How Do You Keep Your Sanity While Living in Survival Mode?
Have you ever experienced living in survival mode? When was it? What were the circumstances surrounding that period in your life? How does it feel now as you bring up those memories?
How did you find your way through to some semblance of equilibrium on the other side of that saga? What did you learn in the process that helps you even today to pursue the “way of shalom” (Luke 1:79, TLV), through the affairs of your life now?
We have just come through a period of survival-mode living. I’m not sure we’re actually all the way through it yet. But we’ve at least come to a breaking point, and I knew it was time for me to take time out to write about what I’ve learned this time through it.
We’ve experienced survival-mode living several times before . . .
- When I was fighting cancer while our kids were teenagers.
- When we landed in a post-war country in West Africa to serve where everyone had been living in survival mode for many years. We had to work through the process of navigating the stormy waves of culture shock in order to be able to live and work in this very broken society.
- When our grandson needed a cadaver liver that never did come available, and so our son donated part of his liver to save his sister’s baby boy’s life. You can read that story here.
- When our son was fighting for his life due to a strange illness caused by mold in the beautiful home they’d recently moved into.
These are just a few of our survival-mode-living scenarios. And actually, this most recent one may seem less dramatic than previous times. But have you ever noticed that your challenging times feel epic while you’re going through them? Others may not understand the depth of your struggles, but they are very real to you!
For us now, we’ve recently moved into our home. That was a saga of its own – you can read about it here.
We love our new home!
We felt embraced the first time we walked in. And its grown on us ever since.
However, we knew it needed to be painted throughout. The previous owner, a senior lady (she was 97 when she moved into a care center) had lived here 20 years. The house was brand new when she and her terminally ill husband moved here, and it’s obvious they and their family had taken good care of the house. But after 20 years, some updating and personalizing were in order.
What a job it became!
We painted everything – ceilings, walls, and trim. It transformed the look and feel of our home to really make it our own. And we’re thrilled with the results.
But the process was an exercise in survival living . . . because this was our big move from Africa, plus our move from two years of temporary living while in transition. Since we knew we wanted to get the painting done before we settled in, we moved our boxes and barrels into the garage and breezeway, and only brought into the house what we needed to be functional. However, since we were able to negotiate for the furniture and appliances to stay with the house (a huge blessing for these return missionaries!), well, that meant that painting involved moving furniture back and forth, as well as covering everything (including the carpet) while painting the ceiling.
Talk about chaos!
And confusion! – “Where did I put that?!”
And endurance! – It took weeks to get the job all done!
Have you ever noticed how frayed your nerves can get when it feels like everything is helter-skelter around you, and you just can’t seem to pull it together into some semblance of order?!
So here’s what I learned through this time around, that helped to maintain sanity while living in survival mode.
- We held to certain routines that we knew would help us maintain a level of order in the midst of the chaos.
- It really helps to at least maintain some level of functionality. The first thing I did when we moved in, was to wash out the kitchen cabinets, put down shelf liner, and bring in the things we’d need to maintain functional kitchen operations. We’d certainly need to eat! And I can’t tolerate a dysfunctional kitchen!
- We found our “shalom zone” at the kitchen table in front of the bay window, and kept it cleared of clutter – mostly.
- Paul’s office/study was the first room we painted, so that he could have his own “shalom zone” as soon as possible.
- From time to time we took a break, got out of the house and ate out, or just did something we enjoy doing. Or we had the grandkids over, made a big breakfast together, and played games at the kitchen table – a special memory!
- We tried to eat healthily – most of the time. 🙂 Maintaining a strong immune system and staying healthy helps when you’re already dealing with extra pressure.
- We kept moving forward, doing the next thing, and believing that it would finally get done! Sometimes the progress seemed ever so slow, but we kept plodding along, making progress, step-by-step.
- We kept the end goal in view, focused on the tasks necessary to accomplish it. We knew how we wanted it all to look and feel. We knew the end results would be worth all the tedious effort.
- And most importantly, we kept up our daily habits of personal time with the Lord. We have learned through the years that He is our strength to accomplish the tasks before us. He is our joy for the journey. He is our love for sustaining amiable and satisfying relationships during frustrating circumstances. He is our wisdom for each confusing situation. He is our hope that we’ll make it through this ordeal, as He has every time before.
The Prince of Peace is our shalom!
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