Survival Mode best describes many of the days I have lived in Uganda.
Some days our family enjoyed nutritious meals, followed by solid homeschool academics, coupled with patient parenting, sprinkled with kind, encouraging words, and we finished with long night time prayers prayed, songs sung and backs scratched.
Other days were filled with junk food, followed by no school, coupled with quick tempered, harsh parenting, sprinkled with irritable and snippy responses, and we finished with a super fast Hail Mary tossed in with the quickest night time song I could think to sing, and no backs were scratched.
Yep. Not proud of it…just honest.
Survival mode is a miserable place from which to operate. It does not bring full life to those around us–nor full life to ourselves. It is just that: SURVIVAL.
I am thankful to say almost instantaneously my survival mode has ended…and I can feel myself leaving the funk behind. Chris has provided much needed reinforcement. Along with his presence has followed the ability to think clearly, creatively, to delve deep for patience and unconditional love, and has brought about a renewed enthusiasm for parenting and daily activities.
How long one can live in survival mode before things start to really tank? Possibly be a few months? Maybe even a year or two? (Within survival mode there are good days–even some days are really great!)
Mentally though, survival mode can be very defeating as you just are not able to see out of your present time and space. Often it feels the weight begins to compound upon itself. Our patience is worn thin. Our emotions are far closer to the surface. (We realize this only after it comes out in annoyance or anger toward those we love.) We daily provide for the physical needs of those around us, but we are not able to put much else in the bucket. The time one might have spent in the evenings being thoughtful and intentional, or even enjoying our own personal quiet and creative time is often snuffed out. Instead time is spent cleaning up last minute dishes and folding laundry left after a long day. Or one finds themselves collapsing in bed from pure exhaustion.
Survival mode is not new to the Cockerham family. We experienced it when Chris’ mom was very ill and in her last few months of life. We experienced it when I was working too many hours and not giving enough time to my family. And now we have experienced it in Africa–me a single mom for almost 5 months. I think we all go through times in our lives we would categorize as pure SURVIVAL. It is okay, normal, and a part of life!
What we must do is ensure that we do not stay in survival mode. I think truly destructive things can happen in those places if we stay too long or begin to believe: this is just life. We deserve better. Our children deserve better. We were designed to do more than survive in this world.
Surrounded by people here in Uganda that truly function most days in survival I realize sometimes our survival modes are out of our control…our circumstances cannot at the moment be changed and we must function in this capacity. But I also believe our frantic days and chaotic lives are often self-induced survival modes…and this can be remedied…more quickly than we can imagine.
My encouragement today is that if you are currently operating in survival mode ask the question: “What can be done today, this week, this month or within this year to move from survival mode to a more healthy daily life?”
God commends the enjoyment of life. If we are suffocating ourselves with busyness, distractions, and things we believe we MUST do–but our friendships, family or our health are all being compromised…it could be a time to pull out, make changes, and adjust to bring a more balanced world to our home.
Survival mode places us in a funk. We feel stuck. Some days are incredible…many days are depressing. Often we just keep moving and we don’t stop long enough to ask the question: “What must I do to get out of this place?”
My UG friends use this phrase when describing an obstacle one must face: “you must struggle.” I like it. If we want change there is a struggle that must happen. My encouragement would be to reflect on how you landed where you are and pray for clarity on what might be done to get out of that place. Struggle. If you don’t have answers, humbly ask a close friend. Often a confidante might be able to see a bit more clearly and offer wisdom on our current circumstances.
Sometimes our circumstances simply cannot be changed. In those moments you take a deep breath, pray for grace and mercy for that day, hour or minute and you move forward. Other days we can do more: we must ask for the energy or courage to not stay stuck, we must seek the help of others, we must cut out things that are taking our time from the things that truly matter…we must struggle. We must daily take small steps out of our survival mode and begin to truly leave the funk behind. Creativity, mental health, and life to the full follow a funk-free life.
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,