Monday, October 15, 2012
Finding Calm Amidst the Storm
At a recent event in Phoenix, I had a great conversation with a friend about fear of flying. She had flown to the conference we were attending, but had been really anxious about it in the weeks leading up to her departure. As she described her anxiety over the situation, she shared a story that acted as a big turning point for her in making peace with the idea of getting into a plane.
One night, she had come out of a class to find herself at the edge of a nasty storm—which was directly over the path she had to take to get home. Barely able to see the road in front of her, she had to inch along the highway, bit by bit until she could get out of the thick of it. She said she caught herself thinking, "I would much rather fly than be stuck in this mess ever again!"
Her story was a great example of how everything is relative and our perspectives can shift in an instant, but what struck me even more was how she described getting through the storm.
If you're caught in the middle of a storm, all you can do is keep moving slowly through it.
This is true under the veil of thunder and lightning, but isn't it also true when you're going through a big scary transition? Or when you get upsetting news about your health or the health of someone you love? If you stop moving, you may have to wait a heck of a long time before you reach the end of the storm. But if you speed through, or try to ignore that it's happening, you could put yourself in massive danger of getting hurt.
Watching the road right in front of you, taking things moment by moment seems to not only be the way to reach a calmer destination, but to also keep your nerves somewhat intact.
In 2007 when I climbed Half Dome with friends, we were met with unexpected snow one day when coming home from a hike. Rather than being safely tucked in a giant SUV with 4-wheel-drive, we were coasting down the mountain in my Prius—no snow chains or other appropriate equipment in sight.
What I remember from that experience was that I felt safest when going the slowest, and I felt calmer because my friend had a Chris Rock stand-up CD playing in my stereo. The laughter that came out my mouth was like anti-venom to the fear I felt being on that snowy mountain road.
We all have to travel through storms at various points. Often, there's just no way around it. But if you find yourself in the thick of it, I highly recommend taking your sweet time—day by day, inch by inch—and trying to find a way to inject a little laughter into the situation. Eventually you'll make your way home, and maybe even ultimately find yourself taking flight.