She stood in the storm,
And when the wind did not blow her away,
She adjusted her sails
Don’t build higher walls, instead, accommodate the waves. This idea represents resilience thinking by urban planners. Sometimes despite planning to be in the desert we find ourselves in water. It may be at an oasis of our own making, a welcome cooling off. Or it may be a bone chilling, breath-taking shower that was not forecast. Either way, be there, wet, be there feeling, whatever is different, whatever it is, be there, just accepting. The well is only so deep.
How do we survive and when necessary remain in difficult experiences that may or may not be of our making? What do we make of them afterwards? Can we see our strength that we were able to tread water? Do we feel the fool for having fallen in…again and again and again? Do we see when it’s just a puddle and we can put our feet on the ground? Do we use the stream to flow to the sea when we want to go deeper and further? Do we call for a life jacket? Can we pull a friend in with us and turn it into a game of Marco Polo in the dark waters?
I’ve followed a scenic path. It has been without a map. Sometimes I feel bad about that, conscious about what it says about my lack of planning, of focus, of determination and agency. But it’s the way I was made to grow, at least so far. And I think I always end up where I’m meant to be, be it upstream or down. I carry with me a compass. I don’t know how to use it, but it means I know I am here, that there is South, beginnings, and that North, infinite possibility, is going to be somewhere. In my bag there are principles, values, beliefs, emotions. I can wear them for any occasion and they never go out of style. My feet are shod with dust. They connect with humility and with the earth. In the pocket on the left side of my chest I carry images and memories of those I love so I am never alone. My jacket blows in the wind, capturing tales that draw me forth to listen and to find, sometimes with the wind at my back, sometimes with my back bent into the wind.
A tree that has grown bent into the wind is no less of a tree and no less beautiful that one that has been allowed to more directly reach for the sky. It may have deeper roots. It has a different perspective. Maybe it is just used to being a little crooked and on the edge. Or this is perhaps how it feels equilibrium. It knows its margins.
Sometimes we are pushed to the margins of our self. We may even get beyond. Shaking the snow globe too hard, or better yet dropping it, may see us exit the safe, glass dome. The water won’t be held by our hands. The wind will pick up the pieces of snow. A new sky and maybe a new skin will be revealed as we are left bare. We will still be who we are. Maybe a little more blown true for the experience.
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable unhappy or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.
-M Scott Peck.
It’s true, the extraordinary can come from adversity. But I like to think it can also come in the ordinary moments, because you are you and you are extraordinary.
When I was at teachers college we had a lecturer called Barbara for our English classes in first year. She used to make us repeat in each lesson, “I’m me and I’m okay”. I don’t remember if she told us why this was her prescription. She clearly had more life experience backing the need for this assurance. Did she think teaching small people would erode our sense of self or chip away our confidence in who we are, or did she know that life sometimes does this? I think she knew that our four years as young adults at the College would see us shaped and re-shaped as we matured and met the world in new ways, as our evolving selves.
It’s a mantra I still find myself using sometimes. And the most beautiful thing about it is that it doesn’t mean I can’t learn and grow and change, it is that the essence of me is a fine thing. But as a fine thing I sometimes find myself out in a storm, sailing in a gale, subject to the elements when I haven’t read the situation right. If I’m not tethered I may end up lost, a bit battered and bruised and changed. But still me. In fact probably more me than I was before I ventured out without my umbrella.
And being me, sometimes I choose the wind. I step into the wind every now and then to blow away the gumpf, to slough off what’s not serving me or have a break from bother. Sometimes I choose the wind. I leap in for the blast and the immediacy. The wind sculpts me as I float off into new places, lean into tearing fear, have annoyances plucked out of my hands, lose my thoughts with my hat, have my intentions scattered like paper. It’s self-sanctifying when I let the wind feel me, blow away the haze, run across and through my body. Sometimes I choose the wind to fill my sails, find my courage and feel touched. It’s elemental.
My value is courage, and I was just courageous.