Still Standing

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Life’s storms are inevitable. If you live long enough, you’ll probably go more of them than you can count. The question is, how and in what condition?

Join me this week as we consider the storms we endure and how to remain standing when we get to the other side.

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Here’s another entry from one of my journals.

Across the span of my lifetime, I can’t count how many storms have boomed and thundered and crashed around me. How many of them shook the house and rattled the walls and peeled shingles away, but left me untouched? How many sudden tempests terrified and buffeted me, pushing me backwards as I scrambled for shelter?

And from how many directions have fierce winds thrown me to the ground, pinning me there before I finally got to my feet again, battered and bruised and bleeding, but still very much alive?

And where are they now, those epic and dreadful storms, those days and nights of raw and unbridled terror?

They are gone.

And in their wake, by a miracle beyond my comprehension, I am still standing.

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The first massive storm I survived was a typhoon that slammed into the island of Guam and the air base where I lived when I was a boy. I couldn’t have been more than four . The sky blackened and above the relentless wailing of the sirens, the wind shrieked with the sound of a thousand hellish freight trains that churned through the air above us. Fortunately, a soldier with a jeep rushed us to an underground shelter where we spent untold hours waiting while the storm eventually wore itself out.

When we came out again, I was disoriented and emotionally shaken, but physically untouched. I remember standing in the road, transfixed by the sight of the unimaginable destruction. Half of our neighborhood had been blown away or ripped into a million twisted pieces. Yet somehow, in a way that I can’t explain, our Quonset hut and the ones on either side of it were strangely intact.

I had tasted real fear for the first time, and many years would pass before I would have the ability to understand or put into words the mental and emotional impact the storm set into motion within me.

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Since that terrifying time, I’ve lived through countless other storms. I’ve seen hurricanes broach strong sea walls and lash their way ashore. I’ve endured relentless monsoon rains that chilled me and soaked me to the bone for days on end. I’ve watched lightning set the woods ablaze. I have been knocked unconscious by hailstones the size of baseballs. I’ve witnessed the unimaginable force of tornadoes that swept across the landscape, half a mile wide at the base, destroying everything in their path. I’ve seen fire sweep over miles of countryside, stripping the land and reducing what structures were there to ash and blackened rubble.

Yet, in the aftermath of all of that, I’m still standing.

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There were also storms of a completely different order—childhood sexual assault, my younger brother’s death, combat in the jungle in my early twenties, cancer and radiation in my fifties, and along the way, the loss of those I have loved and dearly cared about.

The list is a long and compelling one, and even still, I remain standing!

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photo:Scott Lennox


Isn’t it amazing that we are built to endure and survive and heal! We’ve been created not just to survive, but to thrive again as we hold fast to our own unmoved center during even the worst of storms. I can still hear my Nova Scotia grandfather telling me, “All storms pass.” His father, my great-grandfather, Clarence Lennox, was known for sailing his fishing boat through blinding storms out in the North Atlantic’s Grand Banks. With nothing more than a map and a compass, an iron will, and his one good eye, he was able to bring himself back to the safety of Yarmouth Harbor again and again. What an amazing testament he was to what is possible in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.

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One thing that helps us survive and endure is remembering our flexibility and buoyancy and strength as well as our fragility and our vulnerability. Keeping those things in mind during the times when we can’t get to shelter or safe harbor, we batten down the hatches, jettison what we don’t need to carry, and head straight into the oncoming adversity.

Then, when we’ve reached the other side and the storm is over, we do the repairs that are needed, we clean up the mess, and we move on. Having done that, we keep the memory of what happened, but we actively let go of the pain or trauma that came with it. We’ve lived through it… and it’s over.

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Another thing that helps keeps us focused and moving forward is remaining conscious of how dynamically we are made and what rich capacities are in each of us. However powerful the “storm” we’re facing may be, there is an unmoved center within us that can never be touched or damaged or destroyed. It’s from that “place” that we find the courage we need. It’s from that place that we give and receive love. And it’s from that powerful place in us that we marshal the resources we need to heal and go on.

It is also from there that we are truly conscious. That part of us is deeper than our thoughts or our emotions or our physicality, regardless of our outward experience in the moment. It’s from that energetic and immovable place that we prosper and live well.

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This week’s Beautiful Questions consider not only the storms we face, but how to navigate them successfully.

One: What storms have you already come through, and in what condition did you emerge from them?

Two: What is it within you that enabled you to survive and keep going?

Three: In real terms, what storms are you facing now and how large are they?

Four: What do you have “onboard” right now that will help you safely reach the solid ground that is waiting for you on the other side of the storm?

Five: Having lived through all you have suffered or endured or survived, what do you know to be true about most essential self?

Let me ask that another way. Having lived through everything you’ve experienced, what have you discovered to be the powerful nature of your most essential self?

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As always, as you ponder these questions and the answers that arise, I’d love to hear what you discover. Write and tell me about it.

As I say each week,
My Light with Your Light

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