Not All Storms Come to Disrupt Our Lives: Navigating Our Responses to COVID-19

By William D. Parham, Ph.D., ABPP

There is absolutely no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented storms of confusion, chaos, controversy, and concerns, for ourselves and all others in our circles of influence. For faculty, disruptions in teaching, scholarship, and department, university, professional organizations, and community service are all too apparent. For staff, interferences in daily joys of serving students and supporting faculty and administrators is obvious and undeniable. For administrators, the magnified responsibility for the well-being and safety for the entire university community is unambiguous. The choppy seas of uncertainty and unpredictability, unimaginable just several weeks earlier, continue to bring about levels of emotional restlessness and unsettledness that require imaginative and inspired responses to quell these seemingly never-ending disruptions. Apropos to these times of increased contemplation and reflection is an oft-quoted mantra, paraphrased, that invites consideration that not all storms come to disrupt our lives. Some come to clear our path.

Crises provide abundant opportunities for many people to discover heretofore unrecognized emotional strengths, resilience, and skills to adapt to constant disarray. And, life provides many fortunes, some portions of which come in the forms of not having to cope with hardships and difficult times on an ongoing basis. This reprieve from a life of having to survive hardships and just getting by, however, lulls people into either believing that they can’t cope with tough times or questioning the actual talents and tenacity they possess to manage whatever life challenges come their way.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Despite the emotional toll, psychological ruptures existential angst, or incessant worry and anxiety spawned from times of considerable adversity and

distress, people ultimately pierce through their intra-personal self-protective armor of perceived limits and discover untapped energies to fight through afflictions, navigate deep-water troubles, and manage misfortunes, however large or looming. Post-traumatic growth, crises that produce greater appreciation for life, shifts in priorities, deeper interpersonal relationships, increased beliefs in personal strengths and agency, awakenings to new possibilities, and renewed commitments to faith-based practices are real, compelling, and manifest in individuals, families, and communities. Crises remind us that life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away! When fighting through tough times, people realize that they didn’t come this far … to only come this far. They discover abilities to disengage from alleged to be true uncontrollable and therefore unsolvable problems and find resolutions that open windows of possibilities and healing.

It is important to always acknowledge what might be happening in our personal spaces and in the world around us, however dramatic or traumatic. Understanding and appreciating the cost, emotional and otherwise, incurred from these situations is equally important. That said, it might also be useful to remember that there is calm in both the eye of a hurricane and at depths below the roughest tides and raging waters of ocean storms. In short, though you may be in a storm, don’t let the storm get in you. Troubled seas can’t sink our abilities to choose.

While continuing to chart our course through this unrivalled life-altering experience, consider that coming together was a beginning, keeping together represents our progress, and working together will mark our success. Until next time …