It’s almost September. In many parts of the country, school is already in session. Here in the Coachella Valley, where we make our home, residents happily look forward to a break in the weather that will soon signal one of the benefits of living here.
Growing up in Michigan, September sometimes promised lovely Indian summer weather. In the late fall, our weekends were filled with trips to the cider mills where we feasted on freshly made donuts washed down with hot apple cider.
My husband and I also lived in South Florida for 14 years and loved our time there, however late August and September was a time often marked with severe weather patterns, tropical depressions and oh yes…sometimes a dreaded hurricane.
Prior to our relocation to California, we experienced the mighty Category 5 Hurricane Andrew which eventually made landfall approximately sixty miles south of our home in Deerfield Beach. Earlier that day I made a trip to the corporate office where I worked with my team worked to batten down the hatches. Upon returning home, I helped my husband store the patio furniture and prepare the pool for the storm. The sun was shining brightly giving the false illusion that all was well. We knew differently and set our minds to taking as many precautions as we could as we prepared for the unknown. Like many other transplanted south Florida residents, we had never before experienced a hurricane.
The memory of that night will always evoke a vivid memory. I made dinner and we watched the severe weather progression on TV until we lost power. At that point, things became very scary. We moved to the most protected room in our home and quietly listened to a battery operated radio. Weather experts with calm voices talked the residents in the region through actions to take as the winds ripped off roofs and rattled our homes and our nerves.
During the hurricane, I memorized life in the eye of the storm. It felt calm and safe. I focused on those moments of peace. When the high winds and pelting rains returned, I forced myself to stay grounded and not panic. Losing control of my emotions would have served no purpose. When morning finally broke, our area had been relatively spared. I prayed for the many less fortunate. The lesson mighty Andrew taught me was, no matter what, stay calm. Whether experiencing a curve ball from a mean Mother Nature or an unexpected bad break in life, your best defense is to proceed with a calm mind.
This theme was reinforced recently when I attended a presentation given by a 911 survivor. Bert Upson was in the South Tower when the North Tower was hit. Although the building was thrust into a chaotic atmosphere, Bert forced himself to remain calm and relied on his intuition. He was former military and had experienced dangerous situations before. Calculating it would take over forty minutes to get down seventy-eight flights of stairs Upson and some of his friends used an express elevator. Thankfully, they survived.
During the Second World War, the British government produced the now infamous motivational poster “Keep Calm and Carry On” in an effort to raise the morale of the country’s citizens. Knowledge of the poster has resurfaced and we now see the motto on coffee mugs and T-shirts serving as a good reminder.
Use that motto as a mantra the next time you are faced with a stressful situation. As in the case of Andrew, there are times in life when we must just wait out the dark hours knowing eventually the sun will shine.
Remember that external circumstances may be out of control, but we all possess God given coping skills. Use them.
As the Dalai Lama states, “Calm minds bring inner strength.” Stay focused on those words and you can brave the storm.