If you have ever sat with a weather radio in a dark basement or closet during a tornado warning, or if you have ever hastily prepared for an oncoming hurricane, you know the anxiety that an approaching storm can bring. As a native Midwesterner with friends and relatives scattered about “tornado alley” and with a father who lives on the coast in Florida, I know a little about these times of uncertain anticipation of imminent danger.
The storms-of-life metaphor is an ancient archetype, as powerful today as it was thousands of years ago. Storms are used in nearly every movie, book, and play to create the setting for trouble, the mood of tension, and the dramatic dance between eerily-quiet darkness and the jolting of cracks of thunder, lightning, wind, and hail. And in many cases, heroes are made in storms. The Bible is full of stories of storms that radically alter and often ruin people’s lives. Storms are used by God in the Old and New Testament to judge the wicked, test the faithful, and reveal life’s harshness and God’s goodness in both justice and mercy. Through the ages, countless poems and songs have alluded to storms as a way to communicate the universal fear of destruction that moves every man, woman, and child to fears and tears.
The distant storm is a unique sort of crisis. At times, we face a slow-approaching storm in our life, one that we can see steadily advancing toward us for days, weeks, or even months. We tend to react in one of two ways.
Sometimes the anxiety, the prayers, and the planning can slowly erode our ability to handle the actual event, when the time comes. When we fret and scurry about chaotically, we are worn out emotionally, before the storm event starts.
Other times, when we are at our best and supported by good people, we take advantage of the slow-approaching storm by preparing for the worst and aiming for the best. We spend our nervous energy on preparations and helping others prepare. We work smart, not just hard. We conserve some energy for the moment when the storm actually hits. In this way, we are able to weather the storm (due to our preparations), and we have the mental and emotional energy to adapt to what the chaotic, scary tempest throws at us.
One of my favorite movies is Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World with Russell Crowe as Captain Jack “Lucky” Aubrey.
The varied conflicts in the movie stem from two sources: 1. a naval enemy that outmatches Captain Jack and his ship with their superior firepower, speed, and cunning. 2. the open sea and the intense weather that creates deadly, unyielding forces.
I’ve seen Master and Commander many times, but it has a special meaning to me now at this very time of my life, for I am facing some fast-approaching storms and some daunting enemies that in sum are quite terrifying.
The long-time arch-enemy of our family is brain damage. Thirteen years ago, our daughter was born with brain damage from complications at birth. As a result, she suffers from severe cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities. Those are the true enemies of our family. Sometimes we have to remind each other that those are the enemies, not anything or anybody else. Nothing has caused us more pain and trouble, and the enemies may very well outlast us. We fight, we maneuver, we call-in reinforcements and specialists, we form new strategies, and we win some battles. But the war goes on, for the foes are more than formidable, since the brain cannot be repaired.
The storms that we face come and go. Surgeries, therapies, special equipment, IEPs, special diet, insurance hassles, and simple physical exhaustion are some of the things that we battle. But currently, we are looking at a surgery that is perhaps the biggest, baddest storm so far. It is a spinal fusion from the pelvis all the way up to the shoulders (sacrum to T2). We have been dreading it for many years, and it’s now just a few days away.
As a bonus, we got some early, unexpected storms this week when I developed hearing loss and ringing (tinnitus) in my left ear followed by a nasty three-hour spell of vertigo complete with vomiting and cold sweats. Some doctor appointments and an MRI have not revealed a diagnosis yet, but hearing aids will be necessary soon. In addition, my wife developed a hernia at her belly button, so she had surgery to repair it yesterday, just four days before our daughter’s big surgery.
Apparently, it’s on.
Are we ready?
Well, we have spent a lot of time preparing, and we are covering all the bases that we are aware of. But the fog of war guarantees that we will have to make major adjustments every day. Chaos is certain. We’ve seen that already.
In future posts, I will attempt to explain how to go about preparing for the storms that you know are on the way.
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