Category Archives: metaphor

From Panic to Peace: finding calm in the face of a storm

On September 5th when I went to the South Miami Target they were already out of water, batteries and many of the other “necessities for your hurricane preparedness kit”. They had a lot of sardines. At that point I was still feeling okay, there was a good chance in the predictions that Hurricane Irma would track to the east. On September 6th I helped my in-laws put on their hurricane shutters and got an enormous headache that night, probably from dehydration.

1 of 18 hurricane shutters

I also had my first panic attack with pounding  heart, nausea and dizziness. We were planning to stay in our house. It was built in 1950 and has a strong hip roof (an actual type of roof, not a roof that practices yoga nor one that is up on all the latest trends) and flexible accordion shutters that lock and are built to withstand extreme wind and impact from flying debris. However, we also have a yard full of trees including an amazing  Live Oak tree that was planted when the house was built. It’s right outside our son’s bedroom. I began to run through worst case scenarios and it wasn’t pretty.

Our 67 year old Live Oak tree and the corner of our house

By the 7th the panic was getting the best of me. I had a dream about escaping with nothing but my antique brown suitcase and my rainbow tie dye bathing suit. My journal entry that morning included the following under Thoughts to Clear – “I am going to die in the upcoming hurricane. ” I closed most of our shutters and locked them. The house was dark inside.

Accordion Shutters

Calls from anxious family members and friends increased my feelings of fear. I convinced my husband that we should go to his parents’ house for the storm, taking the dog, cats, food, and water. Although my in-laws are in a potential flood zone they didn’t have any huge trees over their house. My husband came home from work at lunchtime to put up plywood shutters on the two small windows at the rear of the house that didn’t have accordion shutters. I spent the afternoon taking all of our pictures off the walls and wrapping them in heavy black plastic and duct tape. What would I miss the most if it were lost? Our pictures, my journals, the scrapbooks my mother-in-law has made for my son and husband, my great-grandfather’s fiddle. I tried not to keep checking the storm track on the NOAA website but it was like an addiction. I wanted to know what was happening even though I had no control over it. The storm kept growing larger and had decimated the areas it had already hit.

In the late afternoon I took a break and checked my email. There was a message from Shiloh Sophia, about Whispering to Hurricanes. It wasn’t written only to me, it was to all of her subscribers, but it felt as if it had been written just for me. I read it and cried and went out to sit under the Live Oak tree, perhaps for the last time, and told her how much I loved her. I thanked her for sheltering our house from sun and rain, for being a home to animals and orchids, for making so many acorns last year for the squirrels, for being the site of my “sit spot”, an outdoor meditation practice that I have been doing for many months. I prayed for her to make it through the storm. I curled up between her roots and felt loved and held. I found peace.

My sit spot and where I found peace

The 5:00 advisory from NOAA announced the storm was shifting, not to the east, but to the west. While this meant devastation to the Florida Keys and much of the west coast of Florida, it also meant that we would not receive a direct hit in Miami as had been predicted. We breathed a tentative sigh of relief. It was our 9th family anniversary. We had adopted our son in China on this date in 2008. We didn’t celebrate although we did find a moment to take a family portrait on the love seat, with all of us sweaty and exhausted from preparing for the storm. We spent that night in our house. My journal entry included a gratitude list of all that I am grateful for. It was a long list.

The next morning the track continued to go west. I went back to my in-laws to retrieve the dog’s crate and food, my son’s food and some gin.  I helped my father-in-law cut down the awning over their porch so it wouldn’t pull off part of the roof. The storm wasn’t due until the following day but already there were strong gusts of wind and rainstorms as the outer bands from Irma swirled towards us. The power was out when I returned home. Throughout the day the wind and rain increased. I found myself looking at the things around us with a new sense of appreciation but also a realization of impermanence. What happens to those people who have no warning, in an earthquake, a fire, a flood that you don’t see coming?  What would you try to save?

Sunday morning, September 10th, Irma continued west and we had a normal breakfast. We have a gas stove that can be lit with a lighter and a small generator that kept our freezer humming along and our cell phones and computers operating.

A marvelous invention!

We were able to communicate with our loved ones and reassure them that we were safe. The tropical storm force winds whipped leaves and branches from the trees,  and snapped some trees at the trunk.  Hard rain came in bands and we were happy we had reinforced the front door with sand bags, a tarp, and our large TV cabinet. My relief at having dodged the worst of the storm shifted to sorrow for those who were being hit hardest. I worried about our greyhound who was afraid to go out in the rain and wind.  Each time the rain stopped and I opened the back door to look outside, the landscape had changed. More palm fronds on the ground, another small tree down, our neighbor’s wild almond tree snapped in half and lying in the back yard. Finally, around 6 p.m. the storm lessened and we were able to get Magi outside to relieve himself. It had been 22 hours since he’d last gone!

I checked on our neighbors’ friends who were expecting a baby and staying next door, broke out the gin, and started cooking dinner. We had made it. “It’s good to alive” as my husband posted later that night. And amended “to be alive.”

