“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about” – Haruki Murakami
Last weekend, I left my apartment and headed toward my uncle’s house west of town. As I drove through the city center, it started to rain; first small, drizzle-like drops, then a little bit heavier. And heavier. And heavier. Until the rain turned to hail and the streets turned to waterways.
Cars of all sizes – trucks included – pulled off to the side of the road. Hazard lights flashed, the hail got bigger, the rain began to swirl, mimicking the pattern of the wind. Everything increased – the amount of water, the speed at which it pummeled my windshield, the likelihood of hydroplaning. The storm cell sat right above my car.
I kept driving. My stubbornness rang loud. “I will make it, I have an SUV,” I thought. Or, rather, I fought. I don’t need to stop. I don’t need to wait this out. I’ll just keep going.
I plowed through the water; I watched the entire normalcy of the downtown environment collapse on itself. People ran for the closest door. Trucks much bigger than mine – with higher clearance than mine – stopped. The water came pouring in through my sunroof, far more powerful than my temporary fix of duck tape and a piece of wedged-in wood holding it in place.
The storm won.
I pulled over into an empty parking lot and climbed over my center console to avoid the leaky sunroof. The water rushed around my car, the hail dented its not-so-new exterior, the wind pushed it back and forth. There was nothing I could do to stop the storm, nothing I could do to make it disappear any faster, nothing I could do to prevent it from denting my already gentle state and nothing I could do to stop the steady, slow trickle of the water leaking through the sunroof.
We had a number of storms like this in Denver recently. Daylong storms, violent storms, damage-resulting storms. Lightening struck in bolts and blankets over the city. Thunder cried out in an angry voice overhead. People clung to the sides of buildings and tucked just inside doorways, seeking shelter wherever they could.
The storms came quick, without warning, without a chance to escape. The only thing we could do was seek shelter and wait it out.
Storms like this often happen when we least expect them. They catch us off guard. They knock us off our feet and force us to cling to anything we can hold onto. We grasp to make meaning of the storm, to figure out a reason for the uprooting, the chaos and the damage. And sometimes the best – and the only – explanation is that all of the necessary elements existed in the right quantities, at the right time.
These storms, often the most difficult for us to endure, test every ounce of faith and belief we have. They push us to sit with the unexplainable, to accept the unchangeable and to dive deeper into the wildly uncomfortable. It is in these places that we stand face-to-face with who we are and what we believe in. And it is in these moments that we learn to let go of our stubbornness and surrender all that is beyond our capabilities.
There is a lot that is beyond our capabilities; much more that is beyond our control. We can look back after the storm, questioning, doubting and reasoning through how we will handle the next one. We learn to accept that we did the very best we could in each moment as it presented itself. Or, if we didn’t handle it well, we know what is necessary moving forward.
Storms aren’t avoidable and sometimes the storm is going to win. The only thing we can do is wait it out. We can sit still in the storm instead of plowing through in our stubbornness. We can reflect on previous storms and our strength as a result. We can hold onto the hope of a brighter sky and a greener pasture when it is over.
For, it is often the most violent storm that will produce the most magnificent sunset.