October 20th marks one year since a violent EF-3 tornado ripped through a densely populated part of North Dallas and upended the realities of countless families and businesses. As I shared with you last December, the magnitude of terror and havoc that this tornado wreaked upon those of us who were directly hit cannot be overstated.
After overcoming the immediate aftermath and chaos, my family lived in a rental house for six months while our home was rebuilt. During those six months, I had a baby, spent a scary week in the NICU, and returned home just two weeks before everything in Dallas shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. We eventually moved back into our rebuilt home, bought a new house, moved again, and have since started settling into a dream house where we hope to make many happy memories with our boys.
I have sat down to write this piece many times, and have struggled to narrow down my “take”. Seeing as how the world is in a state of turmoil unlike any other that I can recall in my thirty-something years, I would like to share the hard and beautiful lessons that surviving the tornado has taught me these last twelve months. I hope that they will provide comfort and strength in this extraordinarily challenging time we are collectively facing.
Joy and suffering are separated by a razor’s edge
If you can believe it before the tornado hit us that Sunday night, my husband, 3-year-old son, and I had officially deemed that day “Family Gratitude Day.” We had been celebrating some happy family milestones and were on our way home from a late dinner after a day at the State Fair when the tornado hit us in our car just behind our house. We had no preparation and never saw it coming. What we also didn’t see coming is how much joy and love and growth we would experience as a direct result of our suffering.
In the year since that night, we have witnessed an outpouring of support like we could never have imagined, and we have approached this as an opportunity to build our dream life. I’ve heard it a lot, but it’s true: You can’t fully appreciate the light without the darkness. And it is gratitude for the light that will get you through hard times. Eventually, you may even find yourself grateful for the darkness.
Human beings, and mothers, in particular, are capable of anything
I mean this wholeheartedly. When I think back to what I was able to physically, mentally, and emotionally endure this last year, I have a hard time believing it. But I did it. And not because I’m special in any way, though I am so proud of myself for persevering through a time of unthinkable difficulty. I now see what all the fuss is about: mothers can handle anything. All things through love. Have you heard that mothers can lift a car if they have to in order to save their babies? It applies metaphorically, too. We are moving mountains every day and we owe it to ourselves to acknowledge our strength.
Enduring and overcoming hardship can lead to incredibly high feelings of self-worth and self-love
I have never felt more powerful than I do now. I won’t say that nothing scares me, but I feel capable of handling just about any curveball that comes my way at this point. Each hardship overcome is another piece of evidence in favor of our limitless capacity for growth.
Empathy is everything
I wrote about this before, and it’s worth mentioning again. You never know what others are going through. Suffering can be incredibly isolating. Instead of minimizing what others are experiencing, try to provide a loving respite for them in their time of need. And save some compassion for yourself as well.
We need to normalize asking for and accepting help
One of the biggest lessons I had to learn was not judging myself for letting others help me carry the weight. Self-sufficiency doesn’t require turning away those who can assist you. Let people in and let them show you love in action. You deserve it.
Your broken heart can comfort others
Sometimes life is heartbreaking. But that is a gift, too. Pain is what makes us beautifully vulnerable and able to connect with other people. So use whatever you are going through or have gone through to empathize with and help others. This is how we mend wounds and build a more loving world.
While the situation in the world right now may not be pretty, we will all get through this. Things do get better! I would love to hear from any of you with insight to share!