Sunday, August 23, 2015
When the Storm Hits
"You are the sky. Everything else - it's just the weather. ~ Pema Chodron
My family moved to Taiwan three weeks ago. We arrived on the island just in time to find out that a typhoon would be upon us within a few days. Not just a typhoon either, but Super Typhoon Soudelor. A friend commented to me that the name sounded a bit too much like soul eater. I considered this observation with interest and an undercurrent of anxiety. I had prickly thoughts of landslides, flash floods, powerful currents, vicious winds and rains that could sweep everything away.
Storms can be like that. They can rush in and change the landscape of everything in one fell swoop of mother nature's hand or gust of her breath. Transformation can be destructive and violent, storms teach us that. They teach us that nothing is ever set in stone, nothing is indestructible, nothing exists outside of the realm of change.
As we waited for this storm to roll in from the ocean, I knew I was waiting for another storm as well, another storm foretold, predicted and not yet confirmed, not solidified, a shade away from real, but ahead of the storm I could sense a shift in pressure, an electricity in the atmosphere, the pretense of what approached, the calm before.
Super Typhoon Soudelor came during the night, with howling wind and bucketing rain. The power popped and struggled and then submitted. Noises swirled and inflamed my anxious imagination, every bump, thud and wail, made my heart pound. I spent that night sleepless and desperate for the morning light.
The morning did arrive, and the storm raged on, trees bent and breaking, the rhythm of fierce gale winds that threatened to tip the whole world sideways and then would drop it back down. Curtains of rain hiding the city below. Our family huddled in our new home, hoping it would pass this test. Wondering how we would pass this test.
We spent the next days without electricity. We played poker through the storm and continued after it parted. We ate meals by candle and flashlight. We went for a walk the day after and marveled at the power of nature. We held each other and helped each other through. We also got grumpy and irritable as the house got hotter and hotter, as we were stripped of our escape mechanisms of technology; no television, no computer, no video games. There were moments of bad behavior by children and adults alike. Tempers ran short, and yet we hung together, we laughed a lot too.
I had enough battery charge on my phone to turn it on sparingly and check in. The day after the typhoon passed, the other storm hit.
My son had gone in for neuropsychological testing a few weeks previous. He already had a diagnosis of ADD from a couple years ago, but we anticipated some new findings, ones that would stand to change his life, our lives, forever. I had received an email with the findings of the testing.
I scanned through the lengthy report and got towards the bottom where it listed the diagnostic outcome. ADD, Bipolar 1, general anxiety disorder and written language learning disability was what I read. The words filled my eyes and flooded my brain. We suspected some of this before, now it was real, there in words, in concrete form, it made landfall. In an instant, in a breath, the world turned sideways and dropped back down, the landscape altered, forever changed.
But what stands out on both accounts, is that no matter what size or shape a storm may take, what never changes is our commitment to each other. The love always remains. The love stands the test of time and circumstance, and though things don't remain the same, and we ourselves don't remain the same, we stay with each other. My heart broke a little reading that diagnosis, but my love for my son shone out through the brokenness, the light piercing through the clouds. I have always loved him as he is, and in that respect nothing had changed, not the least bit.
Sometimes the bravest thing to do is to accept what is. It is hard to acknowledge that there is actually so little in this life that we can control, so much is outside of our will, outside of our wanting. When I accept what is and enter the flow of life, then I can engage with reality in a productive way. When I balance my fighting warrior nature with an equal measure of faithful surrender, then I can navigate the storm, come through the challenging terrain with more ease, with greater skill.
The true test of who we are is not in how we show up in the good times, on days of blue skies and gentle breezes on calm waters, but who we are when the super typhoon hits and our world is tilted sideways and dropped down hard upon us, or when the ground seems to disappear from under our feet. It is in weathering the storm that we will meet our edges, face our fears, and grow stronger, wiser and more resilient. We can learn how to stay and experience life, how to feel, instead of burying our heads in the sand or running away. The storm might seem to be entirely destructive in nature, but it is also the force of creation. What was lost or transformed is the invitation for something new, whether or not we venture out into that new world, and how we choose to meet it, is entirely up to us.