Hurricane season in Florida is always nervy, especially when the expected development of a mounting storm becomes the centerpiece of media reports. Make no mistake, hurricanes need to be taken seriously. The devastation they leave in their wake is often beyond human understanding. Puerto Rico and the Bahamas are recent examples of the kind of horrible devastation a hurricane leaves behind. These areas deserve our help and attention, for it will take decades for these wonderful places to fully recover. However, hurricanes can teach us a lot about life.
After living in Florida the past five years, I have become familiar with the drill; governor declares a State of Emergency and then everybody goes into survival mode. Your choices are common sense based on your situation, you either must stay and withstand the storm, or you clear out from its path.
Those who decide to hunker down go shopping. They will deplete grocery stores’ shelves within the day of goods like water, milk, bread, and many nonperishable goods including pet food. Home owners who live close to the water are aware the authorities will require them to evacuate, so they map escape routes to safe places across from them in Florida or they go out of state.
Then there are those who like bucking the authorities and defying the odds and decide to stay in homes in the hurricane’s wrath. But we should not call them courageous, we should admonish them with the words my friend Steve likes to say from time to time,
“I feel stupid for you.”
Although the media never reports it, there is also a run on liquor stores. The logic is that, if you are going to be holed up for days with family members and friends, there may come a time when you need to get shit faced. But I digress.
Hurricanes as metaphors for life
Life challenges are a lot like hurricanes. If you are lucky enough to have been paying attention, you might see them coming and you can prepare to hunker down or map your escape route. Others don’t even know they are coming until it is too late. This is where the parallel between life challenges and hurricanes end. Most of us don’t get a choice, especially if we ignored the signs of the growing storm and now the winds are strong enough to tear our lives to shreds and the ensuing rain floods our hopes for a speedy recovery. This is why I contend that we overate courage when it comes to overcoming our challenges. We don’t get a choice to confront them or sit them out. Whether or not you have courage, you must deal with them.
Perseverance and resilience
The one obvious similarity between hurricanes and life challenges is that the hardest part of a storm is the recovery effort in the aftermath. In both cases, the storm ends our old life and leaves us with no idea or timetable for when or what we can rebuild.
In our spiritual dimension, we call these times after the storm transitions. Transitions force us to confront our real selves now that we don’t have our old life to hang on to. They push us to reevaluate our priorities, let go of old traditions and adopt new ideas and beliefs. Transitions are difficult because they lead us to the dark night of the soul. Depression is often present in transitions because of our ego’s desperate desire to return to the secure and comfortable life we had before. Our despair is most prominent when we realize we are powerless to return to what was.
Don’t get me wrong, courage is a necessary element of recovery. It is what we need to reach the acceptance phase of grief and loss. But courage wears out when fatigue sets in from the cyclical recurrence of the four other phases of the grief cycle; denial, anger, bargaining and depression. This is when we must rely on perseverance and resilience to take us to the light at the end of the tunnel. Therefore, it is important for us to develop these characteristics more than any other.
Why? Because perseverance is the determination to keep moving forward despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Resilience is the capacity to withstand and then recover from our challenges. Our culture romanticizes acts of courage, but it is the daily grind of perseverance and resilience that take us to the promised land.
Finding the right mentors for our lives
Although we were born with the capacity to develop these characteristics, mentors can help us develop them during our difficult experiences. Good mentors have survived their own life hurricanes and became better and stronger as a result. We can learn from the way they handled their experiences. The following are four things to look for in good mentors;
1) They willingly faced their ordeal. Good mentors did not stick their head in the sand hoping their problems would go away. Nor did they blame others or act the victim. Perhaps this was their initial reaction, but they learned these forms of denial made their problems worse. They know the value of stepping up and taking responsibility.
2) They pushed aside their worry, anger and bitterness. Good mentors understand that life challenges are a part of life. They also learned that worry, anger and bitterness offer nothing of value and they urge you to not waste time and energy on those things.
3) They understand one can only do what’s within their power in the present moment. The most valuable mentors are the ones who teach us that getting through life challenges is a daily grind. This is how they persevered. They teach us that success comes from deciding to solve the problems in front of us at the present moment even when they don’t assure a clear outcome. They teach us in the way they toughed it out. Day in and day out, they believed they would conquer their challenges even during the times that conditions seemed to move them backward.
4) They comprehend that success is not measured by wealth, power and status. Getting to the sunrise of our new life may not include more money, power or status than we had before. Good mentors who have been through difficult times know they are not measured by external signs of success. This recognition comes from within. They teach us that, after we have sailed the stormy seas of our lives, there comes a calmness and peace that goes beyond all understanding or dependence on what the world thinks.
The Universe has given you these teachers. They are members of your family, coworkers, neighbors and friends. Look for those who can teach you how to persevere and become resilient when your challenges are present.
Remember, paying gratitude for your life forward rewards you with much joy and contentment.