Weathering the Storm

It’s winter in the Northeast, and a storm’s coming. That’s hardly news around here, right? Why then did I spend so much time yesterday afternoon waiting in line—for groceries, for gas, for coffee. Every store we visited was packed. Why all the fuss? We had just gotten about seven inches of snow the day before. Nobody blinked. This time we’re expecting two feet of snow and blizzard conditions. Even for us, that’s significant. From the lines in the grocery store yesterday, it was clear that people are heeding the warnings, preparing for power outages, and getting ready to hunker down.

I confess, I love watching storm coverage. The meteorologists get so excited when they can use words like historic and blockbuster. I’ve had the TV on all day so I don’t miss any of the updates. (The governor just declared a State of Emergency and announced a driving ban starting at midnight.) No Reality TV show compares to Storm Team 5 on high alert.

Knowing that I’m relatively safe inland, I’m more excited than nervous. Still, I busied myself this morning getting chores done around the house in case we lose power. Dishes and laundry are running, everything chargeable is plugged in. I’m prepared!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had this much advanced warning for those other storms, the ones life throws at us? Even when they’re not historic or blockbuster, they can do some damage. You’d think by now that I’d at least check the radar daily and keep an eye out for developing systems. I don’t. I’m the one scrambling to find plywood and nails when the storm hits. I’d like to figure out how to do a better job preparing. Part of that is understanding my current strategies and figuring out what other options I have.

When my life gets stormy, I pull in, preferring to ride out the storm on my own. I put that plywood to good use, blocking out everything and everyone around me, ignoring orders to evacuate or invitations to shelter. I’ll wish you luck with your storm as I pound nails and build my barricades. It’s not that I don’t care, I do. I want you to be well. I guess I just expect us each to take care of ourselves.

My sister is our family’s FEMA. She runs scenarios, has evacuation routes mapped and shelters prepared. She has contingency plans for her contingency plans. She’s thinking not only about herself, but the rest of us as well. There are times the worry keeps her up at night, but overall she feels better thinking ahead. For me, having plans is useful, running disaster scenarios is not.

I’d like to find that balance. I’ve read a lot about meditation. I’ve bought how-to books and CDs. (I’m currently reading Jack Kornfield.) Like other habits I haven’t successfully developed, meditation practice remains sporadic. It does seem to help, though, in reminding me that storms come and go. There will be another once this one is done.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to examine my life and my responses to those storms, large and small.

Am I the meteorologist, checking computer models, making predictions, warning others of impending doom?
Am I organizing the shelter and looking out for everyone else’s needs?
Am I seeking shelter? Turning to others for support and help to make it through?
Am I hunkered down behind boarded up windows, determined to face whatever comes on my own?

And what happens when the storm passes? Am I checking on my neighbors, surveying my own damage? thankful for what I have left? Or devastated by the changes, the losses?

Maybe I’m cheerfully shoveling the snow. Or better yet, building snowdragons.

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