5 Lessons From the 50 Year Storm

We are in deep. Literally and figuratively. Hood River, Oregon is typically a pretty perfect weather paradise. We have hot summer days and cold snowy days, enough to punctuate the otherwise super temperate climate. Yes, we still manage to complain about the rain, the gray, the heat, or ice storms, but for the most part we have it good. We don’t get tropical storms, hurricanes, and the fire danger is usually quite low.

This year, however, is one for the record books. We have had snow on the ground (at this point) for over 60 days. The first dump brought claims of “the storm of the decade”.

Whew! We breathed a collective sigh of relief when all the roads were plowed and schools were open. Then, BOOM. It kept coming. My kid has had 10 days of school closures and too many late starts to count. Today was our first “early dismissal”. Due to the “worsening conditions”, 12:30 marked the end of my work day, shaving off at least 2 hours of productivity.

Trying to keep a positive attitude amid all of this is hard. I’ve got sh*t to do, and I’d like to think it’s pretty important. I’m newly into my new consulting gig. I’ve got clients. I’ve got masterminding to do. Content to craft. Thoughts to process. A business model to mold and build. I’m super organized and go into each week with my days appropriately “themed” and a list of tasks that I plan to accomplish.  When all that comes to a screeching halt, I have a hard time being ok with it.

All rants aside, I do have some things that I have learned as a result of this storm of perhaps 5 decades.

Here are my top 5 lessons learned from the 50 year storm:

1. Chill out.

I have had meditation in my tool kit on and off for years. I have been told by mentors, blog posts, Ayurveda, and just my own intuition that for my personality type (classic “type A”, and an ENTJ on the Myers Briggs scale, if you’re wondering), that meditation is my key to harmony.  

So I dusted off the “Calm” app on my iPhone and have been successfully carving out 10 minutes a day.

The result…?

I am so much happier. I feel connected to the universal good. I feel like I’m fitting in glimpses of gazing at the stars to feel small and insignificant, even though those stars are well shrouded by storm clouds. I have more patience with my kids and even with the fresh inches of snow and ice that keep appearing on my driveway.

Even my family has noticed too. An exact quote from my husband is “yeah, I can tell you’ve been meditating. You’re not as b*tchy as you usually are.” (Thanks honey!! See why I meditate?!?!)

2. Embrace it

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

I now view shoveling snow as one of my workout options. A great calorie burner. A neighbor calculated 375 calories burned per session, easily as much sweat and glut' work as a barre class. And free! (LOL)

Snow is for skiing. I’ve been consistently getting up to the ski hill at least once a week and enjoying the change of pace and plans. When the kids are out, we take ‘em with us. There are years when the runs are barely open and we mourn the lack of snow. This one is to be celebrated. (The Mt Hood Meadows snow report has a picture of a food truck on end to allow you to visualize how much snow they have at mid-mountain.)

Enjoy the way your yard and neighborhood look in the snow. There is so much contrast of branches against white. I’ve noticed birds and nests I had never seen before.

When the snow day count was around 5, we piled wood high in the firepit and spent the evening warming ourselves outside with snow banks as chairs and neighbors and kids up too late, buzzing from cocoa and marshmallow sugar highs.

The neighborly displays of love have been off the charts. Shoveling and snow blowing each other’s walks has essentially become a display of grandeur that no one can resist. How can you not love that?

3. Take the long view

The Earth has continued to revolve on its axis since the dawn of our time. Therefore I am certain that the seasons will change. There will be a day when the sun is blazing, the garden beds are crackling dry and I’m yearning for a few powder turns. The reservoirs are full. We will not hurt for water come summer. We are blessed. (I feel better just writing that.)

4. What doesn’t kill you…

...makes you stronger. Blech - so cliche, but it’s pretty damn true. My kids are tougher. They now just grab their ski suits, hats, boots and put them on. No push back. No fumbling around and jockeying to wear shoes instead of boots, or forgo a jacket just 'cause. They just do it. They understand layering (as good Oregonians should). They put their stuff by the fire to dry, planning ahead knowing they’d like dry gear the next time they head out.

Yesterday my son and I saw a brief break in the downpour of “wintry mix”, and dashed out for a push bike session. We ended up getting caught in the mix again and he was completely content to ride his bike in the snow and slush that we now consider the normal ground cover.

My daughter looked out the other day on her way to school and said, “oh, it’s just sprinkling, I’ll be fine” and off she went. Bring it on weather, we’re tough!

After dinner, the kids, now hooked on shoveling headed back outside in the dark wintry mix to bust a few more cubic yards out of our way. Woo hoo! Tough.

5. What doesn’t bend, breaks

Buildings and bridges
are made to bend in the wind
to withstand the world,
that's what it takes
All that steel and stone
is no match for the air, my friend
what doesn't bend breaks
what doesn't bend breaks
- Ani Difranco, Buildings and Bridges

Oh Ani. Whether you’re a fan or not, she nails it most of the time. This was playing through Bluetooth on my Subaru’s speakers as I slid out of my driveway and into the 6 inches of wet snow to pick the kids up from early dismissal and hit the grocery store to load up before yet another possibly ice-pocalypse and power outage.

What doesn’t bend, breaks. Humans, if we let ourselves, are infinitely adaptable. I’ve used these wacky, off-the-routine days to challenge my thinking and creativity. To put down my oh-so-pressing self-enforced deadlines and be a little softer. Be a little more forgiving. Be a little more present in what is ACTUALLY happening.

After all, this IS why I love being in nature and the outdoors so much. It’s why I have the hobbies I have (sailing, biking, skiing). Mother Nature forces you to comply with her plan. And if you can’t adapt a little and chart an altered course, she won't hesitate to throw your ship right into the rocks and break you into a million tiny pieces.

Bending a little has allowed me to get to know my kids a bit better. What motivates them, what pulls them out of their boredom spirals. To cook more food. To be a better meal planner and keep a stocked fridge and pantry. To learn how to make good-for-you hot cocoa (dude, Swiss Miss is garbage!). To be like the bamboo in my back yard. When the snow falls, gracefully bend, and as it melts away, spring right back up, a little bit taller.

My kids have gotten to know each other better. It’s like we went away for winter camp. Little 2 year old Axel learning from 6 year old Parker, and Parker in turn, gathering big sister skills like making snacks and celebrating his potty training wins (which, by the way, is a great snow day activity - we ditched the diapers!)

Being bendy has allowed me so much inspiration. When we get small breaks in the weather and school and routines are as usual, I attack my work with a voracious appetite. I actually work even faster with a sense of urgency, because “what if it starts snowing again???” A feeling of urgency and not being able to get stuff done fast enough is annoying, but in this case feels good to have the excitement behind it.

As I write, the flakes are still falling. NOAA’s storm warning doesn’t end until midnight tonight and they even have another storm warning backed right up to it which starts at 7am tomorrow and lasts another 36 hours. The hits JUST KEEP COMING.

At the end of the day you have a choice. You can bend, or you can break. I choose bend.

Of course, this is my business consulting blog. I am hoping you draw the appropriate analogies here to your business and work demands. There are so many:

- When clients or bosses demands pile on in and amid a technical crash

- Employees giving notice in the middle of a big project / high workloads

- Dealing with difficult people (need I say more?)

- When family becomes demanding at the same time as your work world ignites and you need to put in long hours at the office

- When you have big ideas, but the rest of your team isn’t on board

When have you had to bend so that you don’t break? Tell me about it below!