While we were all reeling from the tragedy in Thousands Oaks last week, two more California tragedies, the Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire, began unfolding. And here we are now, our shock even more profound.
Just back from Panama City, Florida, and Hurricane Michael’s devastation, I’m a few weeks into processing an utterly life-changing experience for a community, for loved ones, and for those we don’t know, won’t ever know, but whose sudden suffering stops us in our tracks.
So I want to share with you a bit of what I’m reflecting on right now.
These stories are just beginning.
First, as these stories of tragedy gradually fade from “front page” news, they’re really just beginning. The support that we can and want to give must continue.
That support can come in so many ways, from the deeply personal and truly sacrificial—a shoulder to cry on, housing help for displaced individuals or families—to the simplest quiet actions, like saying yes to adding a small donation to a grocery store bill. I had lunch with a friend today who advised giving directly to individual GoFundMe pages to have an immediate impact.
You need care, too.
And be aware of, be present to, your own pain. Be very, very gentle with and good to yourself and those around you. Consider this gentleness with self and others something you can control in the midst of so much that is out of control. In fact, see the beauty around you. Relish it. Reflect on just how mysterious life really is.
Yes, life is so beautiful.
I was struck over and over while in Panama City by gorgeous days, with weather-related tragedy all around us. By the incongruity of it all. Taking the time to reflect, rather than shutting down all that feeling, is important in finding our way through the experience of devastation. Take time to think. Time to feel. Everything else that considers itself so urgent will still be there.
In the process, in the wise counsel of the Dalai Lama, reflect on your own strength to carry on. Reflect on everything your own life is about. Everything you hope for. The point is to care for yourself toward helping to energize those around you. Your oxygen mask comes first.
Don’t sugarcoat. Do offer hope. And rest.
If you’re directly connected to those directly impacted by these tragedies, do empathize. And do remember to also offer encouragement. To offer hope. Trust your instincts on ways to help that don’t sugarcoat what is in fact tragic, but that do align with that very human activity of carrying on. It’s what we do. We keep going.
And on dark nights, in dark times, we need rest. We all need rest. There will be days and nights when we’ll get it, days and nights when we won’t. But keep giving yourself permission for it. For that oxygen mask. Nourish yourself toward nourishing others.
As we come together next week around Thanksgiving tables of all kinds, let’s be truly present to one another. One day at a time, one step at a time. Proceeding, with feeling. Finding our own loving way through tragedy. Finding our own meaning. It’s what we humans do on this wild, ever poignant life journey. As we keep our own little light burning, it can help brighten the way forward for others. For all of us.
When’s the last time someone—or life—surprised you, in a good way? Can’t remember? Ready to change that? Gotta invite surprise on in.
Often, for all our talk of wanting more of this or a different that, we tend to travel the same well-worn paths over and over.
Habits that have grown stale.
Casual daydreams—or richly detailed fantasies—of adventure or change that we don’t act on.
Often, too, there’s no real reason why, or why not. Maybe it’s just how we’ve lived. Or how we’ve watched the folks around us “do life.” Besides, our routines are comforting, right? They work.
Or do they?
Maybe the truth is somewhere between yes and no.
To welcome the element of surprise into your life, get curious about the unknown. And about that part of you that’s perhaps waiting for its turn at bat, or on the dance floor. Out snorkeling. Up on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Move over, known. Time to mix things up!
Take a different route to work. Make a point to notice things along the way. Say yes! when you usually say no, or instead of that famous decision-in-a-non-decision: we’ll see.
Sit quietly if you usually don’t. Head out for a walk without a particular purpose. Call a friend without anything on your mind to say. Wear something really different for you.
Book that trip. Take that class. Ask for that raise! Try saying no to things, too. See and feel where different choices take you. And pay special attention to whatever meaningful coincidences or unexpected opportunities arise then. Because they do. They will.
You deserve an amazing life. Invite surprise in for surprising developments. Woohoo!
Teresa Young wants you living your dream, for real. She coaches by phone, in person in Los Angeles, and via Skype outside the U.S.
What is coaching? OK. Think football. Basketball. Golf. The Olympics.
Got it? Now, can you imagine sports teams—or their star players—performing to their potential without their coaches?
Now widen that view to me and you. Because life has been changing lightning fast since the late 20th century. And never more so than now.
More and more we understand what we used to be oblivious to. Like the connection between food and health. Between stress and health.
We get the connection between the ways we do life and what we get done.
So what is coaching?
First consider the connections between:
1. habits, beliefs, and dreams
2. powerful support systems, or lack thereof
3. our ability to set and meet inspiring goals
Clearly we’re each a mix of histories, beliefs and experiences that impact our approach. What we think we can do. Think we deserve.
What coaching isn’t
By the way, coaching isn’t therapy, another amazing resource. Coaching is present- and future-based, and ultimately about achieving goals, not healing the past. The golf pro expects to actually getto the next level with that swing through coaching, not just understand and accept how it developed so far.
But let me be crystal clear: I’m not saying therapy doesn’t promote growth. It absolutely does. It’s just that accomplishing what we want is the specific, jacked-up, razor-sharp point of being coached.
