Hurricane Laura just blasted ashore in Louisiana and one of the reporters reminded me of something. An increase in wind speed can result in not more damage, but exponential damage. Exponential meaning it doesn't add to, it multiplies.
It seems like life can dish out a lot of hard things. Sometimes the hard thing can flatten us or sometimes we can handle it with grace and finesse and land on our feet (there seem to be people like that). There are so many factors that play into how well we can weather a hard thing. Too many to mention. But add hard thing to hard thing and then another hard thing to hard thing to hard thing and almost anybody can begin to flail. Add the hard thing to the hard thing to the hard thing onto the hard thing that happened five years ago that drained your emotional resources, and the hard thing can hit like an tsunami. Add the hard thing to hard thing to hard thing to perhaps a highly sensitive personality or a brain wired for anxiety and depression or to childhood trauma and you can get a real, excuse the language, clusterfuck.
There are ways to measure hard things and their damage, such as the Holmes Rahe Stress Inventory, but those things are measured via addition, not multiplication. And I think multiplication is where it is at because, like a hurricane, the increase in another 10mph of wind speed doesn't add to the damage, it multiplies it.
So think of this year. We have a pandemic with huge amounts of uncertainty. Life as we know it has been wholly interrupted. It has brought changes in work. It has brought changes in how we educate our children. It has brought changes in home life. It has brought changes in our ability to connect with our support systems. For some it has brought a huge change in our ability to make a living, with job loss and potential eviction or foreclosure. It has brought changes in our local landscape, with some of our favorite restaurants and stores, perhaps many of them, closing for good. It has brought fear. It has brought division. It has brought anger. Some of these things cannot even be measured.
Then we have the racial strife with justifiable outrage over horrific, race-motivated deaths, followed by protests followed by again the division between the Black Lives Matter and the All Lives Matter people followed by the further polarization of the issue.
Add to that the political landscape of an election year. I can't even begin to describe this level of tension.
This is just what EVERYBODY is dealing with. And then some people have additional hard things. Death. Divorce. Estranged family members. Loss of some kind. Job stress. Family stress. Physical health challenges. Mental health challenges. You name it.
And then there are those who, on top of all of this, are grappling with hard, hard things that have followed them from the past into the present and where do you even start? Where do you even begin the cleanup process?
You begin, I think, by understanding that damage is exponential so you aren't surprised or shocked or ashamed of the mess around you and inside you. The last thing anybody needs is adding shame to all of the brokenness in life.
I am dealing with this right now. I am looking at exponential damage and trying to understand it. It helps to see how the damage happened and why, even seemingly minor things, had such a huge impact. I am working through the process of identifying and naming damaging events as part of the cleanup. Normally the fact that there has been so much damage would have keep me focused on my own inadequacy to handle hard things, but I have found that understanding exponential damage to be so freeing. Whereas my energy used to be used up by beating myself up over the damage, it can now be used to weather the storm and plan the cleanup.
It has been a hard year for everybody. There is no shame in being flattened by the Category 5 Hurricane of 2020. No shame at all.