1. Look at your current level of control. Last Saturday was a “Family” day for my sister who has terminal cancer. My brother is unable to drive the 10 hours it took us to get there because he too is suffering from cancer. Although he is doing well, there are some limitations. My husband and I knew that our level of control could include picking up my brother and sister-in-law for the trip. It was an easy decision to make.
2. Anticipate your stressors. While traveling the long hours from Illinois to Kansas, we knew we had to stop often so none of us became stiff or unable to walk once we arrived. We also knew that there were certain times of the day we had to stop to eat to accommodate medicine intake. We anticipated things like this for all four of us so we would be better prepared on how we had to modify our trip.
It also would have been a big stressor for Bob, the driver, if he didn’t get White Castle burgers on the return trip. If he was stressed, we all would have been stressed!
3. Take personal responsibility for the pace of your life. We used to drive straight through when we were younger. However, we chose to make the road trip a bit longer in time, stop more often, and lower the stress of having to meet a deadline of arrival. The four of us decided when to stop for the night and think about how far we had to go the next day to assure adequate balance of riding in a car.
4. Know your comfort zone – know your limits. Bob and I are comfortable when traveling by car as long as we have all kinds of snacks to eat. Unbeknownst to us, my brother and his wife are the same way. Needless to say, our comfort zone was based on food! We had to limit some of the food to allow space for our feet! It worked quite well.
5. Establish clear priorities and goals. During this road trip, we knew we could not complete in one day and be physically fit to enjoy the family reunion time. Thus, we all agreed that we would do our best to go ½ way on the first and 2nd day. Our first night was a challenge, it was after a work day and we didn’t quite make ½ way because Bob, the driver, and I were tired. Thus, everyone agreed that on the 2nd day we would have to ride a bit longer along with more stops to stretch. We all knew when we needed to arrive and what it was going to take to get there.
6. Avoid clustering too many life changes. This road trip, was bittersweet. My brother would most likely not have been able to attend even via a plane due to all the other expectations for the family reunion. It is not easy for my brother to ask for help or assistance. With his health challenges, he realized this was a better choice than others. This visit is probably the last we will see our sister alive. We all needed to make this trip as smooth as possible for all of us as we were all emotionally charged.
It’s important to weigh out the challenges and changes to determine how much and how often we can manage.
7. Begin to be proactive instead of reactive. Think through before you take action. As we made progress from state to state, we began talking about the “what if’s”. What if our sister wasn’t doing well that day, what would we do? What would we not do? What if we got into a situation we don’t want to be in? How do we get out?
On our return, we took a wrong turn and it took 3 of us to figure out how to get back. My brother had his phone and a road atlas, I had my phone and waves application to get us back. We went about 35 extra miles. That really wasn’t the big deal though. With three of us working towards solutions, jokes kept flying and no one was stressed. Sometimes when it’s just a few it can become a stressor in itself instead of a bonding time.
8. Stop and look at what is around you. Seek to look at things differently and with curiosity. The green grass, the white and black cliffs, watching people with their reactions. Be aware of what is around you. Know where you are and what you see.
Bob played in the pool with the great nieces and nephews. Two of the nieces came to Bob and asked him to be their “Papa”. Of course, he said “yes, it was his pleasure.” He now is an adopted grandpa to two great nieces. He put himself in a place that enjoyment begat long-term memories.
9. Remember, you are in charge of your life. As we returned from our 5-day trip, we all were satisfied with the events and the results of our visit. We
joked about things that didn’t go as planned and agreed to go on another road trip under different circumstances. Though we didn’t say it out loud, the next trip to Kansas will most likely be for a funeral. Take charge of your life now.
10. What is one more strategy that you would add?