With the terrible shock and panic that many Australians are experiencing due to the unprecedented bushfires, loss of life, homes, gardens pets, wildlife, and stock and the terrible uncertainty that we are living under, I have been wondering where we find the deep reserves of strength within ourselves to firstly manage these big life experiences and then to process them and try to make sense of what has occurred.
After spending years fashioning our lives to look a certain way, methodically constructing and putting it all together, to feel like we have some kind of control, how do we manage when this version of reality, “Our Life”, is threatened or destroyed?
In the last few days we have had friends staying with us who have were evacuated from their homes, sporting brave faces, but quietly being asked to potentially let everything they own and love go. To surrender their lives as they know it. This is a huge challenge!
It is not only the fires for us, my sister has just lost her husband of 36 years to cancer, her four children have lost their father, his family, our family and all of their friends have lost their son, brother, friend and mate. We farewelled him on Friday. Another huge challenge!
All of our lives are different now. Constantly our reality is changing and that which we thought was secure, constant and known is taken away.
What do we hold onto?
Unlike the tragedies of the last couple of months across Australia watching our country burn, within our family we have had 19 months to prepare for the impending loss of Jim. It’s been a ferocious fight and then a slow letting go. This journey has been heartbreaking and long, requiring all of us to dig deep and call upon our inner strength, resilience, patience and love. To different degrees in all of us, including him, we have had to be there for each other and remember to care and love ourselves during this time.
Where does this strength come from? How do we develop the ability to pick ourselves up and take the next step forward after personal tragedy?
We know that we have to. We are taught that it is within us.
We are expected to just get on with it. But I am interested in how we do it?
For me it is a combination of learnt and innate skills.
It occurs to me that we are building this strength and resilience from childhood through a natural process of not always getting our own way and having to constantly adjust our expectations and release our attachments.
Smaller challenges first like losing vital things; keys, money,
not getting the job that we really wanted, not always being accepted in friend groups, not becoming the test cricketer that we dreamed of in our youth. Random disappointments and opportunities to let go of the picture that we are holding as the only one that we will accept; until we have to let it go!
These seemingly random challenges both large and small that we encounter are what builds the muscles within us to manage disappointments and then larger adversity.
Then there are our loved ones, friends and family that stand with us in times of crisis. And sometimes they stand for us until we can stand for ourselves like big beautiful trees, all around us helping to shade and protect us until we are strong enough again to stand upright and in turn help someone else.
This bond of love runs like a river through us to our families and to those in dire need, an innate love for each other. I have experienced this in my family and all of those who came to farewell Jim last Friday.
And we are seeing this now as people all over the world are supporting and holding us, the people of Australia, in our time of adversity.
Through their actions; men arriving to fight our fires from far-off lands, thousands of messages of love and offers of support, millions of dollars raised worldwide to re-build our towns and repatriate our lands, we are first-hand experiencing this river of love and the innate common humanity that is the very best of us.
No matter what happens we have each other, and when we tap into this river of love, accepting and allowing ourselves to be helped and flexing our well-earned muscles of experience and wisdom, we can find the reserves strength and energy to stand and manage whatever comes.
Who are the people who have stood for you in your time of need? If you feel to write their name and honour them here.
Photo by Denis Degioanni