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Hurricane is reminder of the impermanence of everything

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Hurricane Matthew has come and gone, and for those in its path who have sustained damage, the anxious anticipation has been replaced with assessment, cleanup and recovery. I fall into this category.

We live on the water about 50 feet from the Indian River lagoon on Hutchinson Island about 90 minutes north of Ft. Lauderdale. For close to three years now, it has been a wonderful, beautiful place to be, but with a Category 4 hurricane churning up the coast, it becomes uncomfortable. Actually, it becomes an evacuation zone.

I took a good look around as I locked the doors to leave and thought this may all look quite different tomorrow. It got me thinking how quickly things can change. After the storm had passed and I had time to reflect, it got me thinking of the impermanence of everything.

Sure enough, I returned the next day and things looked quite different. The normally gentle and friendly lagoon was turned into a raging sea overnight, battering the shoreline and washing over our backyard. Something as seemingly strong as a cement patio on a cement sea wall caved in, broken apart by the stampeding torrent of water. Neighbors’ wooded docks were destroyed, their planks tossed about on lawns and into the streets.

With all that, thankfully, there was no structural damage to our home, but we had quite a mess. Yes, things had changed. This was a hurricane, a force of nature with another reminder for us; we are not in control of everything. But we can really help ourselves if we understand and accept the inescapable fact of change and impermanence in life.

It sure doesn’t have to be a hurricane to remind us of this. The reminders come in all areas of life. The work life is certainly an example. Perhaps a yacht crew member reading this is in a situation onboard that is less than desirable. Should we brood, sulk and make ourselves generally unhappy about it? Doesn’t help. Reminding ourselves of the impermanence of it all may help.

The owner might suddenly sell the yacht, the annoying mate might suddenly leave, or the unhappy captain might suddenly move on. Who knows where things are heading? Also, if things are not changing quickly enough, we can always remove ourselves from a situation and make our own changes.

I know that accepting change and impermanence is not comfortable or easy for many of us. As a coach who has studied change and transition and who has assisted clients with it, I understand that a large part of our human nature desires stability and certainty. We often try to convince ourselves that we’ve arrived there because it feels good. However, it’s an illusion, and it’s the illusion that feels good. It’s not really the true nature of things.

This is not to suggest we are powerless and nothing matters; quite the contrary. Dream, plan, learn and grow. We can set up our life the way we want it. We are creators. We love getting things done and taking positive steps in our lives. We just have to wrap our heads around the fact that the winds of change may come blowing through and knock us back a few steps.

But that’s OK. It gives us the opportunity to practice and develop resilience, persistence and determination. Not bad traits to strengthen to help us swim through the sea of change.

So it may be a hurricane or career change, or even a relationship change — changes come in many forms. Sometimes we see them coming; sometimes we don’t. Sometimes it may feel like just a bump in the road, sometimes like a mountain to climb.

However it appears, it’s our attitude about our situation that makes or breaks us. I know it’s not easy but the sooner we can accept what is, adjust our sails and move forward, the sooner the journey can continue. Our suffering comes by remaining stuck in the belief that we can only be happy if things are just the way we think they should be. We must cast off the lines tying us to the docks of unhappiness and head out onto the open sea of possibility.

Enjoy the voyage.

Capt. Rob Gannon is a 30-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach (www.yachtcrewcoach.com). Comments are welcome below.

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