As the director of Sleepy Hollow Performing Artists, a 501-c-3 organization I find that we are always in some kind of crisis: the lead dancer has broken his arm; the toilet in the theater is backed up; we are always short of funds. But nothing prepared me for the moment I was told that my youngest sister was having a massive stroke.
In the life I lived in-between performer and studio director, I had a gig as a Crisis Management Specialist. I have dealt with people whose lives are forever changed due to crisis, and I have lived through many of my own.
But somehow, this one is kicking me to the curb. One moment I am just living my life: planning the performance, talking to parents, deciding what costume would best suit each dance - and the next moment I am terrified and am traveling to another state in panic. What followed were the kinds of things movies that you don't want to live are made of. During this horrible time (which included my sister's massive stroke that left her, a single mother of four, with Traumatic Brain Injury) I was completely unable to handle any idea of my work, friends, students, or home. Everything fell away but the hospital bed, my sister's struggle to live, the meetings with doctors, and her children.
But this is what I have found out. By giving up control and allowing myself to be where I needed to be miracles happened. People stepped up, and understood, and loved and cared about the studio and me. Here are some clear steps I took in dealing with this crisis.
1. I was honest about my situation and asked others for help. Explaining my tragedy made it easier for people to
accept my absence.
2. Keeping the studio and dancers informed of the situation was key. It allowed others to take leadership roles.
Work in the studio continued, and anything that did not go well I am able to handle upon my return.
3. Updates and open communication on Facebook and with the studio were key. By posting photos of my sister and her
kids pre-stroke my customers were able to put a face to the person.
4. I am now a member of a club I don't want to be in, but being a member makes me more empathetic to my student
who lost his brother to Cancer; to my student whose young sister has a rare disease, and to the crisis that face many
of the people who surround me.
What I came away with most during this horrible time is that my personal life matters too, that my students, dancers, and parents are awesome and understanding, and that I am very lucky to have a second family that I trust and love. I also truly believe that my sister Tami is a fighter, that she has the absolute best friends in the world, and that if anyone can overcome a massive stroke, it will be her. One more thing: sometime we have to take time off to enjoy life. If not now, when?
Best of health to you and your family,