Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stormy Times: Uncovering the Wealth

Eye of Storm* photo.net
Encouraged by my friend, Thinking, here at last is a fully personal post.

I had driven all one dark night clear from Western North Carolina to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to the house of a dear elder friend whom I planned to take the next day all the way to South Carolina to surprise her son in maximum security prison for Mothers' Day.

Getting to Philadelphia was a bit lonely with only the weirdest radio stations available and the skies were unusually dark. I had to make a few short stops partly to help me stay awake and good places were hard to find.

Then - on the way back south - we drove all day and then into the night through one of the worst storms I'd ever encountered with strong winds and thick ribbons of rain. Again we had to go a lonely vacated road. Then we passed a sky looking a bit like the hurricane's eye atop this post. She kept describing it to me but I refused to look at the tornado's circular eye as it bent lower and lower in the sky coming. I just kept my eyes on the road and the way ahead, looking frantically for a safe place to stop. Yet there was none.

I gripped the steering wheel for all it was worth as the ever thickening rain and wind seemed to twist my direction time and again. The twister looked like it was coming straight at us (when I finally peeked). Everything got very black and of course I could barely see. I knew we had to stop yet all I could find was a flimsy abandoned gas station where there was another car. I don't know when I was so afraid to breath that I couldn't be sure I was breathing - yet with all our choices out of our hands, watching the sky and waiting was a bit like being in an exciting movie.

Finally the tornado got very close to touching down not far away and then skirted past the area.

In such moments there's little to do but to wait out the storm. YET, during that storm we found we could stay calm and could free ourselves up to choose the next best step. Just being in that moment felt strengthening but of what? To recognize human fragility and dependence on weather and God's help - or perhaps just the capriciousness of fate? How will we ever know? Still, to look back and know for other times that we did get through that is a nice feeling. Stopping later at a nearby motel, we were told that the motel folk were listening on the radio until everything went blank and it was supposed to be a big one. They'd figured by the radio report that the the twister was going to fall right over them and were visibly greatly relieved because they said their motel wouldn't have survived. I smiled wondering why we imagined the little flimsy roof we were under would do us any good?

The rest of the trip was especially rich with my friend, Roberta, in the closeness of unusually free conversation - as we spoke of her difficult life (five children each by a different man - often abusive and forceful). We spoke of the bright points too - how she overcame many challenges and of the music that she and her son loved and shared.

Yes, we did make it to the church on time for the special service. We did surprise the prisoner son. And he never sang more beautifully with his professional and passionate voice on this special Mother's Day. There were few if any other older mothers there that day and Roberta became a celebrity as many men young and old honored her with hugs, smiles and words of respect.

All of us can look at many such stormy - even frightening - moments which are deepening of bonds between persons and of inner strength if we only take the time to recall...

Now, here it is the end of another difficult night - another kind of storm: my husband and I were waiting for our son to come home from work because we knew he had a test in a most difficult class -- he'd studied hard but wanted our help and we had both offered. Well we were up late and no son when expected.

I stayed up waiting. Finally he came back late yet I didn't know until hours later that with him he'd brought home another young man. Soon after I'd said goodnight I heard the door bang and went out to see that our son's car was again gone. He returned not much later in a panic explaining that he didn't want to awaken or upset us but as soon as he'd brought the young man home the guy had taken off. Our son was concerned he'd get hurt during the night in his condition (another stormy night).

You see, my son works with him in a new job and had seen him intoxicated at a pub where a number of guys were watching a TV football game. The pub owner had taken the friend's keys so he wouldn't be able to drive himself in that state to his apartment which was an hour away. My son felt responsible that he not get left out in the dark and had brought him home to "dry out". yet the other young man suddenly disappeared.

There is a fairly recent history of a guy down the road who'd been also very drunk and disrupting the neighborhood and when the police came he'd run out of the house across the street and accidentally landed in a brook lined with lots of jagged rocks and drowned.

I'm quite sure the thought of finding another dead body in a ditch crossed all our minds as we racked our brains and looked in every direction in ditches and woods around our place. Finally we called a few folk and at last did call the police. He was found checked in - just a few moments before our call at a motel in town. So he had wandered about for hours in his drunken state.

