When I’ve had a ‘storm’ in my life it’s always led me back to one place. Simplify. There’s something about traumatic situations (deaths, births, illness, natural disasters) that helps put everything else in perspective.
And even when the storm is over it’s been my inclination to drop everything and pare back to the essentials. Afterall, sometimes when we are in shock or traumatized, that’s all we are capable of.
Sometimes all we can do is breathe.
A few weeks ago we had a severe storm rip through my little rural community. Cyclone Gita had just finished destroying parts of Tonga and Samoa and unfortunately, New Zealand was next in her path. She was nasty, and let us know that she was boss. And after she left, pieces of her remained, covering our wee corner of the earth. Homes and businesses were ruined, livelihoods swept away in a matter of hours. Anxiety skyrocketed and nerves were shattered.
But it’s what happened in the wake of the storm that was important.
Here are three things I noticed happening post-Gita;
Connection mattered so much in this time of devastation. Community bonds were strengthened as neighbors went door to door to help each other. This one thing, mother nature, a force that no one could argue with, brought us closer to each other. It made us all realize how small we were in the grandeur of the universe. And our togetherness made our smallness okay.
When I was in thick of grief for my mother in law a year ago, I wanted to run away and hide. But what I needed was to connect. I needed connection with others who loved her and were loved by her. She left a little of herself in everyone she knew so I needed those connections to soften the blow.
Sometimes we just need to connect with people who are going through the same adversity we are. Connection makes us stronger and increases our chances of overcoming adversity.
A natural disaster often prompts us to prepare better. After the Kaikoura Earthquake in 2016, I had prepared ‘grab bags’ for the girls and an emergency kit. I’m so pleased I took the time to do this, even though we didn’t quite need it this time around. Being prepared helped lower my anxiety during Gita. Although I was at the mercy of mother nature, I felt a few steps ahead.
We can absolutely do this in our everyday lives. We can identify our weak points, perhaps a tendency towards anxiety, and figure out ways to regularly lower it. That way when you are faced with a difficult situation you have nurtured yourself so that you aren’t pushed over the edge by it.
For me, this has been learning techniques around mindfulness, particular breathing and noticing. If I do these things regularly I am less pushed around by external circumstances. I am more capable of weathering the storms that come my way.
Storms, both real and metaphorical, can be the impetus for change. If we allow them. We can learn from every situation we face. I know this is the last thing you want to hear if you are in the middle of an unrelentless, unforgiving storm but it’s true. Difficult circumstances allow us to grow. In fact, difficult circumstances have created some of the most successful people. Oprah Winfrey was raped at age 9, had a child who died at birth at age 14, but credits this history as making her the person she is today (possibly the most influential woman in the world).
I’ll be honest with you, having my babies have been the wildest storms of my life yet. But they have also been the source of most of my growth. I literally had to do a fair bit of growing up when I became a mum. And while there are lots of smiles, hugs and happy days, those first few months with my first born were incredibly difficult. I felt completely beat by motherhood.
But I survived because of those things. The same things I observed after Cyclone Gita.
I connected with mums going through the same thing (shout out to my antenatal class of 09!), I was better prepared for our second daughter (no persevering with breastfeeding for months when it clearly wasn’t working), and I embraced change (eventually) to help me do this mum thing that felt so foreign.
I don’t feel as afraid of future storms anymore. Sure I’m probably gonna complain my ass off during them, but I’m better prepared now and I’m aware that they might just have the power to make me a better human.
Originally published at simpleslowlovely.com