So I have this niece who lives in paradise. You think I am speaking metaphorically? I am not, thank you very much. The girl LIVES on the Hawaiian island of Kauai… where it’s pristine, and paradisaical, and practically perfect in every way. All day. Every day.
Of course, I am crazy jeal… I mean, deliriously happy for her… and as such, have been scheming every which way under the Seasonal-Affective-Disordered Pittsburgh Sun, to get myself the heck out of this here tundra and out THERE, whilst she yet abides in said paradise.
Until the other day, when she got this little message on her phone…
Aaaaand… all of a sudden Seasonal Affective Disorder doesn’t sound so SAD anymore (yeah, I know, I can’t help myself. It was just right there…)
Perhaps you caught this story, as it dominated the headlines for a whole five minutes, and if you did, you also know that a second alert went out half an hour-ish later, saying “NVM, false alarm. Our bad.” Or something to that effect.
Well, ok then. Allzwellthatendzwell… or rather, didn’t end… as in the End of the World. There you go. No biggie. Keep moving… But wait… let’s not. Not just yet. Because for those 30 or so minutes, that’s exactly what they were facing. The end of the world as they knew it… And I think that’s worth talking about.
What do you do when you’re faced with the end of the world as you know it?
A lot of us wake up with an agenda. Even if that agenda is laying on the beach all day. Go there. Do this. Sleep here. Eat that. Check. Check. Check. Rarely, however, does that bulleted list include things like: SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER.
Seriously. How does one process this? I suppose the answer is, you don’t. There’s no time to process. There’s only time for one thing: SEEKING IMMEDIATE SHELTER. Because when the crisis comes, there’s no more time to prepare. There’s only time to act on what you know. And wait. And choose how you spend those moments anticipating the unanticipated.
Now most of us, thankfully (hopefully?) won’t ever get that text alert. But that doesn’t mean our worlds won’t be rocked, literally or metaphorically, in a myriad of other ways. In fact, I think you and I both know, it’s virtually guaranteed. And when that happens, it’s like being a guest at a banquet you never wanted an invitation to, yet somehow ended up at the head table anyway.
Fear. Despair. Regret. Sorrow. It’s all on the table. And who can blame them for being there? After all, it’s the end of the world! It’s only natural for those things to take their place, and grip us. But let’s not forget, the table’s got room for a few other offerings, as well. Like Hope. And Gratitude. And Help. And Peace. Yes, those things do, too, belong there. Why? Because anything worth grieving is worth celebrating. Wait, what? “You’re telling me to celebrate my impending doom?”, I hear you say? (oh yes, I can hear you). Well… yeah, I guess I am, kind of. There’s a reason we don’t like to see things end. Because life is so, so good. And here’s something we don’t often consider, but is nonetheless a crucial truth: the way we live our lives now has bearing on the way our lives end.
Some of you know that I endured probably the greatest loss of my life, my mother, about a year and a half ago. Boy oh boy, no one gives you the memo about how much that sucks. And the grief, oh, the grief. You don’t see it coming… or at least you don’t want to see it coming… so you don’t allow yourself to go there… and even when you do finally get the memo, nothing prepares you for the actual moment when the reality strikes, and you find that the world as you knew it, has indeed come to an end. And in that moment you can only draw on the truths you have gathered up until then. And that, friends, is where the choice comes. Will it be despair and endless regret for all of the missed opportunities? Or will it be gratitude and sweetness for all that was experienced? Sometimes… ok maybe most of the time, it’s a smorgasboard of all of the above… but let’s not forget the power we have to choose.
The choices we make, of course, don’t necessarily change our reality. But they can determine our response to it, and ultimately determine reality going forward. And the thing is, the decisions we make in those moments have a lot to do with the continual, habitual choices we’ve made all along, long before the moment of crisis. Those choices can also predicate where we end up seeking shelter… and whether or not that shelter holds up.
Nobody wants to get that text alert, or phone call, or knock on the door that shakes us to our core. Let’s be honest. It’s terrifying. And even when it turns out to just be a “false alarm”- it’s tempting to stay stuck in trauma mode. But really, I think a little reality check every now and then, reminding us of what a fleeting, precious gift our lives are… is not such a bad thing.
How will you handle the literal and/or metaphorical “end of the world as you know it”? Where will you find shelter? How are you preparing yourself? It’s a good thing to think about now, before the alert comes… or doesn’t come.
Because, the end WILL come. But in the mean time, I want to live well.
As for my niece, here’s how she chose to respond.
Oh, and I’m still scheming to get out there, by the way… Cause, come on, it’s Hawaii. 🌴
Would love to hear your thoughts!