“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott
Today I am writing, and I’m writing rather quickly because there are a set of storms that will be coming through in about 30 minutes. The storms have already produced a small tornado. And I started to realize all of the things that I needed to do before the storms came in case the power goes out, I decided that what was I needed to write about as well. One of the things that you learn living through lots of storms, especially if you live on a coastline like I do where there are lots of hurricanes, is that there are things that you can do to prepare for the storms and things that you can do during the storm in order to survive. So today, since I’m preparing for the storms, I thought I would share my tips for surviving storms the storms of life. As it turns out those for surviving the weather, apply just as well to surviving the storms that mark our lives.
- Prepare. The reason this is the first step, is because no matter what is going on in our lives if we take the time to prepare ourselves, we are better able to face the storms. During hurricane season we have preparedness kits so that if things go wrong (like they did with Katrina) we can have the supplies we need to be able to survive both the storm and the aftermath. We need the essentials. Food, water, medical kits, money, routes to shelters. Things of that nature. And in life we have to do the same. We have to prepare ourselves for what we will face. Part of this comes from learning from the things that have happened in the past. If we reflect on the difficult times we’ve faced before we can take things away from those situations that will help us in the future. We can utilize the strength and the knowledge we have gained. These are some of our essentials. We can make it a point to put ourselves mentally in a place where we are growing and confident in ourselves and our abilities to weather these storms. We can build a shelter. We can supply it with the materials we need if we take the time to reflect on ourselves and our lives, and to use that information to make a path to where we need to be. We have to organize ourselves – make lists (that’s why I’m writing this in list form now), figure out what we plan to do, because if we have those plans and they are tangible, they are our routes to safety during the storms we weather.
- Focus. Once the storm hits we have to stay focused. We have to take the time to be still and listen, especially when the winds pick up. In elementary school during tornado warnings we used to have to move to the hallway and sit in silence listening for the wind to start to sound like a freight train, and if it did, we knew to cover ourselves. This is what we have to do during the storms in our lives as well. We have to stop and pay attention. We have to focus. We have to look to see if what we are doing is the right thing to do. We go back to our list that tells us where we are going. We see if our current situation is a part of it. If it is, then we look around and figure out the supplies we need to utilize while this storm passes. It can be that we just need patience and a look back at the list so we remember that the storm will always pass. Or we may need the confidence to remember that we are accomplishing what we have set out to, despite the storm – because there will always be difficulties on our journey. If our current situation isn’t part of our path, or we’ve come to a crossroads we have to decide if we are going to leave the path behind to stay where we are (if so, refer back to the previous statements) or if we are going to leave our situation behind so that we can continue on to where we planned to go. And leaving a situation, especially an emotion-filled situation can be hard. It can create a whole new storm. But as long as we are paying attention and focusing on where we need to go, and what is best for ourselves and those we care about, then we can know that we are going to weather this storm and turn out all right in the end.
- Find joy. This third step may seem a little bit strange, so let me explain. Whenever there were hurricane warnings and we had to stay home from school, I always got a little excited. I knew that I would get to see at home, maybe with just flashlights and candles. I knew we’d make a tent. I knew we’d play games. And those weren’t things that happened all the time. Even though I was scared. And sometimes we had to stop playing to hide in the hall, we always had fun distractions from the storm at hand. Sometimes when we get into the day to day of life, we forget to have fun. We forget to have those moments of escape from the storm. It’s important to remember that sometimes we need a distraction or two. We need an adventure, even if it’s in the tent in the living room, to remind us of why we are in the storm to begin with. And to remind us that even in the storms, we can prosper. We can grow stronger. We can find happiness. We can share love. Even when the world outside is spinning and crashing and shaking the door. We can still know that there is something worth surviving for. We can find joy and let it guide us. There can be a rainbow on the other side.
Today I got the chance to just hang out with my son. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. And for that I am extremely thankful. Times have been stressful lately, and remembering to just have fun and enjoy our time together has been more difficult. I had a wonderful time playing in the yard and watching movies and cooking together with him today, and I hope to make it happen more often for us from now on. So since today is mother’s day, I mostly just want to say thanks to my son. Thanks for making me smile every day. For making me laugh just by being you. Thanks for reminding me to be a kid sometimes, too. For showing me how to use my imagination again. Thanks for pushing me outside of my comfort zone, and for basically just being the most amazing child on the planet. You make my heart sing every day, and for that I am eternally grateful! HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all of you amazing mothers and bloggers out there today! I hope it was as special as you hoped it would be 🙂
One day when I was driving home with my son in the back of my car, he started to cry. I tried music. I tried talking to him. I tried getting out and giving him juice and snacks. I checked to make sure he didn’t need anything else. I tried everything I knew to convince him that it was going to be okay. I gave him everything he could need. As he continued crying we began again with just a few more blocks to our house. I remember sitting at the stop sign and saying to him, “If you could only see, my love, we’re just a few minutes from being there. Just a few more minutes. It’s almost over. You don’t have to worry. Everything will be just as you want it to be soon. ”
In that moment I began to realize just how similar that sweet little baby and I were. I thought to myself:
How many times do I sit there wondering, crying, ‘God why isn’t this happening yet? Why can’t I see what’s going on? Why isn’t it the way I want it to be? What can I do to make things different? I can’t use what I have, I don’t even want this stuff I’ve got. I want something different, something better. Why can’t you just give me what I really want? Why is it like this? Why can’t I see the way out?’ and all the while God is sitting there saying, ‘It’s okay. I’ve given you everything you can possibly need. It’s all right there. Everything is waiting for you to arrive. You’re so close. You don’t have to cry. You don’t have to worry. I promise it’s all right there. If you could only just believe me, it would all be okay. ’”
I spent so much time worrying about why things weren’t right, that I failed to understand everything that was right with where I was. I didn’t appreciate it. I wasn’t thankful for it. I just threw it aside thinking I didn’t really need it. What’s the use in all of this stuff? I let myself get to a point where I couldn’t see past the hurt, the worry, the fear. It consumed me. And so it consumed everything I did for the most part, as well.
When we got home that day, I turned on Oprah, and there was a woman who had survived the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11. As I watched, she talked about all of the things she goes through each day just to get up and going. She had been burned over a large portion of her body. She could no longer hold her children. Up until recently, she couldn’t even open the peanut butter jar to make a sandwich for her children’s lunch. While watching, I realized all of the things that I had to be thankful for.
I can hold my son. I can touch his face. I can hug him. I can pick him up. I can see him smile. I can hear his laughter. I can play with him. I can drive him anywhere he needs to go. I can feel him breathe. I can run and jump with him. I can teach him to play sports. I have so many things to be thankful for, especially when it comes to him. He and my nephews make me smile every day. They fill my heart with joy every day. They let me love them every day, and I feel so honored to be able to do so. And I am so thankful to have the chance, all day every day to try again.
Even when I get things wrong, I have learned to be thankful that I have the chance to try again. And one of the ways I try to show my gratitude is by trying to make the right choice after I’ve made the wrong one. If it is something that can be undone, then I try to undo it. If the chance has passed, then I make sure to try not to make the same mistake again. With gratitude comes the possibility for change. If we recognize that it is possible for us at any moment to show that we are thankful, somehow, some way, we can seize the opportunity instead of allowing it to pass us by.