JENNY R. SUSSER, PH.D.

POWER & PERFORMANCE SPORT PSYCHOLOGY SERVICES

The not-so-calm before the storm…

Posted by on Aug 31, 2019

No matter where you live, weather and nature are factors. Living in Southern California for twenty years, the threat of an earthquake was mostly subliminal. The earthquake kits in your trunk and hall closet become part of the fabric, failing to notice them until it is time to change the batteries. You install cabinet door latches to keep your dishes and items from flying across the room when the earth shakes, and even though you don’t really think about it every day, there is that flash of it every single time you have to use your fingers to open not only the door, but the safety latch. A small but significant reminder. Then, it comes in cycles as “new” research brings new warnings of California falling off the rest of the country. And then the earthquake, at 4:31 am, rattles you awake and after less than a minute, the world has changed.

Now, I live in central Florida and it we are preparing for Dorian, a storm that has me terrified. With too many horses to evacuate, we are in full prep mode. Three days of non-stop already with three days left until we have three days of storm. My sympathetic nervous system is in over-drive and I can’t seem to find that place of normal right now. Worry is my thing. I worry about everything. As tired as I am, I am having trouble sleeping. It’s the worry. Repetitive note taking of things to check and then double check. Lists everywhere. Constant scanning of the property mentally to make sure I haven’t missed anything. Do you know how many things there are lying around a farm that you have to pick up? Countless! Testing the generators, hay, shavings, grain, and water buckets. After the horse food is secure, then people food. And then gasoline. I learned the gasoline problem during Irene, the year before Sandy, when we lived in New York. It is not just that they run out of gas, but the stations lose power, too, and then the pumps don’t work. Yesterday, days before Dorian will arrive, I had to drive twenty miles north to find a gas station that still had gas. Who knows how many days we will be without power so gasoline is important. Panic is like a blanket covering Florida right now and we are all a hot mess.

I helped a man hoist a heavy generator into the back of his car yesterday. His wife was shaking and nearly toppled us all over. She needed to breathe and wasn’t, forcing even more blood to shunt from her brain and increase her panic. I made a joke, a stupid one I can’t even remember now, but it made her laugh and then made her breathe. She smiled as she fought the tears of fear, making my mirror image visible in reply. We are all afraid and need to stick together. I remember Irma two years ago and it was the same. Prepare, prepare, prepare, and then hold on. The noise is incredible followed by the intense silence as the eye of the storm floats over, and then the noise resumes in the opposite direction.

I try to keep my mind “right,” focusing on what I can control and what I need to do. It is a battleground, my mind, with fear and the unknown drawing a massive sword against my lists and notes scattered all over the place. Scattered is how I feel but I can’t let that take over or I will miss an important detail. I don’t think I could count the number of deep breaths I have taken this week. I am aware that my baseline of emotional functioning has moved up from normal, and I am in a hyper mode. Intellectually, I understand the energetic cost but have no power over it. This is survival mode and I hope my “training” has me prepared. It is fascinating to watch myself and my threat-filled reactions. It is incredible to feel the constant pit in my stomach from worry, know it is there, and not be able to make it go away. Preparation is my go-to, yet, it feels like a band aid on a gaping wound. Recovering from moment to moment, hour to hour, and day to day is a large part of my focus. Eat, drink, rest, laugh, and sleep. Keep the body as energized as possible to be able to stay as present as possible and do what needs to be done. it is a fabulous exercise in being in the moment.

And so, I’m off to strap down more potential projectiles, ready the stalls in my generous neighbor’s barn, and seek relief from my worry with my preparation. And prayer. I meditate and pray regularly, and I say this with hesitation as I wonder how you will interpret my use of prayer. I am Jewish but more spiritual than religious, whatever that means. I believe in a higher power without having to use labels that might divide. I believe was are all connected, that we are all part of a collective universe, and that our survival depends upon each other. And so, I pray for us all and that perhaps the not-so-gentle nudge of this storm will bring us not only together, but some new clarity such that we might move forward in a better way. Yesterday afternoon, we had a brief but intense thunderstorm. A little preparation via Mother Nature. As I walked outside to turn out a horse for the night, a perfect and complete rainbow straddled the sky above our farm. I ran inside to get Mette so we could soak it up together and breathe in the moment. We smiled, we breathed, and we relaxed in the hope we found in the sky. That is the image I will rely upon for the upcoming days and wait with anticipation for a return visit. Be safe, be together, and be loving no matter where you are this weekend. We all could use that kind of energy.