When Life is Unpredictable (AND IT ALWAYS IS!)






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Publication: Today's Woman
Author: Vittitoe, Carrie
Date published: March 1, 2012

We all know that when life hands us lemons, we are supposed to make lemonade. That is easier said than done, especially if one hasn't a juicer and only a quarter cup of sugar in the pantry. Eventually, most people find they are able to adjust to life's challenges and find a silver lining, but that process often comes with a great many tears and temper tantrums.

Spousal job changes and the cross-country moves that often accompany them are one of the many unpredictable life events that have thrown more than one woman for a loop.

A Move Way Down to Kentucky

Shelby Herrera and her husband, Carlos, had settled in Delaware, where they built a home and had their second daughter. Within a week of closing on their home, Carlos was recruited for a job in Louisville at General Electric. Shelby says she and Carlos, "went back and forth for two weeks, before I grudgingly gave in and he interviewed with GE." For five months, Shelby remained in Delaware with two young children trying to sell their home during one of the worst winters the state had ever experienced, while Carlos moved into a Louisville hotel and began his new job.

Adjusting to these changes was difficult, but Shelby's outlook improved immensely due to the unexpected kindness of a stranger. Shelby remembers, "The first time I went to the grocery store in Kentucky, I was hugged by someone at the deli counter and welcomed to Louisville! I knew it was going to be okay then." Since the move in 2005, the family has added three more children to their brood and live in a closeknit neighborhood.

A Job Loss

Peggy Lutes was blindsided by her dismissal from an organization for which she loved working. In her 60s, Peggy was concerned about finances, health insurance, and the fragile state of her ego. She says, "I had never applied for a job that I did not get and had never been let go from a job, so it took a long time to get over that."

Although there are things she misses about working full-time, such as the day-to-day connections with other people's lives, she now looks at being let go as one of the best things that ever happened to her. She was able to spend time with her husband, who had also been let go from his job and was having a difficult time adjusting to being retired. She spent time with her elderly mother and her grandchildren. She refocused her energies on her female friendships.

Most importantly, she realized things about herself, such as how much she really values praise from seeing a job completed from start to finish. Over time, she has gained a greater acceptance of herself as a vibrant, healthy woman who can adjust to life without glowing employment reviews.

Since many of life's unexpected curve balls involve the loss of something, such as a much-loved home or career, people often experience the stages of grief just as they would with the death of a loved one.

Mary-Kate Poling, president/CEO of Brooklawn, says, "Dealing with a loss is very individualized, and people experience that loss differently." Life's unpredictable nature forces people to move out of their comfort zones and deal with the unknown, which can cause great sadness and anxiety. Poling suggests that making lists of both the positive and negative aspects of a life change can be helpful as one processes the experience.

Women tend to cope differently than men. Poling says, "Men move through the stages of loss much faster than women because they are more factual and less emotional." She says women are the ones who often get stuck in the stages and feel bogged down by their sad and anxious feelings.

Peggy spends some of her time volunteering at the Ronald McDonald house.

A Diagnosis of a Chronic Illness

Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi could have allowed sadness and disillusionment to get the best of her when she was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 28. While she was relieved to have an answer for her unexplained tiredness, limb numbness, and weight gain, she was also terrified to be the youngest patient in the rheumatologist's office. As a litigation paralegal and a single parent to two pre-teen daughters, she wasn't sure how her diagnosis would impact her life.

For awhile, she tried to remain emotionally tough. Nicole says, "I stuffed the bad emotions and pretended everything was fine and nothing had changed for months." Eventually, she realized that she had to listen to her body and ask for support from family and friends. She says, "I've learned that there is no reward for being the toughest or going through difficulties without any help! God put us on earth with each other because we need each other."

One of the unexpected benefits of her diagnosis was learning more about her family history. With most of her mother's family deceased and her father's family still in Iran, she didn't know much about them. Her lupus diagnosis caused her to take the time to sit with her mother and learn about her family and herself. Over the course of a few months she listened to her mother's stories about her great-grandparents and extended family relations.

Nicole with her daughters. Aria and Asia Smith.

None of these women allowed themselves to wallow in their losses. Though they certainly experienced sadness and doubt, they took proactive steps to manage the stress of what life had thrown at them. Shelby Herrera joined a local support group for stay-at-home moms; Peggy Lutes called on longtime friends and family for support; Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi has utilized prayer with her daughters as a means of finding solace.

These local women, and all of us who daily endure life's unpredictable events, are a testament to M. Scott Peck's assertion that, "Our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."

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