Friday, November 30, 2012

Power, Vulnerability, and the Storms of Life

It has been a long time since I have written.  Contending a bit with my own sense of personal power.  Hitting life transitions can challenge us sometimes beyond what we think is our ability to cope.  This, of course, is ridiculous.  As human beings, we are simply amazing.  But sometimes, when we are pulled by our challenges we may forget this.  And when we do, we may find ourselves in a bit of a funk, or even slipping into the abyss. 

Trying to figure out where my principles of personal power fit in here.  So easy to write about them. So easy to identify them and point to them when one is feeling strong and empowered.  The test comes when the storm strikes and we experience devastation not unlike what we here on the East Coast experienced with Hurricane Sandy about a month ago.  Funny how the metaphoric storm hit me just around the time the actual one did.  So many people I've spoken with here have reported experiencing something similar.  This storm was very personal for many of us.

Stepping back from the intensity and in the cool light of day, there is so much to notice.

It's funny. During, and in the aftermath, of the storm I so resisted the statement, "I lost my power."  I preferred saying that I'd lost my services. But life can be a bit of a trickster, and I realize that the vulnerability that I felt while in the storm and in its aftermath had precisely that effect for me.  There was more, it seems, than just things to notice -- there were great and powerful teachings.  Around power and vulnerability.

I live on the Delaware River in eastern Pennsylvania and it is such a dynamic landscape.  The Delaware is a wide and fast-flowing river.  And the day the storm hit, the river was high, perhaps even already cresting its banks.  There are big, beautiful trees all around.  About an hour before the sun went down, we lost our electricity.  And at about that time, the winds began to rise.  By the time it was dark, the gale-force winds had come and I found myself completely alone, cut off from every other human being on earth, in utter darkness and listening to howling winds, cracking tree limbs, falling trees, and debris flying around and striking the building and the windows.  The wild force of Nature was absolutely unleashed and I was little more than its witness.  

I was prepared for the storm, as prepared as you can be.  Yet I found myself pulled into thoughts like, "Where should I sleep?  What if while I am asleep in my bed a tree falls and crushes the building?  Yet if I sleep on the couch, what if a large tree limb crashes through the window and crushes me while I am asleep?"  And I realized that there really was nowhere that was safe to be in my home in the storm. Not really.  Vulnerability.  

But somehow I found myself wrapping myself up in a cozy blanket and laying down on my couch, being lulled to sleep by the song in the winds.  That was at about 9 o'clock.  With no services, there's not much to do in the dark but go to sleep.  And strangely, I slept deeply and well.  I fell asleep trusting that I would be fine, whatever happened.  Power.  

I woke, suddenly, to the sound of sheer silence at 3 a.m.  That was the time they'd forecast the eye of the storm coming right over us.  I waited and waited.  I was listening for the winds to begin to howl again.  But they never did.  I fell in and out of sleep the rest of the night, not quite able to come back to the same wakefulness I'd felt at 3 a.m.  But at one point, it looked to me as if the sky was lightening -- and it was still eerily quiet.  I got up, threw open the door, and realized the storm had passed.  That deep, deep darkness was easing and what remained was just the signs of the devastation brought by the wild winds.  

It would be another week before all our services were restored.  I lived at Starbucks along with a whole lot of other people for the next week, as an unexpected community formed and we all connected with each other as we were trying to stay connected with our normal lives as much as we could.  It was a strange week. It did not quite feel real.  And when our services were restored and things should have felt "normal", that did not quite feel real either.  The experience of the storm had changed something for me.  And I am not quite sure, still, what that is.  

I read an article today that spoke about transitional states of consciousness following personal or collective disaster and the void that is created as our normal markers disappear. During such times we have the opportunity to create a new reality for ourselves.  The author warns readers to have a care about what markers we replace the old ones with.  That's what I am thinking about now.  When the storms come and things change, how do we cope with the new reality of the void created by the change as well as the challenge and the opportunity of creating a new reality for ourselves? 

No answers around this.  Just creating space to think about it.   


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