I Am the Storm

Brand strategist, Liz Dennery, wears 'I am the Storm' sweater

I’ve weathered many storms over the last few years: divorce, illness, single parenting through a pandemic, narcissistic abuse, the death of a family member and more, but nothing could have prepared me for the dizzying tsunami – and profound personal awakening – that the past month delivered.

Two weeks after packing up our home in Los Angeles and moving across the country to my hometown of New Orleans after 19 years on the west coast, Tropical Storm Ida began brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. Within a matter of days, she grew into a Category 4 hurricane with winds up to 150 mph and set her sights on the Crescent City.

We were barely settled at a friend’s place when news of Ida spread. My meteorologist cousin sent me a text, “Don’t mess around with this one, Liz, you and Jack need to get out.”

My son had only been at his new school for four days. I was just getting back to work after taking a month off to move. My father had just finished chemotherapy and radiation treatments for bladder cancer, and he had no interest in leaving the city.

But Ida had other plans for us, and she wasn’t messing around.

On Saturday August 28th at the crack of dawn, Jack and I packed up our truck with enough emergency supplies for two weeks, along with some of our belongings, our 14-year-old Shit Pickle, Lola, and her food, bed and carrier. We then picked up my eighty-something parents and began the long evacuation drive out of town, chasing daylight and safer ground.

Liz and her dog Lola during evacuation from Hurricane Ida
Me and my (evacuated) Shit Pickle

Montgomery, Alabama is 312 miles northeast of New Orleans – normally a four and a half to five-hour drive. But on this day, the traffic was bumper to bumper most of the way, taking 12 hours to get to our destination. Because no one else in the car could drive, I drove the entire way, doing my best to ignore the increasing discomfort in my lower back from a herniated disc.

But something interesting happened as time – and traffic – moved along at a snail’s pace. The anxiety, discomfort and even panic that I initially felt, began to dissipate as I realized I had no other choice but to accept what was happening and keep going. There were lives at stake – my elderly parents, my son and my own, and a calm awareness of my strength and ability to navigate our situation washed over me. How many times in the past I have said, “I got this,” but now I was being given the opportunity to viscerally embody and acknowledge it. In that moment, and in the many days that followed in a cramped hotel room with an eight-year-old and a Shit Pickle, watching news of Ida’s wrath and devastation, I realized that, until now, I hadn’t truly acknowledged my own inner fortitude.

Maybe the universe isn’t testing you. Maybe it’s giving you an opportunity to practice being who you say you are.

A few days later my parents were able to get on a plane to the Mayo Clinic, and Jack, Lola and I, caravanning with one of my lifelong friends and her daughter, drove farther east to Miramar Beach, Florida, to wait out another week until power began to return to our city.

Storms come in all shapes and sizes: divorce, the death of a loved one, toxic relationships, illness, racism, job loss, and yes, hurricanes.

Fate whispered to the warrior, You can't withstand the storm. The warrior whispered, I am the storm.

Storms are an inevitable part of life. The expectation that life should be storm-free or that others are responsible for the navigation is a recipe for suffering.

The truth is that storms have the capacity to teach us who we really are. When we are pushed to the edge and there is no choice but to leap – sometimes when our survival depends on it – we find out what we are really made of. We are given a front row seat to our power and resilience. And if we look closely, we see that safety is not something “out there,” but a fortress that we must build from within.

The warrior does not fear the storm because she has built a fire inside.

As Lebanese-Canadian activist and best-selling author, Najwa Zebian, wrote in her new book, Welcome Home, “As long as you are not home for yourself, you’ll abandon yourself over and over just to feel safe. You’ll seek shelter in others. Create the safety you seek in others within yourself. After all, you can never be a stranger in your own home.”

Finding safety in others is a mirage, it’s the pool of water in the desert. Seeking power, abundance or security outside yourself will never yield the results you are looking for.

The guru is you. The warrior is you, should you choose to claim her. You are the storm.

Comments

  1. Liz:

    What a powerful share. I’m so sorry you have endured SO much over the last year-and-half. As a business owner and caretaker to a 95-year-old parent I agree that when you are pushed to the brink a new women inside us emerges and is a force of nature when it comes to protecting what is dear to us. Blessings to you and your family!

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