On Saturday, August 27, Hurricane Irene came to town.
She made her entrance at night, though she had sent subtle announcements of her arrival that afternoon – the eerie quiet, the sudden breezes and darkening sky. By nightfall, she was raging, screaming, whipping trees into contorted dances and pelting the Hudson Valley with relentless rain.
Sunday morning, August 28, her foul mood had mellowed some, but her night’s work had left a good portion of our city flooded and without power. Our power went out that morning at 7:00 am and didn’t return until Tuesday morning around 9:00 am.
We were lucky. So many are still without power. And entire main streets of some towns in the Hudson Valley no longer exist. They were literally washed away.
But I’ll be completely honest with you. During those two days without power, I wasn’t thinking of those other towns that were experiencing massive flooding or extensive property damage. I was only thinking about the work I had to do yet couldn’t get to. I needed certain files that were locked in my electricity-dependant computer. I was thinking about my schedule, trying to remember what clients I had to call, what appointments I needed to cancel. I was trying to figure out where I could find both electricity and wifi so I could get to my email and stay on top of my business. And I was freaking out because I had a new program starting in 2 days, and everything I needed to launch that program was on my big, electricity-dependant computer.
In other words, I was a stressed-out, worried mess.
Plus, I was silently beating myself up. How could I have been so stupid? Why hadn’t I moved those files to my laptop? Or put them on a thumb drive? How naive to think that the power would only be out for 12 hours or so at the most.
On the second night without power, after two days of doing my best to stay in touch with clients, find wifi and enough electricity to keep my phone and laptop charged (and making elaborate plans to lug my very heavy iMac to a friend’s office, which had power, so I could access the files I needed), I woke up around 3:00 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. The night was so black and silent. No street lights. No ambient light from nearby houses. No one out and about.
As I lay there, battling off incessant worried thoughts about what I needed to do to take care of business the next day, I realized how disconnected, how out of touch I’d become. I’d let my business concerns overwhelm me, muddle my mind and close down my heart. I was seriously disconnected from what really mattered.
Rather than feel grateful to be safe and dry, to live in a house that was still standing, to be in a city that wasn’t hit too hard, to have friends and loved ones around me who were safe as well… rather than sink into the sweet quiet and candlelight every night as I nestled with my man and my three adorable cats, rather than allow myself this time to let go and just be, I was snarled up in fruitless, stressful attempts to control the situation.
I realized that Hurricane Irene and the fallout she’d left behind was delivering a message to me: remember who you really are and what you value above all else: Love. Joy. Connection.
Damn, I thought, as I sat up in bed, my heart torn open. Damn, I’d let my obsessive need to control “the Stuff” of life obscure my ability to see and appreciate life itself.
DANGER, My Entrepreneurial Friends! DANGER! : Sometimes, in our desire to succeed, to do well in our businesses, to not let anyone down, to be responsible, to get those “things” done, we can lose sight of what’s truly important. Just as we can allow the Stuff of life to limit our ability to actually feel fully alive, sometimes the Stuff of our work – the tasks, appointments, deadlines – obscures our ability to honor all the reasons we wanted to do our work in the first place:
- to be of service.
- to live and work in alignment with the best of who we are.
- to be available to our families, friends and others we love.
- to live our passion and express our purpose.
- to live life to the fullest.
Hurricanes happen. Physical ones, emotional ones and circumstantial ones. And if we try to control the uncontrollable, if we resist what is happening or has happened out of our desire to stay in control, if our focus, no matter how well-intentioned, gets too narrow or obsessive, we can become disconnected from our hearts, our Spirit, our truth… and what really matters most.
In my desire to stay on top of my business in the aftermath of a hurricane, I lost sight of what’s really important to me: my ability to love, to be available, to live in faith, to trust the flow and abundance of life and Spirit. Instead, I created my own internal hurricane of worry and upset.
Now, the power is back on. I’m up to my eyeballs in work and catch-up. But both my head and my heart are clear. I know I’ll do my best to keep up with all the Stuff, but my first priority is to Love and to let everything I do or say come from that place of Love. Because Stuff comes and goes. Hurricanes can sweep away everything in a stormy night. But Love abides. Love remains.