Those of us living on the eastern seaboard of the United States are watching the Bahamas with a keen interest. Currently, hurricane Joaquin is impacting the islands and the people who live there, soon to be turning his sights on the coastal US. As many of you know, weather and forecasting is a hobby of mine, especially the study of severe weather. So I am not only watching Joaquin because it interests me, but also because it may directly affect me as I am on the water on the east coast of the US.
In recent years I have experienced a few tropical storms and hurricanes as they passed nearby, creating flooding, some damage, and prolonged power outages. Even though I am not surprised by their appearance in my neighborhood, nor by the damage done, I lived in a state of anxiety and deep worry the days leading up to the event. The last storm system to come my way, back in 2011, almost paralyzed me in worry. Why? Because I feared what could happen and I had no control over the outcome. The storm was going hit my house and would do whatever it would do, worry or not.
Yet today, as I write this reflection, I am not worried nor anxious. Yes, there is a good chance Joaquin will do damage to my house or dock, and yes, Joaquin will most likely cause flooding and prolonged power outages; yet I am not anxious. How can this be?! I attribute the change in my attitude from 2011 til now to mindfulness; to living in the moment. I don’t write about living in the moment from an academic perspective (although I have been academically trained), but rather I write about living in the moment based on my experience; the struggles and successes of my ability to live in the moment. Here’s a secret: much of what I write is not for you but for me. I write to remind me of what I need to do to find my own inner-peace.
As I watch the weather models and the track of Joaquin, and as the days get closer to a possible landfall, I find myself not feeling anxious, but feeling a sense of peace and a desire to share that sense of peace with you. How is this possible? Here is what I am doing differently this time versus 2011.
- Each time that my mind wanders into the future I consciously pull back my thoughts to what is happening at this moment. At this moment there is no storm and no storm damage, therefore no need to feel anxious.
- Often, what makes us feel anxious is our sense of loss of control. I cannot yet control the path of a hurricane, so if I continue to dwell on what I cannot control then my anxiety level will rise. That is exactly what I was doing in 2011. Today, I am focusing on the areas of which I do have control. I do have control over the preparations that I take. I can move in furniture, secure out buildings, get supplies, make safety plans for various scenarios, etc. The more time I spend focusing on areas which I can control, and taking those steps, my anxiety lessens as I realize that in this present moment I am taking action. I am not powerless; I can plan and prepare.
- So, make a list of those things you have no control over, and a separate list of those things for which you do have control. Consciously work on forgetting the former as you work toward accomplishing the latter.
- If you start to feel anxious even though you are making preparations and trying to stay in the moment, find an outlet for your anxiety. Find someone with whom you can share your feelings; journal your feelings; do something that has nothing whatsoever to do with the hurricane and its preparation.
- For me, the bottom line is this: prepare the best I can, keep my family close, and pray to God for safety and peace.
Accept the reality that no one, not even you or I, knows the future. When you truly grasp the wisdom and meaning of that statement, then you will begin to feel an inner-peace. As you begin to experience your inner-peace and calm, share it with others. It is in sharing your peace, and how you came to realize that peace, which will enable another person to find their peace.
As Joaquin moves over the Bahamas and toward the US, let us keep each other in thought and prayer. If you feel the need to reach out, you know how to reach me. Stay in the moment and keep the faith. All is well!
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