came along a few minutes later and it just increased in intensity. Suddenly the rain became hail the size of 50 cent pieces and it seemed to be coming from every direction. The rain increased, the hail increased, and the winds increased. The traffic slowed down just as the trees on the side of the road started to come down around us.
Suddenly it was mayhem, cars almost at a standstill, we could barely see out our windows, hazard lights on all around us, and many trees and branches littering the road ahead. The storm lasted a good 30 to 40 minutes but eventually cleared, though by that time we had seen 4 ambulances and at least one road accident. Thankfully we had come out of it unscathed and still positive about our plans, though I was wondering if the rain had got as far south as our campgrounds.
Six hours to go, we made it through two more blinding downpours, and 4 more nappy changes before finally arriving at our destination, 12 hours after getting on the road! We were starving, exhausted, and one of us (the littlest one) was grumpy with sickness.
Arriving at our campgrounds, I went in to speak to the managers about finding our tent site, only to find out that they had also had the deluge of rain that hit us further north....and our pre-booked tent site had been flooded. Given the time of year, they were fully booked up and couldn't offer us an alternative site. They apologised profusely. We were left with nowhere to go.
So, there we were. It was starting to pour, our baby was going through nappies like I go through spinach smoothies, and suddenly we had nowhere to set up camp and rest our weary heads. We began calling around to other campgrounds, hotels, and Airbnbs and we found them all booked out. One guy even told my husband, 'at this time of year, you won't find anything 100km north or south of here mate', which was very encouraging for us!
We decided to sort out our blood sugar levels by grabbing some dinner before the nearest cafe closed and mulled over our options, continuing to make calls and check for places online.
30 minutes later, my husband found an Airbnb 120km south of us and we quickly booked and headed off there. We met our host, Lizzie, a middle-aged gypsy-type who was itching to read our Tarot and cooked our breakfast eggs in the morning 'by intuition' rather than using a timer.
Our 3 day camping plan had fallen through, our baby was sick, and we had no idea what to do next.
To say the least, our expectations were very different to the reality of our family camping trip!
So, let me ask you, how do you think you would react in this situation? Would you be angry? Would you cry? Would you laugh? Would you be upset, thinking you had lost the opportunity for a memorable beach-side family holiday? Or would you take it in your stride, accepting the situation for what it is?
The truth is, whatever happens, whether epic or trivial, we get to choose our way of responding to it. We can't always choose the circumstances. We can't control the weather. We can't stop someone from getting sick. We can't make nature do what we want it to do. We can't clear the roads for an easy drive from A to B. The only thing we have control over is our response to the events that occur.
What kind of person are you? How do you typically respond when things don't go to plan?
Explosive? Negative? Sullen?
Meditation and mindfulness are tools that can help you to observe this reaction within yourself. Over time, with practice, you can become mindful of your reactions and begin to make changes to the way you look at the events in your life.
Why do that?
Because, if shitty things are going to happen, and you can't control that, you may as well make the most of the moment you are in and find contentment with it, despite what is happening around you. Being content won't change the event, but it will change how you see things, how you relate to others around you, and how much enjoyment you get out of life.
Sounds worth it to me.
So what did we do? Well, we decided to look on the journey as an epic adventure. We got bub home safe and sound to rest from his tummy bug, and we told each other how this trip is going into the memory book to share with each other with laughter in the future.