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Chatterbox: Selecting the storms


I’ve heard that the human brain remembers joy better than it does sadness or sorrow. The cosmos reminds me of that ... repeatedly ... (Sometimes, that cosmos yells a bit.).

It’s not easy for any of us to keep our head up in a storm. The harder the storm beats down, the harder it is to focus on what’s ahead and carry on. Still, there’s no other way to weather a storm than to become part of it. Sounds nuts but, at the end, there’s usually a triumph.

When I was a kid, I loved walking in the snow and the rain. As a young woman, working in Manhattan, I would watch people race through the streets in the rain and wonder why no one could enjoy the solitude of being in the private bubble of isolation that was their umbrella. I would ride the old ferry back home in the snow and sit outside ... cold, yes, but a magical domain in which my mind unraveled its ball of tangled yarn that was the day, heading to the best place ... home. We are, any of us who has one, lucky, and going home in any storm is as good as life gets. The waiting sanctuary of it isn’t just a safe feeling, it’s what makes us able to endure the storm, maybe even enjoy it ... even if only a little.

Life makes no promises; it’s unpredictable no matter how much we think we’ve got it handled. Life’s the ultimate challenge to be met. There are sunny days to be sure, and then, there aren’t. When the storms come, we face the battering that comes with their hard moments or great challenges. It’s never easy and it never seems brief, or even endurable, until we are looking back and have, indeed, endured it. The people who help us – family, friends, or strangers – comprise the safety net we all need sometimes … and the safety net we are to others sometimes.

One of my signs this morning was a piece that I had written, decades ago; I unraveled, onto the page, the tangles of a particular weekend of my life. Well-navigated so many years ago, I not only forgot I wrote its challenges down, I forgot that stormy weekend ever happened (There’s the brain again, erasing more stress and remembering more joy. Aren’t we lucky?)

Sometimes, like everyone on Earth does, we get moments, or months, that just take greater effort to manage. Challenges come at us in varying degrees, at varying speeds, and though we do the hard things, complete many things, meet the challenges, make the sacrifices, face the storm, keeping our chins up in the darkness and our eyes on the prize, sometimes, life just doesn’t deliver what we expected, or even what we feel we’ve earned. Still, we learn in time that the universe always pays her bills ... and collects her debts as well.

There’s a little meme that passes through social media every once in a while that says something to the effect of not fearing the storm, but being the storm. It’s a lovely sentiment but can give a false sense of all adversities being conquerable alone, if we’re tough. This is sometimes true, and sometimes it just isn’t, but adversity is a hurdle, not a wall. When we learn how to navigate it, we are steeled. Still, asking for help or needing guidance doesn’t mean we’re weak; it means we’re human – and resourceful at that.

Weathering the storms that come our way may seem daunting at the time, but, just like walking under an umbrella when we can’t see our way through the rain, or getting over the rushing water that fills the streets we must traverse, every challenge is a lesson. Each challenge teaches us to be strong, to navigate, to manage. When each challenge is done, we’re enriched, stronger, smarter, and ready for the next one ... and there will always be a next one.

I heard a wonderful speaker at a college graduation who said many wonderful things. The thought he left me with was to take each day for what it’s worth because they’re all valuable. I paraphrase, but the sentiment remains. Every day, stormy or clear, we carry away the good lessons and good memories, and the bad stuff, well, we’d better write it down if we want to remember it ... and we may want to, if only to revisit our triumphs.

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