Also, effective coaches know you can’t just put icing on whatever’s there and call it cake. To put it another way, positive thinking isn’t a game changer. Coaching is inspirational, and instructional. And so much more.
How ’bout client-centered partnership?
So, again, what is coaching? It’s a creative partnership that supports clients in bringing theirownwisdom, energy, instincts, intelligence, desire, and focus to setting and achieving what matters most to them. One step at a time.
Plus when we think of athletics, we know coaching has been around for a long, long time. Expert support to optimize performance isn’t a fly-by-night fad. After all, the first written records of the Olympic Games were in 776 BC!
Fast forward to these days, here in the 21st century, and lifecoaching isn’t just for the extraordinary few. We live in an amazing age in which we really can pursue our unique, individual dreams, whether or not there’s a crowd behind us. We just deserve someone in our corner who knows what to do there.
So for more of what is coaching, my clients get consistent, energetic support. They get active listening. Empowering and clarifying questioning. Then action planning. Of course ultimately they get held accountable. And last but not least they get celebrated for their large and small successes. Repeat as needed.
What’s more, we uncover and dismantle bugaboos that may come up and get in the way. After all, that’s human, and it’s why support matters. In fact we tackle what impacts the present and future and do the work toward real forward movement.
Just like star players run those drills. Put in the time on that swing. Work that free throw. And that’s beautiful.
Meanwhile, as you consider this playbook of helpful sports analogies, reach out for more info if life coaching sounds like a fit for you. No doubt your MVP year awaits!
Teresa Young wants you living your dream, for real. She coaches by phone, in person in Los Angeles, and via Skype outside the U.S.
I’m in Houston en route home, feeling like I’m back in civilization. Airport WiFi! Still intensely connected to what will be a long recovery process in Panama City after Hurricane Michael. There’s plenty I can check on and text my father about on the iPhone I drove 100 miles to get for his birthday. That new communication channel helped me get on the plane.
Recovery will be slow for my mother, and for the town. For my father, too. He has worked himself to the bone. Not just since Hurricane Michael. And not just the month before that, after my mother’s surgery. But for the past two years, when she was clearly ill but not yet correctly diagnosed. His health has suffered in the process. Anybody who has been through their own aging parents’ tough times knows where I am now, with them at the threshold of overwhelming new territory.
Emotion, empathy, and encouragement
So despite my crazy-love for my beautiful life with Kevin in lovely Sherwood Forest, CA, and all the phenomenal clients and students I’ll be thrilled to get busy with again, I had a terrible time leaving Panama City. Especially as my father and I agreed that I had to get in my car and go before we both broke down.
And I’ve experienced firsthand now how natural disasters are in the news for a week or two, then fade from view. The truth is that the recovery process is barely underway exactly three weeks out. The shock everybody is in is still descending. I heard dark threads of conversation all over that I had to empathize with AND interrupt with encouragement. The stages of grief are just beginning.
Blossoming in hardship
On the other hand, a surprising upside to this life-altering devastation has been my family coming together. And that’s a big one. In fact this left coast liberal and those red state Republicans have re-connected in ways we haven’t been capable of in many years.
My local brother Ken is kind of my twin on the planet, the big guy version born 364 days later. One day a year on his birthday we’ve always said we’re the same age. He’s former military, and about the time I started my own business he started his. These days the ace helicopter mechanic runs his own tractor company.
It was fun, if you can call any part of such a devastating situation fun, to watch him take a day for the second time to deal with our parents’ ruined property. The first time he cut them out of a thick barrier of downed trees the day after Hurricane Michael struck. That was after trying three different times to get to them from twenty miles away. He had to turn back twice before he finally got there with extra water and a stash of gas for their generator.
The second time he worked to get everything—tangles of trees from their yard and a formerly wooded lot next door, all kinds of debris like siding, roofing, front porch overhead fan parts, mailbox—to the side of the road, where we think FEMA will take it from there. Seemed to me he was doing what he was about from the time he was pint-sized, pushing dump trucks around in the yard, being his energetic self in the world.
Day in the life
My brothers and I managed some beers and a party-planning conversation last Friday at an essential establishment of theirs that was running cash only and standing room only. Then we all headed in different directions in the nasty traffic that’s status quo now. My former military/current security pro brother Michael, on loan from his work overseas, trekked back to our AirBnB townhouse out on the beach. Ken headed to his 70 acres in nearby Chipley, me to our parents’ place right where the storm has wrecked everything. I had to smile as I was trying to find my car and saw Ken already rolling out onto the highway in his 50-foot rig, sporting one of several Caterpillar contraptions he works with. A day in the life.
Then yesterday as he was clearing our parents’ lot, they lost water to the house again. Amazingly, somebody from the Water Department came right out and diagnosed an issue on the property side, underground. Since it wasn’t at the street, it wasn’t his problem. Next thing I knew, Ken was waist-deep in a hole, gluing something with a super-pro product Michael had snagged on command from the hardware store. And my parents had water again. Michael had already rigged up a little antenna that my dad got at Best Buy years ago, so now they can watch some TV. I fed everybody. That’s been my thing.
