This dream seems familiar. A crowded beach. I am looking for a place to sit down and enjoy the ocean. As I look up, fear constricts my chest. A huge wave is rising up on the horizon. It's covering part of the sky like a massive wall, dark and threatening, ready to sweep everything in its wake when it lands.
People are running away in panic, and I follow. As we move inland, our path is blocked by the muddy waters that swelled out of river banks. We are trapped. That's when I see a hill and rush toward it, climbing up as fast as I can.
On the other side are the quiet streets of the city. The sun is shining, and people are sitting next to their apartment entrances, chatting as if everything is well. I run down the sidewalk, looking for my car and warning everyone I meet about the incoming disaster. A family is strolling in the direction of the beach, and I yell for them to turn around.
I can't recall where we parked. While others are looking at the map, I take a wild guess, dashing down an alley, and wake up.
If I could pick a year to skip out on, 2020 would be on the top of that list. In 2019 things had been good. It was a time of creative growth. I published my first book and went on a dream art trip to France. My husband's business and my job were going well. Kids were enjoying an active time, advancing in sports. I was looking forward to continuing the trend, making new bigger plans for the following year.
And then the "tsunami" hit. Without a warning, one devastating wave after another swept away people's plans, hopes, and expectations. Everyone had suffered a measure of loss in one way or the other, some struggling more than others. I don't want to compare, but I think the emotional turmoil we all faced for months on end was even harder than the financial difficulties. Negative feelings rose to the top. Mental health suffered. Debris of our brokenness was coming at us from all sides at high velocity. It brought an even deeper separation between different groups than the physical distancing caused by the virus outbreak. We got flooded by the muddy waters of information, and at times it was hard to come up for air.
Now, looking at the destruction and devastation around us, what is there to do? Everyone had reacted differently and not all of it was helpful or healthy. I'd say, most of it was not. But I am tired of feeling like I'm losing ground under my feet. I'm done being swept away by yet another wave. I want to enter this new year ready to fight my way out of this mess.
I've analyzed my dream, learned a few lessons from looking at natural disasters, and plan to implement them. Are you with me?
After doing a little bit of research, I found that tsunami doesn't come as a single wave. It's a series of hits. Currents could last for days with breaks from five minutes to two hours. The first wave is usually not the strongest, with subsequent ones getting more dangerous. They travel quickly, some crashing the shore at the speed of the jet plane. As the water destroys things, it continues to carry the debris along, turning these broken pieces of civilization into deadly weapons.
For people who get caught in the disaster with no time to escape, the first thing to do is to grab on to something that's securely attached to the ground and take cover. They have to continue holding on until it all passes. I've read about an Indonesian woman who was rescued after bracing a palm tree for five days.
People had also survived by holding on to the floating objects and letting the current carry them along instead of trying to fight it.
Applying this to life, my first question is: do I have something or someone to hold on to? Something that's stronger than me? Something that will keep me rooted to the ground or afloat and won't let me get swept away? What is my anchor? What do I put my trust in?
I think in times like this, things and people we rely on get tested. I might think that I put my trust in God, but when hard times come and my true foundation gets taken away, I am helplessly flailing around and sinking. Principles, believes and values get shaken up and sifted through, lifting what's been hidden underneath to the surface. This is not bad. It helps us to re-evaluate things and fix what's not working.
My other lesson is that after digging into the true foundation, I need to continue persevering. This year, in particular, this seems to be a neverending process. Not only that, but the brokenness of this world keeps flying into our faces, trying to deepen the wounds, loosen our grip, make us give up. But we've got to keep holding on, keep believing, keep standing firm on things that matter.
If there is time, a better option to avoid the upcoming tsunami is to come up to the higher ground. It might be a higher elevation or a tall building with a sturdy foundation. But you have to recognize the warning signs early and know where to go right away.
It's December now. This crazy year will be over in a few weeks, and today I want to invite you to climb the hill with me. There is a way out, a place of safety and peace. A place where we can be free of stressors that had been tearing us apart, stealing our joy and our focus. If you rise high enough above the clouds, you'll eventually hit the level where the sun is still shining.
When you go up the mountain, silence all the voices that have been wreaking havoc in your heart and soul. This is not a time to run around in panic. You might feel as lost as I did when I was looking for my car in that dream, blindly dashing about. But there were other people who took out the map to figure out which way to go. And there were also those who already knew the water wouldn't reach them.
Create a space in your life where you can go to and ground yourself. During a survival mode, self-care goes by the wayside, but our bodies and minds are not meant to dwell in constant stress. If there is no respite, we'll grow weary and will eventually succumb to the waves that try to overtake us. So, let's find a place of rest. In the time of stillness and reflection, our vision will clear and new doors will open up.
I want to encourage you and me to leave all the negativity and confusion behind. Whatever this new year brings, let's enter it with a laser-sharp focus. When I think of all the times when I couldn't do my creative work because I was too overwhelmed with everything going on around me, I regret letting it affect me so. I was worried about things I had no control over. Lesson learned: do what you're able to and leave the rest for others to handle. Constantly thinking about it and letting these thoughts paralyze me did not help anyone.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but it's quite impossible to stay out of the loop in our digital era. Unfortunately, our news channels tend to focus on worst-case scenarios and perpetuate fear. That's why it's important to consciously turn off the world and see what's happening on the inside. What I realized most during this time is that outside circumstances can change, but if I am strong mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, the waves can't reach me.
The real catastrophe is not what's happening on the outside but how we're crumbling, crushing, breaking into pieces on the inside. But it's not about "keeping it together" and "sucking it up". It's not about appearances. Not about saying "I'm Ok" when in reality you're not. But it is about finding a true steady anchor in life, being centered, balanced, capable of withstanding difficulties because your mindset is solid, your soul is healed, and your spirit is rooted in everlasting hope. That's how I want to spend my days, no matter what lies ahead.
I've written a list of 20 questions to help you focus on the right things daily. You can download it HERE. Also, check out the two articles below about self-care. Don't let things accumulate until you can't take it anymore. It's about taking small steps in the right direction. We all can do it. Let's have a better year.
Here is a great playlist for today:
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