I realize that there are some stories that are just too outlandish to be born from one’s imagination. A case in point is my son’s most recent mishap.
To back up a bit, you need to know that in my 50+ years I have never gone to the emergency room. Well, maybe once when I was about 5 years old and cut my forehead open when I was dancing on our living room coffee table and fell, but other than that, I’ve done a good job of keeping myself out of harm’s way.
Fast forward to today. As of this week, my family has had personal experience with three different hospital ERs in Costa Rica in three months. My son broke his arm mountain biking (which is how you’re supposed to end up in the ER in Costa Rica), I broke my foot and sprained both ankles falling down our stairs at home (argh – if you missed the story, you can read about it in last week’s newsletter), and this week, my sixteen-year-old son insisted that he somehow managed to accidentally swallow his floss pick.
I repeat. Accidentally swallowed his floss pick.
So back to the ER my heroic husband goes (I can’t join because I can’t walk), son I tow, with a story so… unbelievably head-shaking that when I called our insurance agent to tell him what happened, he suggested we go to the church in Cartago to get holy water to break the curse.
My family could have our own reality TV show, and nobody would believe we’re real.
But as I think about it, that’s kind of been the way of the world for the past two years. If someone would have pitched Spielberg this movie idea, “So…picture this…there’s this virus that begins in some market in China…no, wait…in a lab in China…and it spreads by BREATHING or TOUCHING…and it kills 5 million people in the world in two years…and, oh by the way, half of the people don’t believe it’s real…and all over the planet there are hurricanes and wildfires and tornadoes and flooding because…well because the ozone layer has seen better days… and there are protests and riots and insurrections and…well it’s kind of a dystopian take on “Lord of the Flies”… ”
When real-life events sound crazier than the movies, you know you’re living in interesting times.
Of course, there is only entertainment value in my story about my son because he’s okay. (¡Gracias a Dios!)
Because our entertainment ends where real suffering begins.
Perhaps the reason that we’re having a crisis of empathy is because the pain is so big that it hurts to put ourselves in another’s shoes. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we’ve been thrust into a constant state of fight, flight or freeze just to survive the daily newsfeed.
I’ve always found it helpful to be able to name what’s happening to me, for I believe that once you name it, you can do something about it. I’ve recently been working with someone who specializes in just that—being able to identify those amygdala-fueled reactions and naming them for what they are.
Are you not speaking your truth because you’re stuck in “freeze?” Are you getting combative with your loved ones because you’re in “fight?” Are you avoiding the hard, uncomfortable situations in your life because your go-to-coping mechanism is “flight?”
By naming what’s going on inside of ourselves, we have the ability to make choices about how those heightened emotions manifest in our actions.
There is power in choice.
So, when your life feels like it’s spinning out of control, you can find a way back to the self you want to be.
For me, that includes choosing to seek out whatever tiny bit of humor I can find in the situation. Because as they say, if you can’t laugh…
Now, that we’re on the other side of the crisis, there are two words that will forever make me giggle: Floss. Pick.