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Martha's big adventure -
Keeping the peace - Martha Randolph Carr

Stressful events in our lives require the use of our best communication skills, so that we can quickly get the critical assistance we need.

However, one of the little jokes of life is that we cart out the drama just when it would be best to keep it simple.

That's not very easy to do, though, under trying circumstances. Imagine having a job for over ten years and suddenly it's gone. Thousands of people can imagine that quite well these days. Not only is a steady stream of income that pays for the basics in life taken away, but we're also expected to let go of the network of friends we've made at our place of employment.

It's one of the few occasions in life where an entire routine is taken away, however we're left still standing in the same town. All of the connections we made at work are intact, but without that daily input, the threads that bound them together begin to weaken. We have fewer connections to others just when we need them the most.

Now, compound the loss with not being able to provide adequate health insurance for yourself or your family. Or for some, it's been about watching the college fund or retirement account dip down below the cost of tuition or the monthly budget. There may not be enough time to let the economy recover and for some, such as Lehman shareholders or Madoff clients, the paper has turned out to be worthless.

Try keeping the anxiety out of your voice under those circumstances. The other large events in life, both good and bad, are also going to keep coming at us. Some will have an unexpected new child in their family and others will find out they are battling a chronic illness. It all adds up on the stress side of our life column.

There's not only no quick fix, but it's coming at us from a few different directions and we have to say something.

Well, there's the first place where we can switch up the strategy and catch our breath. Resist the initial urge and do nothing.

That's right, don't react at all. Instead, give yourself a small amount of room and consider the options. Take a day or even a week to mull it all over. Ask appropriate, level-headed friends or experts for their input with the understanding that's all it is.

That makes it information gathering instead of advice, and therefore, we stay in charge. Advice leads to the idea that there are only one or two right answers. That's not necessarily true either.

Here's another critical element to keeping sanity intact and finding a way to be happy in the midst of great, and sometimes, painful change.

Stick with only the day you are in at the moment. Understand it's all you have and all you need. Do the best you can in that given day, and know that even that will fluctuate from day to day. Forgive yourself and everyone around you on a daily basis for whatever was deemed as lacking in that moment. Then, brush your teeth and go to bed.

This strategy is more of a response than a reaction way of living. But it does require a healthy dose of belief that something bigger has our backs, and therefore, the world is a great place.

The alternative to that is to feel alone and lost and to try and micromanage out of a crisis. The just-grit-your-teeth way of living. If that's working for you, march on down the same road. However, if the strain is starting to show, perhaps it's time to let go and get out of your own way.

If we can give ourselves the opportunity to first calm down and see our options, when we speak it will be clear and concise and leave out judgment. We will find we're seeking solutions instead of, yet again, reeling out the problem. Don't be surprised if, somehow, everything seems just a little easier. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoonss Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.