The UNKNOWN can be like navigating through a ‘wilderness’, a survival adventure. You feel small, vulnerable and ‘on-edge’. There can be a good tension which is motivating if you have the skills and resources required, or it can be overwhelming, leaving you motionless, questioning and feeling a long way from ‘home’.
Your goal is to return to a safe place, most often called ‘home’, a place where you can rest again, a place of balance.
Four years ago, we as a family moved into our own version of lockdown.
We did our absolute best to maintain normality but it was virtually impossible. Our youngest daughter, aged three months started to raise red flags with her developmental curve. Her ability to cope in with unexpected noises, for example, a cupboard door closing or just a simple cough would startle her into inconsolable crying. We had no option than to lock ourselves down at home, tiptoe around and care for our vulnerable child. We entered into the UNKNOWN.
This overwhelm is heavy, much like I imagine outer space to be. The pressure comes at you from every direction, relentlessly. Our daughter slept only a few hours per night. We spent up to six hours per day attempting to get the minimal needed nutrition into her. What was wrong with her? Was she going to be ok? Would she survive? UNKNOWN.
I was working as a freelance cameraman and adventure filmmaker. Many of my projects were based around nature and the outdoor lifestyle. I put my outdoor projects to the side as our daughter’s needs had become more than a fulltime job. How was I going to feed myself and my family? How would we survive? UNKNOWN.
The pressures on us as parents were real. Would our relationship survive? UNKNOWN
Was life ever going to be ‘normal’ again? Would my mental health survive? Would I? UNKNOWN …
Jump ahead to today, thankfully we as a family are still moving forward but it took a major pivot. Our life is centred around caring for our vulnerable daughter in and close to home. Each year we try to expand our daughter’s capacity to deal with the world a little more. And through trial and error, we have found ways to live differently and still pursue and achieve our individual dreams and goals.
2020 – the BIG UNKNOWN
Big UNKNOWNs are now present in every house, on every street, in every community. The world has changed.
What people around me are going through looks so similar to my own personal experiences in the last years. So I thought it was a timely moment to share some of the insights I have learned over the past four years. My only hope is that you don’t make some of the mistakes I did.
‘5 Ways to Survive the UNKNOWN’
1. Survive the UNKNOWN with ‘structure’.
For someone like me, a ‘free-spirited’ adventurer, structure and routine was a huge and painful transition. I loved spontaneity and routine was the enemy. But from early on, we knew that if we were to build an environment for our daughter to learn, grow and develop, she needed structure and routine.
Consistent daily habits were created and responsibilities were set. Although initially, nothing changed for our child, we were able to operate better as frontline carers. Slowly and with the help of others, we were able to create a new environment in which we all could have the opportunity to develop new skills. The structure and daily habits established then, lay the foundations for where we are today.
Start with a structure that works for you.
2. Survive the UNKNOWN with ‘creativity’.
I hear you say, “But I don’t have time!”
Could you give yourself the luxury of hmmm let me see… 60 seconds? If you have the luxury of longer, it is a worthwhile investment.
Draw your UNKNOWN, write it, sing it, dance it, bake it, cook it and create your UNKNOWN. Get it out. Make it real. How does it look? What colour is it? What does it sound like? How does it feel? What does it taste like?
“I produced the book ‘My Sparkle’ during our family crisis. There was no certainty of what the future would look like. One word at a time, a book beautiful came to life.”
The process of creating your UNKNOWN can take away some of its power. Maybe you notice something you hadn’t seen yet and maybe a solution will pop up to help you move forward creatively.
3. Survive the UNKNOWN with ‘perspective’.
Where are your blind spots? Social media is becoming harder and harder to tell what is trustworthy and what is not. News outlets edit the news depending on their target audience. Algorithms can now consistent produce sports match reports better and faster than humans. Who is writing what you consume? What is real?
Could you reach out and call a trusted colleague, friend or family member and share your story? Share what your UNKNOWN is. What are your concerns? What is their angle, their perspective, their view on your UNKNOWN? Listen. Reflect. Ask in return. Do they share the same UNKNOWN? How do they approach it? What is different? Can they see something you can’t?
“Days passed that felt like years. What would the next hour bring? I so needed to step outside of my box and know I was not alone, to try and feel normal again. But when I did, I felt so different from my foreign neighbours. A language barrier, my lack of a local network, I just didn’t have the courage to reach out and share. So I didn’t.”
You don’t have eyes on the back of your head all the time. Gain first-hand perspective from someone you trust and respect. Gain perspective.
4. Survive the UNKNOWN with ‘Music’.
Music can help calm worries. A good melody can help you put one foot in front of the other, even when you don’t feel you have the strength anymore. It can help to raise your spirits so that you can keep moving. Music’s lyrics are often written through the artist’s own hardships and can offer wisdom, perspective and encouragement.
In 2007, I walked the famous “Four Day March” event in the Netherlands. 50 kilometres a day for 4 days in the middle of the Dutch summer. As you can see from the photo, I found it a ‘bit’ tough. The event was founded after the end of World War II and has strong links to the army. These army groups still participate in this gruelling 200-kilometre challenge and most will noisily chant their platoon to success.
“At home, I was living from one song to the next, or simply one song on repeat.“
There is a reason why in times of crisis, that typically large scale music events occurred. For example, ‘Live Aid’ in 1985. Music brings people together, strengthens relationships and raises spirits so that you have the strength to fight the good fight, another day.
5. Survive the UNKNOWN with ‘Can’
Every now and then, a BIG UNKNOWN phase happens. Hiding or resting is not an option. Did you notice that I used the word phase? It may feel that the UNKNOWN will never be manageable again. Yet in most cases, it will. The UNKNOWN may demand every ounce of effort, focus, creativity and pure grit you have in order to bring it back down to size.
The only sound advice I can offer in reducing the scale of an overwhelming UNKNOWN is to focus on ‘can‘.
- Ask yourself… “What can I do … right now?”
Perhaps one of the bravest things you can do is to ask for help. Who can you ask? Go on … call them.
Once you have completed that small, simple but brave task. Ask yourself again…
- “What can I do … right now?”
‘Can is the only true survival tactic when it mattered the most. That simple question is very possibly the reason how I survived. And if someone offers you support or help when you actually do kind of need it, put your pride to the side and accept graciously.’
These 5 Ways to Survive the UNKNOWN have helped me on my adventure to reach ‘home’. It is an ongoing cycle as I learn and grow as an individual, in new situations and through new UNKNOWN changes and phases. And you know what most the exciting question for 2020 is?
“What is going to happen next?”
Did you like this BlogPost? What can you do?
- Call your someone living alone, your grandparents or someone 70+ and have a chat;
- Leave a comment below;
- Share this post on social media so that someone else can learn or reflect;
- Take a photo of your UNKNOWN and post it to your own social media with the #SurviveTheUNKNOWN
- Buy the My Sparkle book and gift it as a resource of creativity.