I remember the day it happened. I was sitting in the lounge room, having my hot cup of tea, reading and thinking about the Stockdale Paradox. The Stockdale Paradox wasn't new to me. I had come across it as part of Frontline Leadership training 10 years ago, and I could still recite the paradox:
Retain the faith that you will prevail in the end - regardless of the difficulties - and at the same time - confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.
The difference was that this day sitting in the lounge room, I finally understood what to do about it, how to apply it and what it meant for me - right here, right now, as a partner to a Fly-In-Fly-Out worker.
Now, of course, I had the first part, the unwavering faith that we would be okay, that somehow FIFO would come to an end and I would have my husband back. I mean, that's the easy part, isn't it? It's easy to have hope in a better future.
But I had the second part all wrong.
Superficially, I had accepted being the partner of a Fly-In-Fly-Out worker and raising the family. I was running the household single-handedly. In order to do that – I had to accept that he wasn’t here – right? That’s all there is to it, right? That’s accepting the brutal facts of my reality, right?
Well, no, that's not quite it.
That's the superficial perspective.
This was where I was going wrong. I was still focusing on the future … at some undefined point in time … as my saviour. Things would be better in the future. Somehow. Sometime.
So, I would sweep issues under the carpet and not deal with the difficulties as they were arising. I would brush over concerns with an attitude of
"Oh, don't worry. Just hold out. Just survive day by day. Just one more day. Get through one more day at a time."
"It'll sort itself out when he gets back.”
"We'll just figure it out when FIFO ends altogether. We'll sort it out then."
"We won't have this problem at some undetermined future point in time."
That's where I was going all wrong. Facing the brutal facts means dealing with them. It means figuring out specific strategies and actions to confront them and sort them out, fact by fact, issue by issue. It's not about sweeping them away … somehow trying to withstand the onslaught, forever, with no particular strategy to deal with it.
That day in my lounge room, I experienced a major head-space shift because I started to ask different questions.
What if he never came back?
What if he is a FIFO worker forever?
By asking decent questions, I started to come up with different answers.
To truly run the show by myself - if he was never around again - how would it operate?
How would this household flow?
How would work happen?
Do I need help?
What kind of help?
Where could I get that help?
In addition, we started working differently on our relationship and our communication with each other:
Exactly what was working?
When could we communicate and how?
What could we do to keep us close on a daily basis?
Each of these thoughts represented a fact - something to be confronted, dealt with and a solution put in place.
That was the day my life changed. I started sorting out all the little things.
My headspace moved to a place of "If I'm going to do this forever, I'm going to enjoy it, so what do I need to do to put in place in order to enjoy this FIFO existence?"
This is how you accept and confront the facts of your Fly-In-Fly-Out reality.