Storms: Horizons of Hope
In the week or so leading up to Irma, I found it difficult to want to stay connected on social media. Words like catastrophic, monster, and devastating were being used to describe the impending storm. Fear was rising and spread like wildfire as people began to express their growing anxiety. With each new detail offered about the hurricane and the path it might take, preparation, evacuation and the safety of loved ones became a prominent focus.
Offline, a friend's dad reported watching as a baker was delivering bread to the shelves of a local grocery store when he was rushed by a crowd, who picked the bread out of his hands before he had a chance to complete his work. News reports and social media posts showed stores emptied of water and lines of people waiting for resources that would help them to weather the storm. The perspective continually offered was one of lack—all of the build-up was incredible, honestly.
It's not that it was a bad idea to stay informed and prepare for the storm. There's so much wisdom in doing what we know to be good and right when we have the means to see the storm on the horizon, after all. Personally, I had to limit my intake of the information and dialogue, though because panic and fear aren't life-giving friends. And, most of the news and the language used was positioned from those mindsets. Getting caught up in it seemed like a trap.
When counseling and coaching people through fear and anxiety, I encourage them to let their thoughts go into the worst-case scenario. What if that terrible thing DID happen? How would you process through it? What would life become in the aftermath?
The truth is, there were some in our communities who experienced those very things. Our greatest fears about the storm and the damage it might cause became their reality. Perhaps we know these dear ones personally—their loss is unimaginable and we can now come alongside them in it. Perhaps we don't know them personally. While we might feel compassion from a distance, we may also feel thankful that it wasn't us... It's strange and messy to process through these complex experiences of grief and gratitude.
That said, most of us didn't experience our worst-case scenarios and I've been wondering where that leaves us as new storms will certainly emerge on the horizon in the future. Specifically, I wonder:
- Did fear serve me? How?
- Did anxiety help me? How?
- What decisions did I make that left me without peace and hope as the storm approached?
- At the end of the day, did those decisions make my life better? Did those decisions make life better for the people I love?
I consider the same questions for the storms we are not prepared for in this life. When an unexpected storm is upon us, a different sort of fight or flight response is initiated for survival, but our choice to notice what's happening and live in fear and anxiety remains.
In the past month or so, I've been adjusting my personal focus to the positive "What If's..."
- What if we make it?
- What if the damage won't be nearly as bad as the projections say?
- What if this is an opportunity for me to care well for the people around me?
- What if I bring peace into this scary situation?
- What if the worst happens... And, what if this "seeing" is an opportunity for me to reconnect to what's most important right now?
As you look back at your experiences over the past few weeks, then around you to notice the storms you're currently facing, and finally, ahead of you, noticing the storms you see developing on the horizon, I encourage you to take stock of how you're processing through them.
Will you choose to befriend fear, anxiety, and panic?
Will you choose to befriend peace?
We really can maintain a hopeful view of the storm on the horizon, regardless of the anticipated outcome.