To some, Irene was a hurricane or a tropical storm. To me, Irene was a measuring stick.
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There is so much we can learn about ourselves and the people around us when we're in the often helpless position of waiting for potential disaster. Watching a storm make its way up the East Coast with media coverage blaring at us from every direction and seeing whether we go about preparing in a calm, workmanlike way or go into panic mode is telling.
As things settle, it's worth asking what we saw that we didn't like and what we can do about it. Or, perhaps from a glass half-full standpoint, what did we do better than in the past? To be clear, that is 'we' as individuals.
It was amazing to sit back and read social media posts, listen to television broadcasts or just talk to our friends and relatives as Irene approached and get a feel for what it brought out in them -- i.e., paranoia, optimism, gloom and doom, efficiency, surrender. Nothing like a loved one who is in a 'misery loves company' mindset when you're trying to look this situation square in the face and be in the moment with its blessings and hardships.
Surely there will be a lot of stories coming out of Hurricane Irene, but the most stirring for me was how one man dealt with losing a home that's been in his family for more than 40 years. According to CNN, it was declared "uninhabitable after it became inundated by three-foot-high waters."
"I don't know [what we'll do], this is all new ground," said Guy Pascarello of Secaucus, N.J. "The good news is that it's just stuff. This is a home and we love our home, but it's just things."
It would have been nice to have a little more of that attitude going around. I would like to think I could muster it up myself in those same circumstances. When destruction is happening before our eyes, can we go to the gratitude zone because love is still alive?
I spent the weekend doing my best to hold on to that and not give too much energy to the negativity. For example, those who decided this was the time to start partisan bickering about men and women elected to office trying their best to lead and keep us safe should really take a hard look at their inability to separate politics from the life-and-death stuff. Good grief. Are we really at a point where we're going to heed an evacuation warning depending on whether or not we like the mayor or governor who's issuing it? This 'us-against-them' mentality in our country is so disheartening sometimes.
Although, in a strange turn of events, a bunch of senior citizens in a high rise in Atlantic City who decided to defy the evacuation order had a heck of a time riding out the storm with wine, cheese and other snacks. It was a risk that I suppose reinforced a sense of independence for people who needed to feel some sense of control in a bad situation.
For an entire weekend, it seemed, as we interacted with people in our lives and heard stories about strangers, we got to see life exposed in a wholly different way. We all know people who were crowing about something, laying their doomsday scenario on everyone around them and getting a bit too much satisfaction from the potential misfortune of others.
There were those who struggled with being penned in with a spouse or child, for these kinds of situations are merciless in exposing the flaws in marriages and households. Talk about a magnifying glass on relationships. In an ideal world, shouldn't we be delighted to be 'stranded' with our spouse? If that wasn't the case for us, is it cause for concern? Is there something we can do about it? Have we been complacent? Are we resigned to mediocrity?
On a different note, what did we do when given the chance to chill and wait the storm out? We're so used to media stimulation 24-7, are we still capable of relaxing into a book or movie? Can we sink into our couch and push all else aside for a while? Do we know how to just be?
I have to wonder if Mother Nature -- with her blizzards and other storms -- isn't sending us that message sometimes.
And to perhaps learn to feel blessed if we've come away relatively unscathed.
A friend emailed to say that with the power out, he'd set up his father with some Pavarotti and solitaire on a laptop and he'd made up with his mother after an earlier disagreement and had her happily listening to talk radio.
A real life moment, by any measure. He called it a blessing.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.