On the Back Side of the Storm
[ theme music & intro ]
When adversity comes, it can be all too easy to become fearful, sometimes wondering how on earth we’ll survive or endure.
Join me this week as we consider where to find what we need to meet the storm head on and get to the other side of it. Stay with me.
[ brief pause—theme music fades ]
Imagine awakening deep in the night to one of the most powerful summer storms you’ve ever heard. A number of years ago, the last night of summer brought a storm so loud and dramatic that it left an indelible impression on me and taught me a few things about myself in the process. A week or so after it happened, I wrote the following poem about it.
[ storm sounds begin ]
Summer ended not with a whimper or complaint but
with a concert that shook the house and snapped limbs
and quickened the heart. On the downbeat, the
kettledrums rose to crescendo, fell and rose again.
Cymbals crashed over and over, and over and over,
night was midday bright.
The basses and cellos droned and swelled, then were
drowned out by the rumbling drums. Brass and
bassoons wailed and fell away. The strings cried their
deepening lament while flutes and piccolos shrieked
above the moaning of the wood winds. In cycle after
cycle, the sky unleashed its wrath, until, at last,
sometime just before dawn, it spent itself and fell silent.
In the morning, the world was fresh again, and
leaves carpeted the rain-soaked earth with
stillness and silence and the sweet invitation of Fall.
Last Night of Summer from
Uncollected Poems by
[ photo: Scott Lennox ]
The intensity of that night’s storm showed me a number of things that are important to remember. One is what the poet e.e. cummings called our “intense fragility.” Another is our built-in ability to stand strong and eventually find ourselves on the other side of adversity. How often, though, as we are in the middle of the storm, do we find that it’s our fragility, not our strength, that asserts itself the loudest, assailing us with fears of every kind.
But is that necessary?
[ brief pause ]
When I remember that storm, I think back to one of the hardest and most challenging times in my life. As I endured cancer and
weeks of radiation nearly two decades ago, I couldn’t find words strong enough to express the sometimes raw terror I felt. More powerful than any storm I had been through, including a typhoon when I was three, it seemed more powerful than anything I was equipped to cope with. Yet, one day at a time—sometimes one hour or one minute at a time—I did exactly that.
As I neared the end of my radiation treatments, my mentor, Dr. Albert Goggins, told me, “Scott, going through this is going to make you a better person.” I found no comfort in his words. In fact, I thought them odd at the time. But as time passed, and sometimes as slowly as the movement of a glacier, I came to see and eventually know the truth of what he told me.
Coming through that terrifying experience re-shaped and reorganized my thinking and changed many of the ways I live today for the better. It would take a while to understand the gifts that came out of what seemed so completely overwhelming as I endured it, but there they were.
The way I now love myself and those I care the most deeply about is unbridled, untethered, and completely unabashed. My sense of compassion for those who are suffering or struggling has grown exponentially stronger. My understanding of what matters (and of what is not so important) has clarified and sharpened.
Surviving hardship, I’ve come to know things I couldn’t have learned any other way. I’ve come to treasure each day, even the seemingly “small” or “unimportant” moments. I celebrate being alive in ways I never would have dreamed before. I’ve discovered how profoundly patient I can be. I’ve learned to intentionally look for the good in people and in whatever situation I find myself. I’m learning that I don’t have to be perfect or try so hard all the time. I’m learning to relax into what is. I’m learning to stay more in the present and less in the past.
And I’ve learned that nestled deep within the things that are fragile and altogether human about me—about each of us—is something that is strong and sure and indomitable. And that it’s always waiting for us to call on it and always ready to move into action when we do.
[ brief pause ]
Moving through this unprecedented time in our history is challenging people more and more strongly every day. I listen as people tell me how tired they are. I listen as they tell me their fears, ranging from their fear that they can’t cope with the mounting complexity of the moment, to their concerns about one conspiracy theory or another, to fears that the world seems to have become such a forbidding place.
When I ask them about their ability to return to the present and live in the moment, it’s there, in the stillness that is always in them, that they find the resilience and the wisdom and the patience and the strength they need to return to living well. It’s not that it wasn’t there while they were indulging their fears. It’s that they had become distracted and were focused somewhere else. Because of that, they couldn’t see in that moment what is always in them.
As loud as your passing storm may be right now, this is just the right time to listen and to tune in to what’s available in the unshakable stillness that is always in you. It’s from that place that you’ll more than tolerate or endure what you are experiencing. If you choose to, you’ll thrive and grow and live in ways that matter the most to you.
[ brief pause ]
And so, that brings us to this week’s five Beautiful Questions:
One: What are you struggling with or challenged by right now? What’s pressing on you the most?
Two: What struggles or challenges have you survived in the past? What have you already come through?
Three: What gifts or strengths or other positive things have those trials or struggles developed in you? What good came out of the hardship?
Four: What have you discovered about yourself on this side of all of that you’ve lived or endured? What do you now know that wouldn’t have happened had you not been through that?
Five: As you look and listen and feel within yourself, what do you discover to be the most effective place to keep your focus during this season of powerful change and possibility? Where is the right place for you to focus, right now?
As you sit with these questions and your answers naturally arise, write and tell me about them. I’m listening.
[ brief pause ]
As I say each week,
My Light with Your Light.