on Life, Love and What's Happening Now
*This post was originally published almost a year ago today. It was one of the first things I wrote after deciding to dip my toe back into the tumultuous waters of writing. To my utter shock, the amazing website, Noteworthy, picked it up.
As Hurricane Dorian inches closer, the message feels just as pertinent today. If you missed it the first time, I hope you will take a moment and read.
All is never as it seems.
I was reminded of this a few nights ago watching the coverage of Hurricane Florence. From the comfort of my couch, that giant beast barreling toward the East Coast seemed a million miles away. According to the computer models, my coastal hometown of Savannah hovered just outside the “cone of uncertainty.” I fell asleep confident that we had dodged the bullet.
The next morning, I woke to a very different scenario. Overnight, the storm had dipped south and westward. The data now put coastal Georgia just slightly into Florence’s cross-hairs.
I began to panic. We had no canned food. Where was the generator? This was not my first rodeo and experience has taught me the importance of preparation. My mind went into overload as it braced for a direct hit.
And it wasn’t just me. An hour later, the grocery story was a mad house. The expression “like attracts like” had never rung truer. Every stay-at-home mom in Georgia was running around in her yoga pants fighting for a grocery cart. There wasn’t a bottle of water anywhere.
When I finally calmed down later that day, I thought about something I’d read regarding thoughts and brain chemistry. The article acknowledged that the mind is like a “feedback loop” and that everyone’s “Thoughts lie. They lie a lot” (2017). The author stated that three simple words can improve not only well-being, but actual health. All we have to do is ask ourselves, “Is it true?” (Coleman, 2017).
That morning, my reaction was not rooted in anything factual. Even our local hyperbolic weatherman had acknowledged the slim possibility of any major part of the storm hitting the city.
Then I thought about Florence herself. Between yesterday and today, nothing had changed for her. She was still churning furiously down the same pre-destined route she had been the night before. Regardless of what any computer model projected or what any television personality said, she was going were she was always going. Her path hadn’t actually changed.
Only my perception of it had.
It is a lesson I think about often as I raise my kids in this critical and sometimes confusing world. I have three boys and as I watch them grow and find themselves, I tell them: Be yourself. Pictures can lie, people can lie. Listen to that little voice in your gut. It will help you find your way, your people.
This much, I know firsthand.
About 7 years ago, we moved to Savannah from another state. I’d just given birth to our third child and I remember feeling very vulnerable. We knew no one. I needed to help our family make a life. I needed to make friends. I needed people to like me.
What I recall about that time is that sometimes I didn’t like myself. Because we were new, I thought I needed to present this perfect image to the world. I remember acting and sometimes saying things that did not feel natural to me. Afterwards, I always felt itchy and out of sorts.
Then one day, I just got sick of it — sick of myself — sick of trying so hard. As soon as I let it all go, things got better. As I started to relax, I made friends. I found my people. Like attracted like.
I think the instinct to pretend is buried deep within our DNA. In the wild, some animals only defense mechanism is to “puff themselves up,” trying to appear as big and foreboding as possible to predators.
It is a natural part of the human condition to teeter between who we are and who we want to be, between the pictures we present on Facebook and the ones we play in our head, between living authentically and caving to our worst impulses.
We may get a little rain from Hurricane Florence today--and no, there were never any sharks. Still, it reminded me that life is always a hurricane barreling towards you.
The best anyone can do is try to live with grace inside that “cone of uncertainty.” For me, that means taking a breath before I react, checking the “loop” in my brain and reminding myself that thoughts can lie.
All is not as it seems.
Perhaps simply acknowledging that is the best preparation of all.
Coleman, Patrick. “How to Arm Little Kids Against Negative Thoughts.” Oct 20, 2017, (www.fatherly.com/parenting/little-kids-negative-thoughts-freaking-out-calm-down.).
This article was originally published in Noteworthy for Medium in September 2018.