Storms have the ability to form at any point, in any season and in any place. They gain fame for their destruction. They have an unusual talent for displacement, disorientation and dismantling everything we know. No two storms are the same. Their intensities vary, and the complexities of its wreckage widely differ. Nonetheless, every living, breathing being must face a storm, all with the hope that they survive it somehow.
This series has explored the different stages of a natural storm’s life cycle and translated its patterns to the life storms we face. This week’s piece looks at the second stage of a storm (i.e. when it matures). In nature, this is the most active phase in which the greatest intensity and damage is experienced. This is the part of our life storms that we remember – the calamity, the crashing, and the collapse. Prior to this, we were in cumulus. Yet at some point our fluffy white clouds, our highs, our ideal circumstances, begin to turn gray.
When clouds begin to visibly transform, it’s because the water content is growing and becoming much heavier. Last week, we likened the presence of water/moisture to the presence of life/hope. Have you ever noticed that moments before your storm hits, you were experiencing the greatest level of hope? Perhaps it was just before that doctor’s visit or seconds before that interview? That space of growing hope, even if coupled with fear, is unique. It doesn’t match your reality, and things are looking much more dismal to the naked eye. But you’re still holding on – just in case you pull through unscathed. Then reality hits. That cool, harsh, air enters your cloud, smacks you right in the face and causes a downdraft. Your heavy water, your growing hope is suddenly challenged and pulled downwards.
It. Is. Raining.
Let us stay here for a little while, and respect the rain that comes with a storm. Your chest aches. You can barely breathe. Your body is physically responding to the disappointment – the hurt – the impact of being broken. Your head is hot, your eyes sting and you see no immediate way out of this situation. All you feel is moisture on your face. This is the part that sucks. He cheated. Your baby died. They’re kicking you out. You’ve lost your job. The diagnosis is dire. You’re in the storm and the rain is indeed pouring.
At this moment, you probably want to break things. Surely this pain is unwarranted? Was your hope not enough? Why was your hope allowed to grow, collect and store, only for you to be dashed by a cold harsh reality?
There are so many questions in this life that I wish I had the wisdom to answer. Although I cannot explain the storm, I can encourage you to survive it. One of the main characteristics of a storm is that there is an updraft (rising air), downdraft and precipitation (rain). For a storm to occur, everything is in there simultaneously. Therefore despite the realities we may face, there is still life and there are still blessings. It is harder to notice when it is raining, but they are there nonetheless.
The severity of a storm is governed by the quantities of these different elements. Most storms are limited, and although it may be uncomfortable at the time, you’ll pull through with little to no damage. The extreme storms, the Katrina’s of this life, are the ones that wreck your whole being. They leave you unrecognizable and force you to build something new.
If this piece is yet to be motivation, it is because I do not want to minimize the severity of the storms that some of us may be going through. Storms are brutal, and they remind us of how delicate we truly are. If your strength is rooted in your circumstances, it is arguably more difficult to weather life storms. If your strength is rooted in something higher and greater than what you see, you’ll have something to hold onto when storms shift your circumstances. As most of you know, for me, this is God. During my most recent storm, I’ve had questions but I’ve also had comfort. I’ve had pain but I’ve also had peace. Knowing that this is a cycle, and that there are thoughts and ways higher than mine have made me choose survival over surrender. We know how easy it is to drown when rain begins to fall.
This week I sought the advice of pilots on storm survival. Many of the recommendations from the Federal Aviation Administration are so rich for life storms; I hope you find value you in them too:
- Avoid all storms. For many of us in the mature stage, this may be too late. However if you are blessed enough to see gray clouds forming and you are in a position to leave – do so. This mainly applies to storms that are not directly yours. There is no heroism in involving yourself in the middle of someone else’s mature stage – you have no idea how they’ll mature through their own storm.
- Be aware of where storms are and where they might end up being. Learn to become sensitive and discerning to avoidable situations.
- Pilots suggest that if you are caught in a severe storm, you should accept whatever altitude the storm gives and keep your wings level. Similarly we must strive to remain level headed during our own life storms. Reckless behaviour rarely alleviates the situation.
- At the first sign of turbulence, pilots reduce their airspeed immediately. For us, it could be beneficial to slow things all the way down. The Federal Aviation Administration say in their manual “Never let compulsion take the place of good judgment.” So be reflective, be intentional, be slow to speak, respond, and react. This takes great skill when everything in you wants to speed through the storm.
- Regardless of how much we plan, there’s a good chance that where you intend to land is not where you’re going to wind up. Pilots suggest that in preparation for a possible storm be open to alternative routes. You may still get there, but just not the way that you had originally planned. In turn, you may get to experience somewhere/something/someone new.
If you’re in the maturing stage of a storm, keep weathering! Even if it doesn’t feel like it in this moment – this storm will mature you too and it shall indeed pass.