There is nothing better for gaining perspective than sitting in a house without electricity for an extended period of time. The combination of the heat and quiet, while uncomfortable, is a recipe for introspection. Peace in a storm can be literal and figurative.
If you have never experienced a strong hurricane blowing past your home, consider yourself among the lucky. The preparation in advance of the storm is exhausting and time consuming. Anxiety, stress, and worry kick in to high gear and the adrenalin rush fuels the frantic securing of all projectiles, stocking the pantry, and gathering important items and documents for safe keeping.
In the chaos of the storm, people hunker down and wait. Hunkering is a surprisingly passive, yet protective, act. We stop, look, and listen while the rain and winds decide how they will change the landscape and normal functioning of the community.
The final phase is assessing the damage after the storm moves out of the area. In one of our many conversations, my wife and I happened upon an interesting analogy. It turns out that one of the side effects of sleep deprivation and high internal core temperatures are moments of enlightenment.
After tossing the contents of the refrigerator and planning the pioneer life menu, hours were spent discussing our past, present, and future. Forced time off, no connection to the outside world, and sitting outside with nothing but the glow of yard torches was surprisingly enjoyable.
Despite having to yell over the constant noise from the generators in the neighborhood, we gained a new appreciation for being disconnected from the world. For five days, our world was very small and filled with peace.
We realized storms and people share many common traits. Each of us have hurricanes in our lives which take the form of people, blow in and out, and leave damage. The drama of a storm is not that different from the drama people can generate if given the right conditions.
It is ironic that every storm packing any strength or punch is given a name. Humans are notorious for creating their own internal inclement weather. They also have the ability to change the forecast and influence the weather for others. I call these “peoplecanes.” These kind of storms often pop up without warning or notice and leave a lingering impact on those directly in their path. People and storms. Interesting.
Think about it. The energy supply for the human equivalent of hurricanes is as wide as the day is long. Nothing is off limits. Choices, decisions, opinions, lifestyles, religion, relationships, politics are just a few fuel sources. Can you imagine a world where everyone was content to hunker down with themselves and learned to handle their own internal storms? What would that look like?
Imagine if each of us was free to live, exist, and be without criticism, complaint, or condemnation. What if people kept their own sides of the street clean instead of slinging their trash and storm debris in the yards of friends, family, or neighbors?
One important difference between weather and people is worth noting. In a hurricane, we have little say about the path it will take. In order to avoid the path, you have to change location to escape the effects and aftermath. With people, escaping the storm is not as clear cut. What happens when the storm is churning in families, relationships, or work places? Avoiding a “peoplecane” is not always possible, but there are ways to protect from taking a direct hit.
To protect against flying debris created by Mother Nature, plywood or aluminum storm shutters are put on the windows of homes. Boundaries are the boards that protect humans from the effects of the emotional, mental, and physical debris being tossed by others.
Protective measures are the best way to divert or avoid any dangerous, toxic, or potentially harmful situations. Everyone has the ability to fortify their castles and minimize the impact of unhealthy people. The first step is to stop accepting the unacceptable from those who do not support, add value, or have any skin in the game.
Sadly, there are instances when limiting contact is the only way to keep the windows intact. Learning to live free from the opinions or demands of another person is not an impossible task, but it does require fortitude and confidence. Adopting an every man or woman for themselves mentality may sound harsh, but it is a great place to start. Begin with yourself.
Guard your peace by becoming vigilant about any moments when you feel the need to insert opinions where they are not needed with regard to others. Giving up the need to be heard or in control of outcomes that do not require your input is another skill worth honing.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of someone else’s opinions, demands, or influence, remain firm with your boundaries. You are worth peace. Resisting the temptation to accept the unacceptable begins the process of taking back your power in a situation. No is a perfectly acceptable answer. Explanations are optional but not recommended. It is never acceptable for someone to assert their will upon another.
Controlling the Path
There will be those who will never be willing to change or address their issues. Fortunately, your peace is not predicated on their willingness to alter their thinking, actions, or feelings. Inner peace does not require permission from anyone else.
We cannot control what others do, say, or feel, but we certainly can decide what is acceptable for ourselves. Sometimes placing distance between the eye of the storm and our literal and figurative homesteads is necessary. This may come as a shock to those who are accustomed to running the show for others. Push back is a common reaction. Stand firm anyway.
Each of us have at least one named storm threatening to blow through right now. Fighting the wind requires more energy than it takes to create a boundary with someone who is causing chaos in our lives. The tried and true method for avoiding the path of the storm is deciding against letting external negativity or expectations impinge on our mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
Becoming more in tune with your own inner voice will go a long way to quiet the noise from the outside circle. Controlling the environment is not the goal, however, controlling ourselves is. Practice makes perfect and begins with minding our own business.
Learning how to create boundaries with those who sling a relentless flow of negativity in all directions is the key to peace. This week I encourage you to name your storms. Spend time creating a plan to set boundaries and protect your valuable internal real estate.
Adopt a daily practice of hunkering down. Then clear the debris one branch at a time. While tiring at times, it is worth the effort. It is easy to get caught in a “peoplecane” but creating your own eye in the storm is the shortcut to peace.