A person's response to tragedy, or to pain, or to any other of a whole host of uncomfortable or strongly negative experiences varies, greatly. From person to person, and from event to event.
A few nights ago, I went out to dinner with a couple of friends. One is also in EMS; the other is not. About halfway through dinner, we realized that our topics of dinner conversation were possibly a little unusual. The two of us in EMS were sharing stories of various experiences, ranging from dead bodies to missing body parts to various bodily fluids... right. Typical discussions for a very specific subset of people.
Not so much for everyone else, perhaps.
Our friend was amazingly tolerant.
He couldn't help but note the ease with which we moved from topic to topic. From dead bodies to baseball. From incontinence to the weather. From a horrific car crash to a favorite song.
It is clearly possible for us to witness horrific things, to be intimately involved in dealing with them, and then to walk away, wash our hands both literally and figuratively, and move on, to the next thing. We all have some sort of shielding mechanism that keeps us from losing it, most of the time.
I've been thinking about this, and the whole concept of "staying positive."
I've had a lot of stuff happen in my life. I've been around a while, and around the block a few times, so to speak. Most of the time, I've been able to remain a fairly positive person. Even when things suck, I'm able to stay focused on doing what needs to be done, and on making the best of it. For the most part, my life is pretty decent. Especially compared to all sorts of ways and times it could have gone in other directions.
I have a little checklist I give people who ask me for parenting advice, when they complain of being overwhelmed by everything.
It goes like this:
1. Is the house on fire?
2. Is anyone bleeding?
3. Is the roof going to cave in?
4. Do you have food and water available?
If the answer to the first three is "no" and the answer to the fourth is "yes," then relax.
Right now, for this moment, things are okay.
Sometimes, everything comes down to just this moment. Are things okay right now? Good. Take a deep breath. How about now? Still okay? We're on a roll.
I use some variation of this little checklist any time I start to feel stressed. How are things RIGHT NOW?
Unfortunately, sometimes, the answers aren't so great.
Even so, it's good to know where you are in the continuum. Okay, or... not okay.
If things are really NOT okay, then it's time to take action.
The two of you who have been reading this blog may have noticed that I haven't written in a while.
There's a reason for that.
I made a decision a few posts ago that I want to stay focused on the positive on here for a while.
And then got slammed with some decidely not positive experiences.
You know how "they" say that if you can't say anything good, you shouldn't say anything at all?
Got caught there for a while.
My question is, why is that? Why did that happen?
With all of the different things I've experienced, all the things I've seen or done, all the things I've felt, most of which I've been able to let go of, or get past, or move on from, or file away, or learn from, or whatever...
Why is it that THIS one, I've stayed stuck on?
Why is it that we can watch people die, and go home and have dinner, no problem...
but then turn around and have something way less overtly awful happen, and not be able to recover from it?
Back to how I started this post...
Why IS it that people learn so quickly to avoid SOME kinds of pain, and NEVER learn to avoid others?
Why is it that we learn to adapt to a wide range of high-stress incidents, but not ALL of them?