Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Family Emergency (Lessons Learned)

The most important and urgent problems associated with my recent family emergency are beginning to abate. Although I needed to mail three different forms to IRS yesterday, this was the first day in a long time that I did not need to deal with a medical bill or a financial institution. Although there are a number of significant tasks that remain, I am evaluating my performance to date, hoping that I can discover something of value to share with others.

Big Picture – Small Picture

At the outset, I was confronted with an unknown but large number of significant, complex, legal and financial issues that had to be addressed. Everything had to be done correctly. Everything had to be done quickly. Everything had to be done completely. The consequences of failure were too significant to even contemplate. Failure was simply not an option.

I was able to define the big picture goal in a single sentence. This is important. If you can’t define your big picture goal in a single sentence, it is unlikely you will ever achieve it. The most famous example of this principle is Kennedy’s famous quote, “man on the moon in ten years.” That galvanized the efforts of an entire nation.

After obtaining the proper legal documents, I had to then categorize my subordinate goals according to urgency. Anything that required immediate attention caused interaction with that institution to rise to the top of the pile. Generally speaking time remaining before an undesirable outcome was the primary driver; then the legal status of the particular financial position.

Finally, it was necessary to relentless attack paperwork as soon as it appeared. There were so many forms from so many institutions that needed to be finished, notarized, and transmitted that if I had allowed them to stack up for even a few days, I would have been suffocated in paperwork.

It’s Only Money

On several occasions it was necessary to stop what I was doing, due to immediate medical issues. When the life, death, or the quality of life of a family member is at stake, financial and legal issues must correctly take second place. There were times when I had to stop in the middle of an ongoing battle, turn ninety degrees to attack a different problem in a different direction. I also learned that at certain times, the most expensive solution might well be the only solution. For someone like me who reuses paper towels, this was a stretch. Fortunately my wife worked in hospitals as a medical social worker and case manager. Her experience and expertise were a great help in this difficult situation. There were times she gently pushed me out of the way and took the lead.

I Didn’t Come Equipped With an Off Switch

My biggest problem in dealing with this emergency was shutting down operations when necessary. Even if I managed to step away from the battle for a little R&R, my mind never stopped. I thank my friends who listened to me rant and rave during the last two months. I tried to rotate my outbursts around to different people so no one person would be overwhelmed with my story. There are times that the most productive thing that you can do is scream at an innocent friend who is not directly involved in your drama.

Although I quit walking for a month, I learned just how important exercise has become in my life. By far the worst hours of the day turned to be the hours between 6:00 and 9:00 in the morning. I have always been an early morning person. By 7:00 my motor is turning over at maximum RPM. Unfortunately, banks and billing offices don’t open until 9:00. I learned that was absolutely the best time to walk the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Walking allows me to clear the mind of negativity, plan the day, work through some imaginary conversations prior to actually interacting with another human being, and yes, even pray.

I expect I will have more to share in the future, as my life returns to normalcy. Out of respect to you, my readers, I have tried to be as open as possible while honoring and protecting the privacy of my family. I am finding it difficult to achieve this balance. If you believe I have erred on one side or the other, I request your patience as I find my way.