Fatalistic? Pessimistic? Overly-dramatic? Maybe. Or maybe that's just being realistic?
So, as I'm thinking about storms, I envision these two scenarios in my head:
The mini-movies playing in my head revolve around the lives of these two individuals, and the inevitable storms they encounter. I invite you to explore with me what we can learn from these two stories....
If storms being so prevalent (on the edge of, in the middle of, or at the tail end of) really is representative of life, then I see us having three choices. One, we can live in denial: sitting in our houses or on our sailboat, unaware or unconcerned about the impending storm. Two, we can let the storm define us: marked by fear, we are a perpetual victim - with our houses boarded up, or always living below deck. Or three, we can accept the reality that life has storms: we do our best to be prepared for the different types, stages and potential outcomes of the storm(s).
Here's the problem with choices one and two. Living in denial can only last for so long. Eventually, if we continue to live in denial long enough, the storm will likely turn into a full-blown hurricane, destroying our home or beautiful sailboat, and potentially endangering our life. Letting the storm define us robs us of the ability to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us when it is on display for us in all its glory. Sure, we may be "safe", but there's no room for actually living life; we're simply just surviving.
So, we're left with choice three. Accepting the reality that storms are inevitable. What does that mean for us? Well, let's look at our mini-movies for inspiration, shall we?
When the storm hits, Isla rides out the storm in a safe place in her house, while Patricia makes sure her ship is "Heaving to", and then goes below deck to ride out the storm. During the storm, both Isla and Patricia do their best to asses how big/bad of a storm they are in the middle of. That way if there are any other measures that need to be taken, they are aware - like Isla needing to actually evacuate, if the storm is bad enough.
As the storm begins to subside, Isla and Patricia come out of their safe places to determine the extent of the damage the storm caused. Both women tend to any injuries they have. Patricia must also re-orient herself - What is her position? How far off course was she thrown by the storm? Where is the closest port where she can re-supply her ship and make any repairs?
We, too, must prepare for our storms. Our storms may come in the form of a "discovery", a triggering event, an argument, a "slip" or a relapse by our SA; not to mention the "normal" things that could be storms in our lives - problems at work, issues with extended family, physical/health related problems, or financial struggles. Sometimes, we can watch "the signs", and we may know that a storm is coming. Many times, however, we may not know when our storms will hit. But, IF we know how to cope/what we'll need in the middle of the storm, then at least we can make sure we're not stranded - helpless - when the storms do hit. So, what do we need when the storms hit? We're all different. However, I think that we all need a few essential "items" on our "storm preparedness" checklist:
2. Have a plan for "evacuation." As devastating as it may be, we need to know when things have gotten to the place where the storm is endangering our well being. One way to know if we are living from a co-dependent place is if we "can't live without" our SA. We may not want to live with out them, but can we? Though it may break our heart and the unknown may scare us, can we walk away if it means ending the destruction and chaos of living in a hurricane-force storm? IF it ever gets to that place, we'll need a plan to follow.
3. Have an "emergency kit" ready. In your "kit" would be things that will help you through the storm. This may be letters or journal entries that remind you of times/events where you previously went through a storm and made it out safe. It may be sayings or Bible passages that are encouraging to you when facing a storm. Maybe it's knowing that working out releases those precious endorphins and you need to get your butt to the gym! This is where self-knowledge = power. The more we know ourselves, and what helps us, the more we can access those things when we need them. Ask yourself: What will help me relax/feel safe/empowered when I'm facing a storm?
When our storms hit, we board up our windows, grab our emergency kit, and find our safe place. (Our safe places may include people, too.) Of utmost importance when we're in a storm is to realize what it is - a storm. You can't stop a storm. You can't fix a storm. You have to ride it out. The best thing we can do when we're in the middle of the storm is to not isolate or hide. As tempting as that is, we can't assess how big/bad of a storm it is if we hide. We can't access our emergency kit, and we definitely can't evacuate if we stay in hiding.
The goal is to get to the other side of the storm; be able to do some self-care, re-orient ourselves if necessary, and make any repairs that are needed.
Let me be clear on something: I'm not talking about becoming a storm chaser. I don't like the storms of life. They're scary. They bring me down. Sometimes, they're so big I can't see past the storm. My storms can cause me to loose my direction. I'm like Patricia on that sailboat - the storm is so big that I can barely see past the end of my ship; I can't tell which way land is. I can't see the sun, moon or stars to navigate by. Storms can leave destruction behind them. And sometimes, just the memory of a past storm can send me running for my safe place. Emotionally, I curl up into a fetal position and block the rest of the world out.
Life isn't always a storm. I believe we can experience the joys of life, while being aware that a storm may be just around the corner. If we've done the work and prepared, we can live life unafraid of the storms, knowing that we're ready when they fall on us.
When it comes to the storms of life - Where are you? Are you currently in a storm? What is your storm? Are you prepared? What do you have in your "emergency kit"? What is your "evacuation plan"? How are you "drinking in the moment" when you are not in your storm?
If you are in the middle of a storm, and don't have hope that you'll make it through, or need some ideas of how to make it through, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org