Shaky Ground, Stable Hearts

13 November, 2016

In shaky times, it's a good time for us to focus on what really matters with our stable hearts:  love, belonging and connection, and gratitude.  And, perhaps something else?

Based on all the messages I've been getting from my home country, it's safe to say that our 7.5 magnitidue earthquake in New Zealand has made international headlines. 

The week of the 7th November 2016 will go down in history (at least in NZ) as being the shitiest week ever: first Donald Trump becomes president of the USA, and then a massive earthquake, which has caused death and devastation in parts of the country. 

The big shake happened just after midnight last night.  I must have falled asleep at about 10pm, and it was a rude awakening to say the least.  Having lived in New Zealand for the past decade, and before that Japan, I have felt a few quakes in my time.  This was the biggest, longest and scariest by far.  My first instinct - once I realised what the hell was going on - was to run to my 19 month old daughter's room.  However, rather ashamedely, I found myself unable to move.  Part of this was the fight, flight freeze response kicking in, which my body in that moment had obviously (and perhaps weirdly?) chosen the 'freeze' element of.  I was also aware however of a rational part of me telling me not to move when the ground was shaking.  When it evenutally stopped I got up, found my husband under the bathroom doorway and my little girl still fast asleep, completely unaware and unperterbed.  She's always been a good sleeper but I'm still amazed she slept through that one!  My heart however, continued to pound in my chest.

After clinging to my husband for a few minutes and then jumping onto, the second place I went to was social media, specifically Facebook.  I know social media gets a bad wrap, but I really am grateful for Facebook at times like that.  It gives you an instant connection with most of the people you know, who can, within seconds, find out that you're safe and you them.  As the aftershocks continued for some hours I knew a return to sleep would be a fair way away (as it happened, I did return to sleep quicker and longer than I thought I would) I lay in bed and felt that sense of community online.

I did the same thing when Trump's presidency was confirmed on Wednesday night. 

And on that folliwing Thursday morning, I called my Dad in my home country, to try and find a sense of peace amongst the fear I was feeling about the election result.  It was the same sense of fear and longing for reassurance I had when I witnessed the Twin Towers falling in 2001.  I knew then - even though I was young -  that I had witnessed a terrible configuration of history, and that things would only get worse.  My Dad had soothed me back then, saying that my shoulders simply weren't big enough for the world's burdens, a statement  I've always carried with me.

This time, he said:  "I wouldn't worry too much about it, Charlotte.  Someone will probably shoot him before he does too much damage!  Now, more importantly, tell me, how's the bathroom of yours coming along?!".  And it made me feel better.  Love you, Dad.

There's no doubt it's been a hell of a week.  And the weird thing is, that with both experiences being scary, life threatening and incredible bad news, there is a fondness in there as well which I will equally remember, as I do from the night of 9/11.  And that comes from doing what all we humans do in a tragedy or crisis: WE BIND TOGETHER.  We connect.  We share a sense of belonging.  We offer love.  We love.  We act with compassion.  We stick together and we help one another.  As Brene Brown (whose work on courage and vulnerability I love, and regard as very important) puts it, we are hard-wired for connection and belonging, absolutely hard-wired for it.  Without it, we humans are just not OK and do not survive.

And this, amongst everything going on in American politics and the shaky ground beneath my feet, gives me much hope for humanity.  It is these inherent instincts that come into play at these times that refreshes my view that the Universe is in fact a friendly place (the fundamential important question posed by Albert Einstein: "I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’").  Being able to answer this in the positive for myself give me an immense amount of hope and belonging.

My advice to you is this: in times where the world is unstable (either litrally or figuratively) have a stable heart.  Love with abandon, and tell people you love them.  Love yourselves enough to have a good emergency pack and a plan to be reunited with loved ones in the event of a crisis.

And, what is it that you WANT to do in this life?  What would it be, if you were on your deathbed, that you'd have the biggest regret about?  As Tara Brach has taught many times, the biggest regret of the dying is that people lived their lives according to what other people wanted, not what they wanted.  Whatever you imagine this to be - please, don't  leave it until then.  Act on it now and have no regrets.  And live with gratitude.

With love, as always, Charlotte.

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