As I write this, it’s a beautiful afternoon in Atlanta – sunny skies, unseasonably cool and dry with a lovely breeze. Against this backdrop of serenity, people are beginning to panic. Evidence of the those escaping the hurricane fills the roadways and the hotels and even my yoga class this morning. The locals, concerned about the predicted path through north Georgia, have emptied the store shelves of water and are quickly depleting gasoline stores.
It’s difficult to know what to do. On the one hand, those in the Atlanta area who have filled their cars with distilled water seem to be over-prepared. And then I know people who have elected to stay in their coastal Florida homes, confident that they will be okay. And only time will tell who is making the right call.
No matter the circumstances, it’s hard to know the blow is coming and to feel powerless about its arrival. Preparation has both a practical application as well a psychological one – it feels better to do something rather than to simply wait for it happen to you. I’m grateful for the technology that gives people advanced warning so that they have the opportunity to decisions and to prepare.
This feeling, of bracing for impact, is familiar to me. The antsy, nervous energy that fills my body today is not unlike that of the final years of my first marriage. I was steeling myself for the catastrophic, even though I had no hard data that it was coming. It’s a familiar feeling, yet not a welcome one.
As I recovered from the marital blow that did eventually arrive, I came across a study that analyzed injuries in drunk driving accidents. In a cruel twist, the drunk drivers usually sustained far fewer injuries than the victims of their crimes. The reason? They were relaxed while the sober drivers, upon realizing what was about to happen, tensed their bodies in preparation for the impact.
I try to remember that lesson. We can and should prepare. Yet at some point, too much anticipation causes us to lock up and freeze. Too much energy spent trying to control outcomes that cannot be predicted makes us crazy in the moment.
These moments of dreading what’s coming are a given in life. Whether it be the arrival of a storm that has the potential to devastate an entire region or the apprehension that comes before a doctor’s appointment, we all have times when we need to prepare ourselves for what’s coming.
And as you do, take a lesson from the car accident study – prepare and then keep breathing as you wait for impact.
My thoughts are with all of those impacted by the events of late – Harvey, the earthquake in Mexico, the floods in South Asia and this most recent chain of hurricanes. Even as we face the worst of times, may it reveal the best in people.