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The Powerful Health Lesson I Learned After a Hurricane Destroyed My Neighborhood

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I live in North Carolina, and we were recently hit with a powerful hurricane that caused a lot of damage. Many trees fell on and around my house. One tree limb speared through my roof into my living room. It is not every day that you open your bedroom door and see a tree staring at you! There was an eight-foot wall of tree limbs blocking my driveway entrance, and the roads were covered with massive trees and fallen power lines. It was a feeling of being trapped — especially with no power for five days and food running out quickly.

A house surrounded by fallen trees.

I was worried that the stress from dealing with the hurricane would really impact my chronic pain from dystonia. I had a couple days of bad pain, but overall, I did quite well. I attribute this to focusing on keeping a level head through it all and doing my best to not physically overextend myself. I also had the help of caring friends and family, and I made sure to keep practicing my daily self-care activities.

I think events like this can either bring us down or make us stronger. Some people may look at this hurricane and see it as a complete tragedy, and in many ways, it most certainly was. However, I also believe that with every obstacle comes opportunity. I have witnessed new friendships formed, kindness from complete strangers in ways I have never seen before, stronger bonds formed between family and friends, greater compassion for others, and so much passionate, hard work from everyone to rebuild our community. People worked together like a finely tuned machine to get through this tough time — people whose paths probably wouldn’t cross otherwise. There is a greater sense of community between us now, which is a beautiful expression of the strength of the human spirit.

We often have a choice about how to view and respond to life events, and how we choose to respond will determine their impact on us — both physically and emotionally. I could have totally freaked out when I woke up to that tree in my living room. It could have put my health into a major tailspin, but I chose to not panic because I knew I needed to have a level head to take care of the mess and process all of the chaos.

Several days after my yard was cleared, I saw something in nature that illustrated amazing resilience. It made me think about our resilience in the wake of trauma — which prompted me to write this story. This year, I planted a number of different flowers in my yard. Prior to the storm, I took them all indoors — except one large planter of impatiens that was too heavy to move.

When I woke the day after the brunt of the storm had passed, the planter was buried in fallen tree limbs. I couldn’t even see it. I thought for sure that my flowers would have all been destroyed — but I was proven wrong. Within a few days of clearing the debris, the flowers began to bloom again. They don’t look like they did before the storm, but the flowers that survived didn’t give up and kept on growing — with new buds ready to bloom.

The author's pink, white, and purple impatient flowers in a pot.

It’s just like those of us who have obstacles in our lives — be they health or otherwise. If we continue to keep hope alive, work hard every day to take steps towards our goals, learn to live with adversity rather than fight against it, and never give up, life doesn’t necessarily have to end. It may look different over time — just like my planter and my community after the hurricane — but it doesn’t have to be any less fulfilling, meaningful, or beautiful. In fact, I think that if we continue to fight when we are faced with tough hurdles, it is a sign of our strong character and may be far more meaningful than a life without challenges. It can also prepare us to handle adversity when it comes our way again.

Just like the impatiens that kept on blooming after being buried by trees, we can also keep on growing. If your life has been turned upside down, allow yourself to find your bearings and then take steps in the direction you want to go. Don’t beat yourself up; lift yourself up. Attitude can often determine altitude — and how far we climb when we are faced with adversity may be up to us. If we view all “bad” things as tragedies, we may become victims of circumstance and never see the hidden blessing or meaning in our lives. There can be great beauty in the storms, and often, finding that beauty is what can heal us from that tragedy.

Image via contributor.

Originally published: September 11, 2022
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