After visiting urgent care with my son last Tuesday afternoon, we were told to go to an orthopedic specialist the next day to have his broken wrist looked at. Urgent care had splinted his arm tightly, all the way up to the elbow, before we went home. That night, my son Benjamin was miserable. He was in significant pain, unable to rest. Finally, around 2am, he unwrapped the splint half way, and realized his wrist had been splinted out of alignment. He made some adjustments, and then managed to get about three hours of sleep. I too was up through the night with him, writing last week’s Inner Power Tools as he tried to rest.
Immediately upon removal of the splint on Wednesday afternoon, Benjamin was like a new man. The break was nowhere near what the urgent care had made it out to be, and he ended up with a simple, water-proof cast around his wrist. Sigh of relief!
Later that evening, I began to feel as if I was coming down with something, feeling tired, sniffly and tender-throated. I noticed my inner judge, the one that says “illness is inconvenient,” wanting to protest. After all, it was my boys’ last week of school, there were many activities to attend to, I had a lot of work to do professionally, Benjamin’s birthday celebration was coming on Friday, my boys were heading to North Carolina to visit their grandparents with their father on Sunday, and I was leaving on a business trip on Tuesday. I “didn’t have time” to get ill. Regardless of my longing to protest, I did my best to accept it, take my supportive homeopathic remedies, and get my work done.
I committed in that moment, after having practiced flexibility, to accept what comes and do my best to stay in peace around it.
Do you ever notice that when you make a commitment to something, life inevitably offers you plenty of opportunities to stand in that commitment?
The next day, Thursday, I realized that a significant amount of accounting data I had entered had to be re-entered due to an uncaught mistake a couple of weeks earlier, which was not easily undone. Again, I practiced acceptance, and set to work to remedy the situation. Another late night for me.
On Friday, my boys’ last day of school ended at noon, and we went to the local bike park for Benjamin’s birthday celebration. He had decided to go ahead with his party, even though he couldn’t ride much…or so he said. By the end of the party, he was the one with the most scrapes, but thankfully nothing serious. I ended the day with a low fever, and went to bed early, again practicing acceptance.
Saturday morning, I was up early, attempting to get some work completed before my boys woke up. Jackson, my youngest son, woke and started working to finish a cross-stitch project which was to be a birthday gift for his big brother. He started complaining that his wrist hurt, eventually ending up in tears. I thought perhaps he had slept on it in a funny way. Upon assessment, I could see that it wasn’t swollen, but as I touched it, Jackson winced in pain. “How could this have happened?” I asked him, confused. “I fell off my skateboard last night, but it didn’t hurt that much then” he replied. Apparently not, as he had said nothing of falling, and had no scrapes, swelling or bruises to show for it the night before.
Another opportunity to practice acceptance!
So, off we went to urgent care, again. It was quite busy, with many casualties coming in from the local Ironman Triathlon happening that day in the intense heat. When the doctor finally came in to see us, and told Jackson he had broken his wrist, we all burst out laughing. Laughing! In the midst of all of this chaos, we were laughing!
It was in that moment I realized where we were. We weren’t in the chaos of the storm. We weren’t getting caught up in the intense swirl of the frustration around what could be, or the need to rush so that we could get to the concert we planned to attend that evening, or the hunger we all felt as we waited so long. I hadn’t spent the week spinning around wondering how I was going to get everything done, or honor every commitment. I had committed to practicing acceptance, and accepting is what we did.
With the deep, hearty, beautiful belly laughs we were all experiencing, I knew we were in the eye of the storm.
We were in the calm, peaceful center, watching the swirling chaos around us, and staying in peace. Granted, I’m sure we were all in a bit of shock too. After all, how often is it that two brothers break their left wrists within three days of each other, while their mother burns through a fever?!?! Yet even as we finished up with the second cast, we were all still smiling, knowing what a great story this would be, knowing we would remember this week of Benjamin’s 14th birthday for the rest of our lives, knowing that we had never felt such joy in the midst of such unexpected challenge.
We made it to the concert that night, enjoying a picnic dinner we quickly threw together, complete with birthday pie for Benjamin. On Sunday morning, the boys headed off on their beach trip, and as I write, I have made it to my business trip. Everything worked out. We all got through.
I share this story partly as a story of surrender, but also as a story for our time. We are living in the storm, with political, economic, educational, financial, social, religious, environmental, and existential chaos swirling about intensely. It is our choice to either get caught in it, or stay in the eye. Our habit life, the life that generates our reactions rather than responses, would have us get caught up in the storm every time. Today’s cultural habits push us to “do something,” or to panic, or to move into despair. We are often slaves of time and circumstance, believing we have no choice, and regularly trying to “fix things” to fit into a comprehensible mold of familiarity.
I offer a few considerations for practicing staying in the eye of the storm:
Accept the situation.
This is about being in the present moment. The situation is what it is. You cannot change it. You only have control over how you respond to it.
Remember to be gentle with yourself.
Being in the eye of the storm does not mean you won’t still have feelings of dread, panic, fear, frustration, etc. Acknowledge those feelings. Honor them as valid. Listen to what they are sharing with you, while doing your best not to get caught in their story. Also know that the capacity to stay in the eye of the storm takes patience and practice. Don’t expect to be nonreactive all the time. Just remember the center is always available to you.
Remember you are not your feelings.
Consider viewing the situation from a bird’s eye view. Can you be with what is? Will the world end if things don’t work out the way you wanted them to? Are there messages being communicated to you through your feelings, messages about who you are and how you show up, that can inform you and be integrated?
Find the joy in the situation.
There is always lightness, i.e. an aspect of Light, that can be brought to any situation. Is there Light in the lesson to be learned? Is there Light in the opportunity for creatively navigating the situation? Is there Light in connecting with the people you are with? There is Light somewhere. Find it. In that Light is pure joy.
No matter your spiritual or religious beliefs, there is comfort in seeking support from a higher source. I love to envision the mantle of the Great Mother of Humanity wrapped around me in difficult times. In that imagination, I am comforted and able to find peace. The Mother of Life is standing beside us, allowing us to have our experiences, knowing they will strengthen us, and willing to offer comfort when we seek it.
Remember there is always calm after the storm.
No matter the situation, you will get through. It may take more time than you’d like. It may be completely unfamiliar. It may be far more challenging than you think you can handle. But you will get to the other side.
Remember that your response affects others’ responses.
Parents in particular, if you stay in the eye of the storm, your children will stay calm as well. They will feel relaxed and accepting if you can truly be accepting.
May you enjoy the challenges and the beauty they bring!