Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cool Panic - Melanie Milburne

As writers we are always told to put our characters under pressure. Conflict, conflict, conflict! It is how we get to know who they really are when we force them to make choices. But what do you do when you are faced with a difficult choice? Or what about when you are faced with a crisis?

No one can escape life without a crisis or three, and certainly life would be very boring without conflict. I think most women feel conflicted every day. Should I work longer hours or spend more time with the family? Should I go to the gym or go straight home and collect the dry cleaning and the kids from the crèche along the way? We are faced with difficult choices every day and the way we respond to them defines who we are as people.

I spend a lot of my time in the imaginary world of my characters. I have just finished book number 40 so that is a lot of people, a lot of conflict and a lot of difficult choices. But the beauty of writing an up-ending romance of course is there is always a happy ending. If only that could be true of our lives as well!

I had a recent crisis that really tested me. My daughter-in-law had a nasty fall at our beach house just on sundown and broke her leg in three places. Our beach house is in a remote area. No hospital (apart from a small health clinic) within a hundred and forty kilometres. My son panicked, the four dogs we had with us panicked, my poor daughter-in-law panicked and was white with pain.

So what did I do? Well, let me tell you what I wanted to do. I wanted to reset the clock and turn back time. I wanted to erase my suggestion of a walk. I wanted to cry and scream in panic that this couldn’t be happening. I wanted to let go with hysteria because I am good at that, but guess what? I didn’t. I got myself together. I organised the appropriate phone calls, I locked the dogs back in the house, (actually I did have a little moment of hysteria when two of them refused to go inside at one point) and I organised my son to help lift my daughter-in-law into the car, where I then drove carefully and calmly to the local clinic where we were able to get her some pain relief before transfer to hospital.

So what did I learn about myself? Well, I can be cool and clear headed under pressure. I can make sensible, practical choices and keep everyone on track. But.

There is always a but!

When everyone had left and I was back at the beach house minding four still confused dogs I fell apart. I had my little meltdown but at least it was in private, apart from the dogs of course. The whole experience as upsetting as it was taught me that courage comes when we are under fire, just like our characters. Facing tough stuff, be it personal relationship disasters, personal injury or health or the health issues of loved ones can really show us who we are as people, what our values are and how we can ( or can’t) be relied on in a crisis.

I hope you don’t have to go through the drama of a loved one having such a bad leg break in order to discover something about yourself. Let me know what you would do in a crisis or how you deal with panic.

Happy reading,

Melanie Milburne


Mary said...

Wow, sure hope things are back to normal for everyone now. My mom broke her arm last month and waited until the next day to call me. I was upset but was able to hold things together and am glad you were too.

It's amazing what we can do under pressure when we don't expect to be able to do it.

Tamsyn said...

I'm the breaking down type. We had heavy snow once and the train stopped and I had to walk home. Just plain panicked and my husband had to come and get me home!

runner10 said...

I try my best to avoid drama, but sometimes it finds me. It helps if I have family to talk to or help me out.

Melanie Milburne said...

It would be good if we could avoid drama but I seem to attract it! I go from one crisis to another so often I wonder if I will ever have a normal life. But what is normal? Most people have to deal with something at some time or the other. I figure I'm getting a lot of practice in!

Estella said...

I am the calm collected one in our family when a crisis raises its ugly head.
When everything is calm I get the shakes, but that is all.

practimom said...

well i hope your dil is ok. well, i eat. that is how i deal with my panic. that is how i deal with anything that emotionally strikes me. Started when my mom got cancer when i was in 3rd grade and they did not expect her to live. my dad had to work 17 hour days so i never saw either one of my parents for a long time. my brother started fights with everyone, us teachers, school kids, and my sis had a private problem. we all dealt with it in our own ways. needless to say i am 32 now, my mom has had 2 more rounds of chemo becasue she got cancer twice since the first time, but she is alive and well and i was able to share my kids with her!

catslady said...

I do better with large problems than small. Strange I found this blog today - just last night at 1 AM I got a call from my best friend who was out of town that her daughter (23) attempted suicide with pills and liquor. I was able to find a hidden key in the dark and call 911 - she made it (at least this time) but I was up most of the night thinking of all the what if's. In hindsight I can't understand why the mother and/or her friend that she called didn't call 911 immediately but I'm so glad things weren't even worse.

Christina Hollis said...

Melanie, you're a star. That was a wonderful performance under pressure - hope everyone (including you!) has recovered now.

Melanie Milburne said...

OMG, Catslady, how on earth did you remain so calm under that pressure? You literally saved that girl's life! But I can understand why the mother and friend didn't think to call 911. Most people don't think clearly in a crisis. Panic takes over. Do you know the stats on who survives a plane crash? It's mostly the crew and whoever is near the wings where the main exits are. It's because of their training-they know how to control their fear and go through the steps that have been drummed into them. Look around on your next flight. Count how many people who are actually looking at the safety demonstration. Scary, isn't it? What do you think will happen to them if the plane gets into trouble? They won't have a clue.
Thanks, Christina, for your comment. We are all do well and I am even back in front of the computer, thank goodness!

Melanie Milburne said...

I forgot to say to Practimon how understandable it is to comfort eat. YOu certainly have had a lot to deal with. We all have crutches we use to get us through the tough times. You are no doubt a wonderful support to your family.