In both my business and personal lives, people are still just finding out about my drama of the past year. The fact that I’m dealing with a difficult situation isn’t exactly something that I reveal upon introduction: “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Laura. My brother killed himself in November. I’ll be leading the re-branding efforts on your account, looking forward to getting started!”
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I wish it were that easy. There are times when I’m emotionally exhausted, in a particularly sad mood, or just dealing with the fallout of family issues. I know I may be testy, or have eyes that are just a little too puffy for the glasses to conceal, or get lost in my own world of thought at the most inappropriate time. Not that this happens every day, as the passage of time softens the blow bit by bit – but it does happen (and I’m sure it will for years to come).
Last week, I was speaking to a client with whom I have a good working relationship – we joke around and share small details of our lives as we navigate project plans, deliverables and other business matters. For whatever reason, at some point during our discussion I let him know what happened.
Of course, the client was very sympathetic and kind when hearing this news. As many people do, he asked me the following question:
How do you do it? How do you continue to go to work each day, dealing with everything that you have going on in your life, and continue to function as a normal person? How are you here?
The answer is very simple: I don’t have a choice.
In the early days following my brother’s death, I entered robot mode, programming in what I needed to do to get through the day. I broke down this programming into the most basic of steps: Get out of bed. Brush Teeth. Take Shower. Wash Hair. Put on Clothes … wait, those are Pajamas: BEEP BEEP ERROR ERROR PUT DOWN THE SWEATPANTS. I needed this level of programming to even begin to figure out how I was going to get myself out of the door and attempt to pretend to function.
As time went on, I realized that what it came down to is putting one front in front of the other and trusting the momentum to carry me forward in the day. There are many times when I wish my feet had labels (the left one would say “One”, the right one would say “Other”) so when I looked down in confusion or was stuck for a moment, I would know what to do. Trust me, it happens more than I care to admit.
But the fact is, life does go on. As unbelievable as it may seem, the sun continues to rise and set, Mondays become Tuesdays become Wednesdays, people continue to deal with business as usual. Sometimes I just have to close my eyes and think, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. It’s hard to trust the momentum all of the time, but it’s the only way I’ve been able to act like a normal human being (almost) each day.
So if you ever happen to notice something strange on my feet – be it labels, writing from a sharpie, or even permanent tattoos, just remember that every so often, I may need to glance down for instructions. Sometimes, I need to be reminded that each day starts with that very first step.