Best birthday ever
Regarding Dad’s birthday celebration, we did it. Unsanctioned by our parents, it went down, and Dad loved it. Two little girls in the neighborhood even brought over homemade peanut butter cookies. Impressive in the midst of the mess at hand! Though Mom didn’t manage to rise from her bed to join us, she said she thinks it was Dad’s best birthday ever.
And a note on the satellite image of Hurricane Michael here: just before I left, Ken learned that emergency responders had finally recovered one of Mexico Beach’s destroyed weather station recorders. They learned then that it had measured sustained 160 mph winds with gusts of up to 201 mph. Good thing this storm moved fast or its consequences would have been even worse.
Tough stuff and temporary opportunities
Meanwhile, Panama City and larger Bay County have had two hospitals for decades. Hurricane Michael hit them both hard, and they’re both still closed except for emergency services. Right now long convoys of troopers and sheriffs roll through town, sirens blazing, getting people to hospitals 60 or more miles away. (Do they transport one patient in each vehicle?) Moreover, on my drive to get Dad’s phone I heard urgent requests on the radio for extra hospital personnel. Plus notices that emergency nursing certifications are temporarily available, something I’ve never heard before.
Most importantly, I’m grateful for the part I’ve been able to play for my family in this crisis. For everything I’m learning about natural disasters. I know west coast folks need generators to complete earthquake prep. (Think about multi-week power outages.) Landlines will be useless. You sleep and wake with the sun.
For now, back to my dear La-La Land
For now I’m so ready to get back to my deeply satisfying work. And I’ll keep going back to Panama City every other month. My parents need help to prepare for and make immense changes. Get ready to sell that 2-story house. Is it time for assisted living? Can they agree on what’s next? It’s no longer a someday situation. For now one thing they do agree on—I keep asking—is that they won’t be coming out to La-La Land. :)
THANK YOU AGAIN AND ALWAYS to everyone who helped us. As my niece Kyla says, “You have done something great.” We’ll never forget it.
I’ve personally never seen so many lineworkers jamming in tandem across multiple lanes of traffic. And on a Sunday yet. This is still going on all around Panama City ever more dramatically. Gulf Power is trying hard to restore power to all of Panama City and larger Bay County by October 24th. That’s tomorrow. Fingers crossed.
And in a sweet moment yesterday on a busy highway, three state troopers were standing there keeping an eye on things. A passenger in a moving car ahead of me reached out and handed them a bag of sandwiches. They dug right in. Generating power, indeed.
Soon after I got here I decided on Pandora’s ‘70s rock station. And on generating power again, when I can get a signal, the ’70s rock station evokes memories of my early teen years here and energizes me. Yesterday en route from the beach in heavy traffic, Cat Stephens’ “oo, baby, it’s a wild world” couldn’t have been more perfect.
My brother’s family is staying with me after getting most of their apartment’s contents into storage. My mother feels too weak to move and doesn’t want to, so I’m taking hot meals to my parents daily. After several hours with them yesterday, James Taylor’s “Shower the People” kicked in as I pulled out onto their ravaged street again. James got me past the horror my father and I feel every time we open his garage door to the ruin around us. I give my dad his own private daily pep talk then as we stand together next to my car. “Shower the People” is definitely what I’m doing here.
On the important topic of sketchy cell signal after a natural disaster, shout-out to my iPhone. I’m faring better than folks with various other devices. I’m sending and receiving texts, utilizing weak cell signals and WiFi, and accessing Google and Google maps for resources we need. (And shout-out to whatever tower is subbing for Sprint’s two ruined ones.)
We’re achieving a bit of a routine while waiting for power, insurance people, and more ease of movement, both indoors, where power and extension cords to my father’s generator and all around his ground floor are exactly as I imagined them while sleepless in Los Angeles—with my mother on a walker and him using a cane—and outdoors, given downed trees, mounds of debris, suspicious-looking cables, and workers everywhere with orange cones and heavy-duty vehicles. And one more update: Yesterday I saw a convoy of FEMA trucks emblazed “Potable Water” roll into town. Their presence is growing.
Fueled by gratitude
And once again with feeling on the subject of generating power, THANK YOU AGAIN to everyone who has aided us. Now that the shock of the present is receding a bit for all of us, I’ve begun sharing with my parents how I got here this time. The help we received. They get wide-eyed and speechless while I get choked up, the three of us feeling so much together.
On a puddle jumper from Houston to Panama City Friday I was blown away by magnificent views. I’m generally the aisle seat type, but 6A was both aisle and window seat this time. Pale blue to azure skies and immense cloud structures felt like pure gift. Like, here’s inspiration. Rest your eyes here. Store this technicolor reminder of just how crazy-beautiful our little planet is. A perfect fit for the gratitude I felt and feel to be able to help my family.
Four days later I’m weary of trying to take pics that capture Michael’s devastating impact. And it’s dangerous to do so given thread-the-needle road conditions! Time to share what inspires me instead. That’s what I’m looking for now as I drive clogged streets and highways between Panama City and Panama City Beach and back again. THANK YOU again and again to everybody who has helped me to be here. It means so much to me and my family.