I met a friend for lunch and spent an hour catching up over French fries and some kind of organic ketchup. As we laughed about what we’d give for a bottle of Heinz on the table, I shared all the details about the amazingly fast sale of our house and the one we’d put an offer on. I may have even said the words, “It seems to good to be true.”
As I walked to my car that day, I checked my phone and found an email from our real estate agent’s office. Our buyer had some questions that, in the quoted email, sounded a little bit like accusations. Numerous phone calls, photo comparisons, explanations and negotiations later, our buyer decided she no longer wanted to buy our house.
Just like that, everything fell apart. Everything we were planning, everything we were hoping for, everything we were counting on. Just like that.
So, just like that, I sat down on the floor of my garage and cried for a few minutes.
Okay, my reaction to the whole insane situation was more complicated than that. Because before that happened, I held it together through a whole lot of phone calls and several conversations with a crew from the water department. I followed those men all over my yard, looking at exposed pipes and soggy spots, and tried to follow all their explanations about many plumbing-related things.
And shortly after that garage floor break-down, I walked back into my house, signed some paperwork, broke the news to my husband, picked up my kids and handed them off to my parents, all while working a dang miracle to whip my house into shape for a showing scheduled mere minutes after our buyer backed out.
Often when hard things happen, they are accompanied by a flurry of activity, a chaos designed to manage the situation, to minimize the fallout, and – for me – to bury the hard feelings. Inevitably, though, a quiet moment sneaks in and our hearts are washed with emotion, the very feelings we have been avoiding since the hard thing happened.
Later, after the showing and dinner, after Mark went to work and I glued my eyes and attention to a book, after I gave up on getting another thing accomplished or added to my list, I let the questions fill up my head and, for a moment, my eyes.
Why did this happen?
What did we do wrong?
Was it really too good to be true?
Is it my fault for saying those words out loud?
Why did I post our sold sign on Facebook for all the world to see?
When will I learn not to hope, not to expect a happy ending?
Why did I think I deserved good things?
Is another buyer possibly out there?
Does this mean I have to deep clean my house again?
Are we going to lose the new house we want to buy?
What about the refrigerator I ordered for the new house?
Are we going to live here forever?
Can I make it through another week or month or more of showings?
What if we never get another showing?
Why did this happen?
Believe me, I know worse things happen than losing a buyer for our house. Stressful as it might be, this isn’t even in the top 10 of the hardest things that have happened to me, so I know it could be worse. And – AND! – I know I’m supposed to choose joy, despite difficult circumstances. I know that!
But in that moment, this was my hard thing and it hurt.
Perhaps your hard thing looks different; perhaps you hurt for completely different reasons today. But no matter what you’re facing right now, you’ve probably felt the WHOOSH of the rug being pulled out from under you, of the punch straight to your gut, of the news you never expected to hear. Whether it’s a diagnosis or divorce papers, a phone call in the middle of the night or a Facebook insult from a so-called friend, or a million other discoveries or announcements that knock the wind right out of our lungs, life will never cease to surprise and challenge us.
So what do we do when the rug gets pulled out from under our feet?
Take a moment.
So many of the hard surprises in life require immediate response, whether that’s making a phone call or twelve, packing a bag, finding a babysitter, calling your lawyer, or scrubbing the bathroom and running the dishwasher before people start showing up. But before you dive into the busywork that will probably keep you from falling apart completely and also take care of what needs to be taken care of, take a moment. Just one moment to scream, to cry, to laugh hysterically, or to punch the padded couch that won’t break your hand. Drink a bottle of water or eat a handful of barbecue chips or daydream about smashing plates and letting someone else clean them up.
Maybe you don’t have time to break down right now. Maybe you’re afraid that facing this thing head-on will leave you curled up in a ball on the couch clutching your childhood blankie, a bottle of something other than water, and the remote. So don’t go full out. Hold it together for now. But give yourself 30 seconds or five minutes or whatever size moment you need to let the pressure escape a bit.
(Or, as a counselor once told me, just burp the lid to let some air out of your Tupperware Pandora box. Sure. That works, too.)
Remember the truth.
What’s most important? Who’s in charge? Who am I? Pulling out the answers to those questions always helps me find some perspective and slow my breathing south of hyperventilation when the world seems to be falling apart. In a less than devastating (but still challenging) situation, some bare-bones truth might be all it takes to help me calm down and choose joy. For example: Today’s real estate market is great for sellers, and another buyer will make an offer soon. and If we lose the new house we wanted to buy, I know a better one is out there for us to find.
Of course other, harder situations call for bigger, more certain and meaningful truth. For myself, I actually go back to the five statements Beth Moore included in her Believing God study quite often. I did that study at least a dozen years ago, but when life is hard enough to shake my faith, these simple words ground me and comfort me: God is who He says He is. God can do what He says He can do. I am who God says I am. I can do all things through Christ. God’s Word is alive and active in me.
Take a moment and remember the truth. It’s not a magic, ten-steps-to-inner-peace solution. But it’s what helps me survive the days that drop bombshells.
What do you do when the rug gets pulled our from under your feet?
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