On September 11th, the anniversary of the terrorists attacks on the U.S, we walked outside to an altered landscape. The sound of chainsaws filled the air and we realized how lucky we were after seeing other homes that didn’t fare as well as ours.

A neighbor’s poinciana tree that snapped in the wind

We checked in with friends and neighbors, offering ice and cold drinks. We rescued two of our neighbors’ five koi that had made it through the night without a working aerator.

Our neighbors’ fish, enjoying the bubbler in our pond

People we had formerly only waved at now stopped by to offer gasoline for our generator. Disaster can bring out the best in people. On our 10th day without electricity we are now accustomed to cold showers, cooking on the gas grill and walking around with a headlight.  The streets are mostly clear and school is scheduled to reopen tomorrow after more than a week of being closed.  Clean up continues and there are power companies from all over the U.S. and Canada restoring electricity to Florida. Many of our neighbors now have power and I’m editing this post and adding photos from the comfort of one of their air conditioned houses.  Soon I’ll go back home and I know I won’t remain in a peaceful state for the entire day. Bands of frustration, impatience, and anger will be interspersed with moments of sincere appreciation for little comforts like ice in a glass of water, enjoyment of the fact that I have a house to return to, the feel of a fan blowing on my skin, and connection and love for my family. I don’t expect to stay in a state of bliss but I’m a lot more aware of when I’m happy. Watching the stars at night, seeing the breeze blow through the branches of the Live Oak and taking clean laundry off the clothesline are all opportunities for experiencing peace and joy.May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you love and be loved.

p.s. We are now tracking Tropical Storm Maria and won’t put the generator away, even if power is restored!

 

Perfect is the enemy of good

There are all kinds of reasons for not finishing something and getting it out into the world. For more years than I care to count, I’ve had a vintage metal lawn chair that belonged to my grandmother, Dean Donovan, on my dad’s side of the family. It found its way to my house in Miami, a little worse for the wear, but still a very serviceable chair. It’s comfortable, rocks just a little when you push with your feet against the ground, and brings a lot of good memories.

I forgot to take a picture before I started sanding, but you can get a good idea of what it looked like.

For a long time it has sat on my back porch, covered with a towel, slightly rusty, sometimes used by the cat. I rarely sat in it and it always made me a little sad to see it there. Many years ago my husband stripped off the original navy blue paint and another layer of forest green paint and sprayed on a coat of primer. And for some reason, it never got finished. I kept telling myself I would paint it someday but I was worried about getting it right.

I love the lopsided smile that says “Yes! Paint me!”

This week I got a sudden desire to paint the chair. Monday afternoon I went to Home Depot (site of my previous run in with the roofing project!) and bought a beautiful light aqua color of Rustoleum spray paint. My husband has a nifty little electric sander and collection of sand paper. The primer and rust came off pretty quickly and in two days the chair was sanded down to bare metal.  On Wednesday I sprayed on the first coat of paint and although there were a few drips and a bug or two flew into it, it looked pretty good. Today I put on the second coat and let the chair dry in the sun.

The paint job is not perfect. If it were, I’d probably be afraid to sit in it! But it’s done, it’s good enough and I will enjoy it for many years to come.  As I’m starting my new business I find myself getting caught up in the same kinds of procrastination. What if my website isn’t perfect? What will people think? What if my intake form is missing something? What about scheduling and blog posts and having the right niche?  So I’m putting it out there as I build it, knowing it’s not perfect, but realizing that sometimes it’s more important to have a comfortable chair than a perfect chair. Is there something that you’ve been putting off because you want it to be “just right”? I’d love to talk with you about it, and if the weather is nice I’ll be doing it from my back porch, sitting in a comfortable chair that’s been around for a long time.

p.s. Speaking of imperfection, my friend and fellow coach, Tina Peacock, let me know that she wasn’t able to respond to my last blog post because the contact information wasn’t set up correctly. I tried to fix it but I don’t know if I did it right! So if you want to contact me just send me an email at mialotus@yahoo.com 

I would love to hear from you!

The Gift of Being a Beginner

In the interest of being a beginner I’m going to share a story about roofing with you. Why roofing? Read on!

When my mother-in-law first mentioned that she wanted to replace the roof of the wishing well that has graced her front lawn for over 50 years I was excited. I like working with my hands and it seemed like it would be a fun project. How hard could it be?  I arrived one morning, bright and early, with my hammer and hat and got to work tearing off the old roof.  Likewise, when I first decided to sign up for life coach training I was excited and enthusiastic. How hard could it be?

I was a little unsteady on the step ladder and really had to reach for the top row of cedar shingles. My father-in-law came out and offered some of his tools, including a couple of crowbars and some nail pullers. By the end of the first day I had filled two large garbage cans with deteriorated shingles and was feeling a great sense of accomplishment. I took pictures as I demolished the roof so that I would know how to put it all back together. After my first couple of life coach classes I was feeling pretty good about it. There was a lot of material to learn but I knew I could do it.

