I was recently driving to visit family a few hours away with our 21-month-old foster daughter. About halfway into our drive, we encountered one of the most intense summer downpours and lightning displays I had witnessed in years. The skies were exceptionally dark, and very heavy rains began to fall.
The radio sounded with the Emergency Broadcast System tone, alongside a warning for Hudson and Tuscarawas Counties. “Severe weather warning: Stay away from all windows, due to the potential for quarter-sized hail.” I soon realized that we were right in the middle of in Hudson County.
Flashes of lightning shot down to our left and right, and seemed to be getting increasingly close. The thunder cracked like piercing whips. The skies loomed darker and darker, and the water on the roads deepened.
We had to slow down quite a bit, as I couldn’t see very far ahead through the thick pelting rain. I wondered if I should pull over and run for shelter with Savanna. After all, Ohio did sometimes have tornadoes.
I considered possibilities.
But as I glanced briefly to see how Savanna was doing in her car seat, I witnessed an expression that really surprised me. Her bright eyes were large, her mouth slightly open with a slight grin, reflecting a look of wonder and amazement. She was observing the lighting, the wind, and the rain with great delight.
No sign of fear, just an intensely curious presence.
Savanna had no preconceived notions of future possibilities or dangers; she was simply enjoying the present moment. To her, the storm was a wonderful show, alive with energy.
This got me thinking about how adults’ preconceived notions, the stories we tell ourselves, the fears of future potential negative outcomes, can stand in our way of enjoying various life storms. This may happen even when the storms represent no actual or lasting threat.
Granted, there will be some cases where it’s probably wise to run for cover:
We’ve all heard the saying, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”
Someone recently cited to me these lines from Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes: “When it’s over, I want to say: All my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”
What profound words! Perhaps in order to do these things, we need to free our minds of some of the worry clutter we’ve accrued over the years, enabling us to look at things through a small child’s eyes.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t plan and consider our options with some care, as sometimes the threats are indeed real. But we need to recognize the possibility that sometimes we may be overestimating the danger of the storm. If we do that all the time, we’ll never get anywhere. We’ll never take any risks at all. Or we may miss out on much of the scenery and energy of the experience.
Some questions to consider:
When faced with challenges or adversity, how can you free your mind of any preconceived notions that may be clouding your perception?
How can you play in, or at least joyfully observe, life’s storms, with the open mind and curiosity of a 21-month-old?
How can you remain in the present moment, observing the brilliant but short-lived flashes of lightning that may go unnoticed if you turn your head even briefly in fear?
How can you learn to hear the thunder as energizing music rather than as startling noise?
How can you experience the dark clouds, the soaking rains, as sources of life-bringing nourishment rather than as intruders of your sunny day?
How can you feel life’s winds, warm or cold, hard or soft, gusting or steady, as a reminder of your own breath, keeping you in the present moment, clearing your mind, and filling you with awareness and energy?
Dave welcomes phone-based life, career, and transition coaching clients from around the world.