All of us, my dear son and another son, my husband and I, the intoxicated new friend, someone I called to get the man's parents' number and then his parents - ALL of us had all lost a good night's sleep and faced a disrupted morning.

For me, this was the very morning I'd planned and prepared for all of yesterday in a special way: I was going to finally begin in earnest to end my haphazard work on a book project and to initiate my three-hour daily writing schedule starting at 4:30 am! Of all mornings after such a night.

Now instead of working on that book, I'm spending my morning writing this...still looking for a little silver-lining...:)

Well, it WAS a relief to finally locate the missing man (who turned out to be a son of friends). What a joy that we found no one conked out in a ditch.

Many across America - and in other societies as well - live in an alcohol-soaked environment: alcohol-based drinks at almost every party and places where people watch games. Often, when people spend an evening at a pub or party or even at a restaurant alcohol use leads to trouble not only for those imbibing but for others - if not right away - at some point.

Hopefully, there's enough pain left over from last night in all of our experience to seed some little changes - I pray - yet, I pray that this happens without the paralysis of guilt and shame and without the loss of the kind of satisfaction and sacrifice that comes with being compassionate - being the "good Samaritan" at other times. (Some helpful observations just might happen naturally as our son tries to take his test in his difficult physics class after such a painful night.)

Well, here's the little meditation that just showed up before I began my rant:

Stop Throwing Away the Treasure Called "Troubling Times"

by Guy Finley

Key Lesson: If we look at (unexpected) events as something placed in our way, a troublesome time we must pile through on our way to some imagined peace to come, then we literally throw away the possibility of discovering that each moment, regardless of its appearance, is divine in nature and can serve to help us remember the same... if only we so choose.

It's well known that storm-tossed waves often expose new treasures along the shoreline; there is unexpected wealth to be collected by those who know the secret value of rough seas. And yet, even though most of us have little tolerance for anything that "rocks our boat," the truth of the matter is self-evident:

Unwanted moments introduce us to parts of ourselves that would otherwise never get healed were it not for the difficulties that first reveal them and that lead us to release their pain.


Somehow, I wonder if this little piece applies to all chaotic/stormy situations? I can imagine - no I KNOW of happenings where I can find no such application.

Yet - at least in my one little life - I figure these words of wisdom apply to almost all of my most stormy occasions.

How about you, reader, have you healed or been enriched by such a stormy time?


Akhtar Wasim Dar said...

I have learned and associated with each line of this post and Guy Finley’s remarks were just the natural connotation. I have spent two such life threatening nights which were so ‘dark’, depressing, intimidating, frightening and terrifying that I still shrug whenever I remember them. But the each moment after the initial scare in each event was so strengthening and out of ordinary that I was amazed at the poise, resilience and character that I showed. Never before I felt so brave and focused as I felt then. When we face obstacles , hindrances, difficulties and challenges it is a test, an opportunity, that is to show what we are made of and what we have not known and realized. Our lives are nothing but a continuous ascendance of character, a character which knows how to smile at challenges to thwart and frustrate fear.

Connie L. Nash said...

I just love every phrase and added depth in your comment, friend...and topped off by this perfect ending: that such nights whether physically palpable or actual inner/outer struggles of another sort as you say: "...show what we are made of and what we have not known and realized. Our lives are nothing but a continuous ascendance of character, a character which knows how to smile at challenges..."

By the way, after I wrote this the young man came to door with my husband's shoes which had been left outside the door...so the man had not been barefoot after all...son in his PANIC had added drama and worry to the situation and we his parents had absorbed the same acceptance of facts. (As we all tend to do at such times...if we could only remember next time?:)

Connie L. Nash said...

Also, in retelling the tornado event to family, I'm told that it's safest to get down in a ditch. I don't know how I would have asked this dear 80 something year-old ladylike lady to do so with ribbon rain and there probably was hail as well - but maybe you youthful ones may want to find out the best place/position to be in at such times...and so will I. :)

Connie L. Nash said...

Dar Sahib, I'd love to hear details about your "dark" & frightening nights when you get the chance...

Connie L. Nash said...

One more quick note: I was just told that sometimes the tornado or twister can suddenly come back...?

Connie L. Nash said...

EID MUBARAK to all my Muslim friends who are celebrating on this day!

What a gracious gesture for Nation News to publish this article from a scandanavian Christian which in significant respects summarizes my sentiments: