FFS Friday: Weathering the Storm

Weathering the Storm

Uggghhhh.

This has been my motto some days—a lament at the nature of simply existing. Now and then, the very prospect of being a human (much less an adult) is enough to cause crippling existential dread.

Staying resilient is hard sometimes. Life can come from all angles, throwing combinations faster than you can react. During the lowest low of my life, it was often a fight just to get out of bed. To put on pants. To shower. Even now, at the highest I’ve ever been, it can be a challenge to motivate myself now and then. There are just days when the tempest never seems to stop. Problems with friends and family, low confidence in society at large, stressors from deadlines and work, self-confidence issues… this kind of stuff adds up. One raindrop after another.

Luckily, I can rely on training.

At the beginning of 2014, I was serving in the US Army and stationed in Washington state. At the time, I was preparing for a tour in Afghanistan and had been assigned to attend the “Warrior Leader Course”. (It’s a short academy meant to train Soldiers that are soon to be promoted to leadership ranks.) The course is meant to teach you how to lead, and it does so by teaching you how to be a good follower. Listen to directions. Hear how clear commands sound. See the difference between leaders that command respect and those that demand it. It should go without saying that the course was primarily–as most things are in the military–a long practice of shut up and do.

During an end-of-day formation one evening, the whole class was told not to bring wet weather gear for the following day. There was a 98% of rain. The order—we all knew—was absurd. Many people complained, of course. No one—not even trained Soldiers—want to be rained on. It wasn’t particularly uplifting to envision being soaked through at 4:45am. But, as is the nature of the Army, we were expected to acquiesce without question.

That doesn’t always happen.

When we got to class in the morning, it was raining cats and dogs. The field was covered in a puddle at least six inches deep. No coats. No gloves. Just wet uniforms, rain, mud, and misery. Everyone was pissed.

Student leaders were ordered to inspect packs and search for wet weather gear. We did. Welp, wouldn’t you know, some Soldiers (including one of my own) brought the prohibited gear. As a special kind of Army punishment, we were all made to stand outside in perfect stillness while it stormed. I remember seeing the class instructors inside the windows of the school drinking coffee, warm and dry, making those early-morning work jokes and laughing. For them, it was just another regular day.

For those of us out in the rain, it was torture.

At first, I was furious. I couldn’t tell if my shivering was for cold or rage. Unable to move or speak, all I could do was watch those instructors and stew. At some point, to occupy my mind, I started counting the raindrops that smacked my hat. Pretty sure this was an unconscious decision. I don’t remember how high I’d counted before I realized: I’d forgotten it was raining. I had become oblivious to the cold, the wet, the aches in my heels.

I learned an important lesson that day. (Well, lots of them, actually. But this one is most important to me.)

Sometimes—no matter how mad you are and no matter the precautions you take—there’s just straight up not shit that you can do but stand there and get rained on.

Well, that’s not motivating is it?

Maybe not, but let me tell you something. Anyone who tells you that they are always motivated is either lying or naive. The rains come for us all eventually, and even the happiest among us will eventually be tested. Call it a product of divine will or unknowable, universal chaos. Whatever labels help you sleep at night. No matter where you believe it comes from, chaos is a part of life, and there’s no escaping it. Even if you somehow managed to never interact with the larger world around you, unexpected intrusions to your peace will occur.

The secret to persevering through those inevitable hard times is not always about keeping a positive attitude. There is something to be said for the “fake it ‘til you make it” method, but let’s be real: it’s just not always possible. Good news, though! You don’t have to just grit your teeth and bear it, either. The trick is to understand that difficulties are just a natural part of living. They happen. You can either stand in the rain and focus on the cold and how badly you wanna be inside, or you can do something to take your mind off the hurt. It’s important to process pain, yes. But the worst time to freak out about a storm is during the fucking storm. It’s already storming. Being mad about it is healthy for a little while, but eventually you’ve gotta figure out how to endure the tempest.

Once you’re back inside and warm again, you can work out how it made you feel in the moment. You can extract your lessons. Then, you can just focus on being warm again and enjoy that.

Now, I admit the analogy is a bit weak. Counting raindrops was the only thing I could do at the time (within reason). Life isn’t always so limiting. When hard times pop up, the point isn’t to distract yourself. It isn’t to run away or try to forget. The point is to embrace the situation and be thankful for our fucked up ability to suffer. After all, suffering reminds us how pleasant peace can be. Hardships teach us valuable lessons that become useful later–not only in dealing with similar situations for ourselves, but in helping others deal with their burdens as well. (For example: I wouldn’t be writing this article were it not for that awful morning in the rain.)

The rain will pass. I promise it will. There is no permanent storm.

If all you can do is stand there and take it: well, fuck it then. Count the raindrops.

— R.

What’s your technique for weathering your personal storms? What works and what doesn’t? Do you agree or not? Share your experiences so that others can learn from them! // Keep discussion peaceful. This blog does not condone violence, hate, or discrimination of any kind. //

Ronin writes opinion articles every Friday. You can read them on Tumblr and WordPress. Find his writing advice on his YouTube channel every Wednesday. Check out his InstagramFacebook, and Twitter for travel photographs and random thoughts!

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Teach peace.

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