Almost every day, I take photographs of the space between land and sea. It’s part of my practice of looking, and looking again, in order to better understand this place. My place.
Yesterday I made my way to the Atlantic in the midst of a fierce storm. It was almost impossible to walk the twenty-five feet from my truck to the edge above Long Nook. I was blown back twice before I pushing into the storm to take a short video. About ten-seconds into shooting, wind and pelting sand became too intense. I literally couldn’t breathe.
The night before, thinking about the likely duration of our physical isolation, I felt despair. For weeks I’d been holding it back, but more and more it’s intruding on my days. Can I do this? Do I have an option? It’s not fair to say that I live alone by choice. I live alone because I’ve yet to find my people. Whatever optimism I’ve held about that search is challenged by our circumstance. It’s difficult to concede the promise of human connection while being forced to confront my failure to achieve it.
But I’m alive, and that’s another kind of promise. It’s an obligation to witness. To be present. Presence is hard to achieve when the force of change and pelting data take our breath away.
Will I ever get past this intense distraction? Can I remember how to focus? I’m told I shouldn’t pathologize my response to our circumstance, but I know hypervigilance is my response to trauma. Collecting information makes me feel safe. Can I step out that habit, and take the necessary time to make sense of what I’m seeing? How do I allow this to change me? How do I not concede power when I’m out of control?
How to breathe in the storm?
Questions are better than answers. Questions have space in them. Questions promise change.
We have to be careful around answers. I mean full of care, not averse. We need answers, too. But I’m tired of false prophets. I’m exhausted by the human failure that calls itself leadership. I’m angry at the xenophobia that masquerades as safety. And equally so at narcissism employed in the name of self-care. Crisis reveals us by magnifying our best traits and our faults. It cracks open fault lines between the people who need to be mutually-supportive, whether they like each other or not.
I want to have compassion for what I’m witnessing. For what I’m feeling. For the fear. I’m hungry for thinking. I’m trying.
It’s a new day, the wind has died down. Today, I want to do better.
2 thoughts on “How to breathe in the storm?”
Pete, what you say about revealing our worst and best selves under pressure is true; but I think it’s the ideas we hold about our worst and best selves that keep us truly isolated by fear and shame. Believing we are worthy of connection in spite of our neediness, narcissism, hunger, rage, ordinariness allows us to reach out in what ever way we can manage. Thanks for a beautiful post.
My interest in your work, life and thoughts grows daily. Thanks for exploring the world and sharing the journey Pete. You are amazing. I’ll leave it at that. Peter