Ice Storms in July (Or What to Do When the Unexpected Happens)

This past summer in central Illinois, we had not one but TWO hail storms within the span of about a week. I know stranger things have happened AND Illinois weather is fickle AND IT IS 2020, but they still caught me off-guard. Now, I’m no meteorologist. I realize there are scientific explanations for why this happened. However, my inner thought was, “Only in Illinois would ice be falling from the sky when it it otherwise so hot, some of my flowers are wilting.”

Hail, resting in tender grass that has no regard for SUMMER rules

Observing the aftermath of the storms in my own yard and many nearby farms, prompted pondering on my part. (I’m reflective by nature…this is not an unusual by-product; it just comes with the territory!) Those thoughts have percolated for awhile, haphazardly written in some notes and wafting through my head occasionally. With the way this year has gone (hasn’t about 90% of 2020 been unexpected?!?) and election day awaiting us tomorrow, I figured this might be as good of a time as any to finally get these ruminations on (digital) paper. Soooo, when literal or theoretical off-season storms shake up your soul, here’s some suggestions (aided by Mother Nature) for what to do next:

  1. Mind your roots. Is that cliche? Maybe. I’m a natural kind of gal though and thinking about foundations, roots, beginnings…well, it has all been fundamental to me since I can remember. Given that one of my pandemic new hobbies is plants, the root analogy seems fitting! Consider your roots, friends. What kind of “dirt” do you grow best in? What sort of foundation has helped you thrive thus far? Where did you start in life and what chapters has your journey been woven through? It is natural and normal for us to feel stunned after a life-smacking. In the immediate shockwaves, this is the time to check your infrastructure. Pull from the solid base you have planted yourself in. Remember your core. Remember your strength. Remember how much you have grown and overcome so far. Your roots are stabilizing you, sustaining you, keeping you grounded. Notice them, attend to them, appreciate them.
  2. Stay low; it is not the time to “stretch”. Seriously. After ice clobbers you from the sky without warning, it is NOT the time to roar back at the clouds with a puffed out chest, clenched fists and Braveheart passion. That time may come, but FIRST, you need to recover and process and heal. Staying low to the ground and resting, completing a straightforward oxygen exchange, conserving your finite energy – that is how you recuperate in the initial recovery phase. Popping up new shoots or forcing fruits to emerge prematurely will only wear you out and tank your rehabilitation. Stay little, surrender to your weakness, (temporarily) embrace only what is essential to your survival.
  3. Seek the light. There WILL be light, even if it is only faint streaks wisping through the clouds. We only need turn our attention towards it. Whether on a cloudy day or a moon-less night, light is still present. We may have to really strain to see it or dig deep into our interior to pull up illuminations from our past, but there is ALWAYS light. We may not feel ready for the full force of sunshine; in those instances, hanging out in the comforting shelter of the shade while angling our faces towards the slant of the sun might be best. But stay centered on that which glows near, or within, you. The nourishing light will generate an involuntary reaching reflex in your body (even if your mind isn’t yet receptive to it) and eventually, produce flourishing fruit once again.
  4. Notice who’s around you. When trials come (our sole guarantee in life, right?), it’s vital to take stock of who surrounds us. This lesson has been an indelible one for my heart. When I think of every time the crap has hit the fan in my life, all the potent memories of kindness extended by people bubble to the surface…some of them, significantly unexpected and undeserved. When the heart is heavy or the mind is mangled, the kindness of others is an unforgettable balm. So, look around you weary one! Mr. Rogers called them “helpers”; some people refer to them as “angels” or “lifesavers”. Whatever your term, the people who lift and enfold and carry and support you as you fall apart – they are the ones to hold onto in this life! They will prop you up as you crumple into the ground. They will alleviate some of your burden and remind you of your worth. They will help you bear the hard pelts of cold ice and stand tall once more, reclaiming your ground. Let go of the weeds that are vying for your energy stores and focus on the counterparts who help you blossom.
  5. Take stock of your weakened areas. To be honest? This part SUCKS. Facing our wounds is not fun. But growth cannot happen until we look at where we are vulnerable. Where have we been particularly hurt this time? Where are we shredded? What blindspots did we miss? Have we become too inflated for what our life-stems can reasonably support? Where can we legitimately pull back and redirect energy? What areas of disorder need our tender attention? Simultaneously distressing and freeing, the world will not stop spinning just because we have been knocked down. Discerning our fractured areas serves the dual purpose of strengthening them and guarding ourselves against potential future blows. We won’t know our power until we have endured our frailty.
  6. Strengthen your roots and rebuild. How do you repair or rebuild roots?? Well, for many plants, you can simply stick them in a cup of water & give them space and time to grow. Sounds too simple, right?? It’s not! And it’s a fantastic metaphor for humans. Have you recently been walloped? Re-hydrate & be still. Go sit in some water. Nailed with ice balls? Go sit in some warm water. Parts of your spirit slashed and ripped by extreme external forces? WATER YOUR SOUL with what gives you life. (Mind you, I don’t mean to oversimplify great trauma or intense pressures. Those will shake our roots every time. But in the interim, your water will replenish, soothe and foster a wider anchorage.)
  7. Remember your “blooms” may look different, permanently. Whether it’s solely a temporary variation for that season OR a permanent scarring of a beloved personal blossom, it is a loss and it can be grieved. It’s not what you wanted or planned. It’s okay to not like the way something has turned out. It’s alright to feel frustration and sadness about something that seems superficial to others. It’s all-good to be unsatisfied with what is in your current garden. It is OKAY. We don’t always get to dictate what seeds actually flower in our lives. We don’t get to ordain the fragrant unfurling of specific roses (despite our best efforts to yank and pry them open). However, getting to a place of embracing what is and accepting our individual flowers, blemishes and all…what an extraordinary milestone! Facing our gritty truths bolster us as we move forward. Letting go of our fantasies allow us to bask in the genuine, real-time beauties before us. Find delight in your authentic blooms, friends.
New Hosta leaves, shredded by ice balls

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