light behind the raging storm / by Chrislyn Lawrence

four years ago tornadoes wrecked oklahoma and i went, driving up from austin, not understanding anything other than i had to go. the first night i slept in the car, then two nights on a church floor, then i met a friend in that same church relief zone with two of her kids in tow and she let me sleep in their home. in the devastating pain all around us, around unimaginable chaos, beneath uncertainty, buried amongst the loss and the ruble there is hope that comes from being present for the light of a moment you never imagined. it's the light that shows you how to live

those storms took and ravaged so many lives, and it was a storm that helped to save and shape mine. is that selfish? maybe. but it’s honest. i will never forgot the faces of the people i met and even people i didn’t actually meet but saw huddled, standing in lines for water without shoes on their feet, or the smiles of folks handing out water to their neighbors. i will never forget this quiet sullen moment in a broke down moldy camper trailer with a mute little girl when she almost smiled. i am forever grateful for the first time gwen let me in. she stopped fidgeting and calmed herself, chain-smoking but less agitated, she let me into her tent where an alter was made for the man they called ‘granddad' who had died pinned to the floor of a trailer, where he stayed for two days because no one could reach them. gwen finally let me in and looked me in the eye to tell me what she really needed. it was to be left alone. but not left alone by me, just pretty much everyone else. and then i saw her everyday for a week. i went home to recharge and came back for another week and then talked to gwen weekly, then every couple of weeks, until slowly and eventually i stopped answering her calls. i couldn't do it anymore. i couldn't be that person for her anymore, because i was going through my own immense storm and i didn't have anything left to give. but i couldn't tell her that. i didn't know how to voice what was happening to me, let alone how to tell this women who had lost everything that my emotional health was somehow more devastating and necessary than her own. and i didn't have the guts to try. so i disappeared, probably like most other people in her life, i just disappeared. the last time she called and left a message was last april. i have never told this to anyone. and i hurt for not being able to simply say "i can't help you anymore. i love you but i can't." in those days, and the days that followed i began to truly learn and practice being present. being utterly barren and vulnerable with people, not trying to say the right thing or have all the answers but rather to show up, to listen and be honest is how we repair what’s broken. it doesn't mean i always get it right or know how to use the knowledge every day, but i understand it. i have been saved by it. and i believe with all my heart that raw presence is how we change the world. in the presence of a still heart there is love. it’s not hammers or money or pills or law and order or walls or guns, but vulnerable presence and honesty that saves us - because that open moment can lead us to the answers of what someone really needs to repair their life. to look another in the eye and witness raw freaking pain is the real life-changer. be still, show up every day, even if it's to say "i can't show up anymore." and ask, "what do you need, right now?" and then be able to say, "this is what i need." and then listen. listen to them, listen to your own beating heart. we can lift and hold each other up and make this world better, but we have to get every notion we’ve ever had of what’s “right” out of the way and simply be open to what is in front of us and what's being asked of us, inside and out. what is right is what this moment asks for, when it's done with compassion. what needs to be said, what doesn’t now? 

i love the wind. it carries ferocity and peace. when the winds blow i always search for the light to roll behind the grey. looking up, waiting, listening. hear what is being said and trust that calling it what it is (or what it is not) will not break you but will make you stronger. tell the story, listen to another’s, and tell the truth. they may not like what you say, you or she may storm out into the unknown hurt and engulfed in fear but it will pass. and you will be stronger and more alive in that light. and it (your truth, my own) may just be the grace that truly saves a life.

storms are unpredictable. they are always there but we can’t stop living despite knowing or not knowing. storms are always there, but so is love. 

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