“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
A crisis doesn't define you, it's how you handle the crisis. I hear that over and over. I tell my clients the same advice. Crisis situations happen every day, but what are you going to do about it? Lately, it's felt like crisis after crisis after crisis has hit me. Most people have no idea and that's the way I like it. I triage each and every crisis then breakdown about it after it's handled. From a broken heel to an overflowing washer to an actual crisis at work. Each one needs to be broken down, handled and put to rest. Then you can take time to personally process what you've been through.
I'll never forget the first crisis I went through. It's what I feel sparked my early maturity. In middle school, my best friend was with me one day, fighting leukemia in Houston the next day, then I was at her funeral in just a few weeks. I wasn't close to many kids at the time and I couldn't understand how this girl, who I spoke to on the phone every other night, was now fighting cancer and then gone.
It wouldn't be the last crisis.
"Are you sitting down?"
It was nearly midnight, I remember, when I got the phone call. I assumed work had been calling me overnight. It was campaign season. Then my mind started to piece together the trail of texts and emails and it all made sense. "Have you heard from her?" "Has she called you?"
I hadn't thought anything of it.
"LEM are you sitting down? There's been an accident."
A couple of weeks before I had said no to going with her to a party in Austin. Suddenly, there was a car accident in Austin. She was running. She was gone. I was sitting down. I took a deep breath. I felt the tears well up in my eyes.
"We need to write a statement. We need to update the website. We need to say something online."
Crisis management. I can handle the crisis now and process the event later. There's no time to process the event now. So I read the news story, as obscene as it was. I prepped the statement. Got everything in order. Then I cried myself to sleep.
The next week, I was to be in San Antonio for some work events. My boss asked me if I wanted to take it easy and process the news. I offered to host an extra event in San Antonio, on campus. We had one week to put it together. I thought keeping busy would help me.
I had only packed for a couple of nights so I went to the Shops at La Cantera to buy clothes for the memorial service in Houston and to stay the week in Central Texas. I went to Banana Republic and said "I need the simplest black dress you have for a funeral." I've only worn that dress twice now. Two funerals. Keeping busy helped keep my mind off the immense loss and sadness I felt in my heart.
Crisis doesn't always happen with a death. Crisis can be a breakup. Crisis can be a divorce. Crisis can be breaking a heel on the way in to work. Crisis can be a major social media faux pas or a vote against a client's tax incentive. The older I get the more I let myself triage each and every situation. I feel as though I have had many more moments of grief than most 29 year-olds and in some ways it has prepared me for the unexpected. A crisis can knock me out. I spent a week in bed after one, crying, not eating, wondering how I was going to get by.
The appetite for food may not come back soon, but the appetite for passion manifests itself in a desire to do good work. It takes a while to realize that the crisis doesn't define you. You will forget. I always forget. I hope that when people think of me they think of the word resilient.
I write all of this because I listened to a really inspirational TedTalk Radio Hour on crisis management. Take a moment to tune in.