When Surviving is the Only Option

Today’s post is a follow up to How to Go From Surviving to Thriving from last week. Many of us have the ability to cut unnecessary things out of our lives, learn to prioritize, and plan better to take us to thriving. There are people, though, who have said no to everything that they can, plan and prioritize perfectly and still find themselves surviving. Barely surviving even. I have so much to learn from people in that situation and hope you find yourself encouraged and challenged by this post no matter which situation you find yourself in.

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The vast majority of people I see have so much control over their circumstances, hence the ability to learn to plan, prioritize, say  no, etc. With a little effort, their lives can be vastly different.

However, there are many times I see people in the most horrible life situations, and they are such an inspiration. What is it about them that makes them different from others going through the exact same things?

How can one person be inspirational and even upbeat while the other is downtrodden and miserable? They CANNOT change any of their circumstances. They can ONLY change themselves and the way they look at life.

What have they found in their soul and spirit? I want to be like that.

What happens when your season of “just surviving” goes on and on and on. There were years when I felt that survive was all I could do. “I just need the strength to get through today” was my prayer every morning. Thriving seemed to be a very dim light at the end of a very long tunnel.

I know there are others out there in the same situation – single moms, moms of a handicapped child, severely allergic child, or a chronically ill child, a mom with a husband who never helps or is never home, a mom whose husband is deployed overseas, or a mom who has a debilitating disease or cancer.

When will their season of “just surviving” ever end? Is there any hope for them?

I used to pray that I only had to be “on duty” 23 hours and 50 minutes a day. Just 10 minutes of “me time” a day. That wasn’t too much to ask, was it? I looked forward to my 10 minutes, and if I didn’t get it, I was so disappointed and frustrated. I felt sad – life had let me down. It began to steal the joy from my life.

Then, one day I was reading a very old Bible study book. Something jumped out at me and gave me a slap in the face. I was to commit 100% of my life to my family. Not 95%, not 99% – but 100%. Seriously!?!? Was I really willing to do that?

I was convicted that day and began my journey of giving 100%. I couldn’t change my circumstances. I had already cut out all of the unnecessary things that devoured my time and energy. The only thing left to change was my heart and my attitude. I determined that, for whatever reason, God had designed my days to be challenging. I was up to the task. I was in 100%.

My days continued to be exactly like they had been – no sleep, messes to clean, diapers to change, meals to cook, homeschooling, disciplining feisty kids. All of this by myself while my husband was on the road. Just like the previous week, I found myself with exactly zero minutes of “me time”. But, now I wasn’t disappointed. How could I be disappointed when I got exactly what I expected? After all, my part of the bargain was 100% of me. Was I tired? Absolutely. More that you will ever know. But I found my joy was still there. It was not being stolen anymore.

And then, the best thing began to happen. Occasionally, I got ten minutes of “me time,” and I was so excited! I was given a gift that day, and I saw those few precious minutes as a blessing. A few days earlier when I got those ten minutes, I deserved them (or so I thought), so I never appreciated them or saw them as a blessing.

The same life. The same ten minutes. But with a different heart attitude.

Life hadn’t changed. I changed.

Are you in a long season of “just surviving” or do you know someone who is? What kinds of things have others done or what things could others do that could give you a few minutes of desperately needed “me time”? I would love if you would comment and let me know how to be a blessing to you!

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28 thoughts on “When Surviving is the Only Option

  1. Natalie reading

    I don’t usually comment on things like this but this was just so true to my heart. I have been just surviving fr 14 yrs. half of my life almost exactly. I have 3 boys with autism and other conditions. My eldest cannot live with us because f his rare metabolic condition and has been away from home for 3 yrs now. I also hve a hubby with autism and brain damage. I was working, doing a degree an also only Carer for my best friend and my rock my gramps until he suddenly died in February. Half of me died that day and I honestly can’t explain what happened to me since. But I have been just about surviving 14 yrs now. It started when my eldest was born 14 yrs ago 3 months early with complications and it had snowballed there. Did I mention I took my 2 others out of school in May and home ed them too. I feel worn out now reading what I have just written x

    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure you must live in a state of continuous exhaustion, mentally and physically. I’m so sorry for the loss of your Gramps and friend. How difficult. I said a prayer for you.

      I know that there are so many hurting and surviving as are you. Do you have any suggestions as to how people could best minister to, help, serve, encourage you as you go through your life?

  2. Meg Kra

    I found you via The Weekend re-Treat. I think that this is all great advice. Only we can change ourselves, not our situations. This is sometimes a hard lesson to learn but once you do, everything gets easier from there. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Shannen

    Hopping over from TGIM! What a touching post. It’s been hard to give 100% to my family, feeling like I deserve that “me time.” I have to remind myself that I signed up for this – this is what I wanted! This period in life is just a lot more selfless than I’ve had to experience in the past and it’s taking some growing pains. You’re right. It’s all about attitude and expectation. Thanks!

  4. Tabitha

    I loved reading this! I have been there so many times at different times as a mother and it’s always tough when you’re there to see that there’s a time in the future that it will get better. -Tabitha

    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! So true, and it can be hard to remember that we still have a choice as to what our attitudes are going to be even when we are surviving.

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  7. Rachel

    I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia recently. After having surgery for a disc that had been bulging and then ruptured in my spine for over two years. After giving birth to my son after leaving his father who began selling drugs after I was raped and assaulted for 6 years in my early teens.
    I do not share all that to say my life is hard, woe is me. I know my life is fairly challenging. Other people know it if they take a minute to really look. I live with chronic pain and PTSD while being a mom and going to school at 22. But instead of letting my disease dictate my attitude, I have my attitude dictate my disease.
    I am not a Christian but I do practice spirituality. I truly believe a positive attitude is what makes life. You can focus on drudging through the crappy waters or you can focus on overcoming them. Don’t get me wrong. There are times where I just sit down and cry for a little while. I let myself take stock of all the pain and the frustration and the anger. But then I stand back up, I refocus and let all the negative flow away and I gear myself up to tackle life and be the champion again. Some people say I inspire them but other people are why I am inspired. Knowing there are people who have been or are going through what I do and they feel alone and defeated or just down on their luck? They are the reason I always always always get back up and relight my inner fire.
    it is a balance that comes down to how you harness your energy and choose to go forward. “It may take everything you’ve got but you’ve got what it takes” 🙂
    forge on and stay bright!

    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Thank you for your comment and sharing your story. I’m so sorry that you had to go through all of that. Thank you for the reminder to not let life dictate my attitude. I need it too often!

  8. Kate

    Thank you for this. I was so desperate for something hopeful today, I searched Pinterest for “feel overwhelmed.” God lead me here. I have 4 chronic illnesses, any one of which could put someone into survival mode. And extremely active 4 year old very fraternal {read: what works for one doesn’t work for the other} twin preschoolers.

    Thank you for allowing God to use you to write these words. <3

    1. Deanna Michaels Post author

      Oh Kate! I’m so sorry for what you are going through. I pray that you are encouraged this weekend and that your twins give you many chances to smile and love on them. My oldest is 3 and we’ve had a few hard days this week dealing with behavioral stuff. It’s never fun. Thank you for reading and commenting. Hang in there!!! Hugs.


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