Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. Landslides. Fires. Volcanic eruptions. Diagnoses. Divorces. Death of loved one. Car accidents. Addiction. A child in trouble. War. Oppression. Terrorism.
There are so many kinds of storms.
People think I’m crazy for living in a place that’s prone to hurricanes. But I think it’s significantly more crazy to live in a place that’s prone to earthquakes. You don’t even know those are coming! Don’t even get me started on the level of crazy I think San Francisco folk have to be to leave their cars in potential cement death traps like parking garages. That’s just stupid C-R-A-Z-Y.
With Florence headed toward the east coast, I’ve been thinking a lot about storms this week – storms we can prepare for versus storms we can’t. And what is the definition of storm, really? Is it just anything that is unsettling? Webster tells us storms can be a variety of things.
- a disturbance of the atmosphere marked by wind and usually by rain, snow, hail, sleet, or thunder and lightning
- a disturbed or agitated state, such as storms of emotion
- a heavy discharge of objects, such as missiles
- a tumultuous outburst
- a violent assault on a defended position
Perhaps the biggest storm of this week has been me. I am disturbed and in an agitated state and I have had outbursts. For the first time in two decades, I am facing a storm of weather that has the potential to greatly impact people I love and I have no one to rely on but me. No one to make decisions with. No one to second guess my logic or bounce ideas off of. No one to double check my list of to dos. If I make a bad decision about evacuating or don’t get enough food or water, people I love could really be impacted and it will solely be my responsibility and my fault. And that burden feels large.
And you know what’s really silly? I have always really relied mostly on me because that’s just how I am, even when someone is standing next to me. Even if I had someone else in this house right now to bounce ideas off of and check my to dos, I would go with my gut on what to do and then blame myself if something went wrong. I’m a planner and I’m an organizer and I know that’s not everyone’s thing – and because I’m a little neurotic about lists and spreadsheets and planning (maybe more than a little neurotic), if something is missed or goes really awry, I am serious about going back through my checklist to figure out what the heck I was thinking.
The one thing all storms have in common, I’ve decided, is that we truly can’t plan for them and they all kind of suck. OK that’s two things. Storms we don’t know are coming feel like a punch in the gut and that’s awful. But storms we can see looming on the horizon cause so much anxiety and stress that I think the knowing and waiting is actually the stormiest part of the storm. Is one kind of storm really any better than the other?
We tend to define and even categorize whole time periods of our lives by storms. Life before a heart attack. Life after the death of loved one. Life before a job ended. Life after someone makes it to the other side of an addiction. Life before “the war.” Life after 9/11. Today is September 11, and with looking at just a few images I am easily transported right back to that day of surprise and uncertainty and overwhelming sadness. All of our lives have changed since that day – everything from our country’s foreign policy to air travel to our sense of overall safety within our borders.
I tend to think of storms as an occasional small thing in the big scheme of things, but the truth is that storms are actually a pretty substantial part of all of our lives – and how we handle them and what we learn from them (or not) impacts the remainder of each of our lives greatly. One of the biggest lessons for me, and actually one of the great things about storms, is the way people come together to help and support one another. We see the worst of people in storms and we see the best of people in storms. Look for the helpers, Mr. Rogers would always say. Helpers are first responders, and helpers are family and neighbors and friends and teachers and doctors and nurses and counselors and people from Starbucks that we kinda know but not really, and even complete strangers.
I allowed myself to get sucked into a pity party for a bit today. Because I forgot for a bit that it’s also my job to be a helper in a storm – to be a sister and a daughter and a neighbor and a company leader and a friend. I probably can’t get your generator working (God Bless Mark from Starbucks who helped me!), but I can call a friend who lives alone to make sure they have a plan and enough medicine.
I allowed myself to get sucked into a pity party for a bit today, because I forgot for a bit that one of my jobs as a helper and as a Mom is to project calm and not add chaos. And in a moment of divine intervention at just the right moment today, I came across this gem – and I literally laughed out loud as I thought it might be easier for God to hush the waves of the sea than it is to still the Storm that is sometimes me.