That night I fell asleep, tired and happy. I woke a few hours later in a panic. What the hell had I done? I didn’t know how to build a roof! I didn’t know what materials I would need or how I was going to get huge sheets of plywood up on the roof or really anything about roofing! I had jokingly told my father-in-law that I would look it up on YouTube but now I realized that I might have bitten off way more than I could chew.  I finally fell back asleep and the next day started doing some research. Home Depot looked like a good place to start. After a few sessions of watching videos and listening to the Master Life Coaches we were invited to start practicing with one another. I panicked. The first time I tried to speak on a group call my heart was pounding so hard I thought I might pass out. What the hell had I done? I had no idea how to be a life coach!

I found a couple of useful articles and printed them out. I was able to calculate approximately how many shingles I would need to replace the ones I’d torn off. I spent some time on hold with the wonderful folks at Home Depot and both times I was ready to place an order for shingles and plywood for delivery I managed to hang up the phone with my chin. Instead of spending more time on hold I decided to wait. We weren’t ready for the materials yet anyhow. We were assigned to small groups of four people to practice together. The other three women in my group were bright, funny, empathetic and willing to make mistakes and learn from one another. I began to feel like maybe I could do this after all.

When I went back to work the following week my father-in-law came out to look at the plywood that was under the tar paper and realized that a lot of it could be re-used. That was a relief! We spent some time cutting a piece of plywood that he’d been saving since my husband was a young boy and they had dismantled his bunk bed.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! And don’t tear something apart that doesn’t need to be torn apart! My one attempt at using a circular saw while standing on a step ladder could be seen either as a failure (the saw kicked back out of the plywood) or a success (I still have all ten fingers and both arms).  All this practice was beginning to have an effect! I gained some confidence as I listened to the other coach trainees (or cadets as we are fondly called). We had a wonderful Master Coach, Bev Barnes, who led our first practicum and she encouraged us to use the tools we were learning and gently helped us through the rough bits. I coached in front of the other 12 or so cadets on the line and emerged with all my fingers intact.

The next stage of the project involved finding out why the roof was slanted at an odd angle on one end of the wishing well.  After emptying the base of the wishing well, we realized that the bottoms of the 4 x 4 beams that were holding up the roof had been destroyed by termites. Instead of tearing them out completely we were able to shore them up using 2 x 4s and some ingenuity on the part of my father-in-law. More tools were brought out, jacks to prop everything up, a level to make sure that each side was the height, a drill for screwing in the 2 x 4s. I was feeling more comfortable with the tools by now and had also remembered how much I used to enjoy working with my own father when I was young.  I was able to choose the right tool for the job, including chisels, wire cutters for pulling nails, and found out the best way to remove wet tar from skin is with WD-40! By the end of the second practicum we had learned more life coaching methods and it felt more natural to apply them. I was spending less time worrying about “doing it right” and more time helping the people I was coaching.

Once everything was level we placed more tar paper (also known as roofing felt) over the plywood and nailed it down. I started out with my heavy wooden handled hammer then switched to a lighter weight hammer. I got into the rhythm, eventually getting to the point where I could get a nail flush with the roof with 7 bangs.  It felt pretty good although later that night my right hand hurt so much I skipped my yoga class! At the end of the second practicum we were told we could start practicing with “civilians”, people who weren’t in the coach training with us. I reached out to a couple of people I knew and  they agreed to be my guinea pigs. I practiced the tools that we had learned and it gradually got easier.

Before the next working day I went to pick up the new shingles at Home Depot.  While I was there I also bought some sky blue paint for my front porch ceiling and had a nice chat with a gentleman who was visiting from Ohio and doing volunteer repairs at a church in Miami. He was encouraging about my roofing project. I was feeling confident that I could do it. In December I started telling others about what I was doing, just chatting and offering to help. I wasn’t so self-conscious about it as I had been when I first started out. I was gaining some confidence but still felt shy about telling people I was a life coach.

After a false start where I had to tear off the top of a double row of shingles that had been matched up instead of staggered, I got into the rhythm of nailing on the new shingles.  They were all different sizes and some had knots or holes in them and weren’t able to be used. We stopped at 3:00 so I could pick up my son from school, just before completing the top row.  I continued to coach friends, relatives, acquaintances, and other coaches. Some people I only coached once. It’s not always a good match.  I’ve coached others weekly and we’ve made real progress. I love the feeling of being “in flow” that comes sometimes when I’m coaching and I feel energized and happy when I finish a session.

On Saturday I got a call from my father-in-law that he was going to finish putting on the metal cap and the last row of shingles. My mother-in-law was due back from Chicago on Sunday and he wanted to have the project finished. While at first I felt disappointed that I wasn’t there to see it completed I realized that I’d done what I needed to do and could let it go. As my clients learn how to apply the tools to their own lives they don’t need me to be there for them, they can complete the work themselves. And I can offer my services to someone else who needs some help getting started.

We had a great group coaching session today with Master Coach Jackie Gartman. She invited us to give ourselves the gift of being a beginner. What this means for me is that instead of feeling the need to be a “perfect coach” (whatever that means!), that we instead allow ourselves to be beginners and to enjoy it. If you’re interested in being a beginner with me, please contact me about coaching (or roofing!) I’d love to tell you more!