Socked in by Sandy, reminded of resilience

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2012-11-10 18:47:28 -0600
Started 2012-11-06 15:15:04 -0600

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, some dreaded, others hoped for, and still others that seem to just fall out of the sky. For those of us who got hit with Hurricane Sandy, falling out of sky has a special meaning.

I live in New York City, lower Manhattan to be exact. If you were watching the news on October 29, you know that we got slammed with what meteorologists call “the perfect storm.” I was sitting in my apartment alternating my attention between a book I was trying to read and looking out the window at the howling wind and rain.

My lights dimmed a few times but kept coming back. And then it was dark. And stayed that way.

The next morning I sat on my couch, kind of half asleep. The storm wasn’t so strong but my apartment was cold and there was definitely not going to be any hot coffee. “This can’t last more than a few more hours,” I said to myself. “I’ll read my book and shiver until the power comes back.”

Five days later, our electricity was finally restored. In the meantime, I had found a way to shower, eat, and get on the Internet. But only when I faced the crisis instead of waiting for the crisis to pass. By accepting what I couldn’t do anything about, I could see what I could do something about.

During the days that I was without electricity, I received a lot of email messages and texts by friends asking me if I had my “power” back, or if I was still “powerless.” Now, I guess this is what members of my profession tend to do, but I couldn’t help but think about the use of that word “power.” It’s a loaded word, right? Especially for someone like me who is often talking to people who are feeling powerless for reasons that have nothing to do with electricity. Clients who are facing a situation that they can’t make go away. Like being diagnosed with diabetes.

The week before Sandy socked us in, I met with two new clients who had recently been diagnosed. “I would like to make this go away, but I know I can’t,” one of my clients said. “I sat and cried for awhile, and I kind of stayed by myself for a couple of days. Then I decided I needed to start doing things to take care of myself. I got up and started moving.”

So the lesson that Sandy taught many of us is not so different from what we learn from the other perfect and not so perfect storms that we encounter in life: We don’t have control over everything that happens in life. We don’t always have the “power” to keep bad things from happening. We like to think we do, but life shows us otherwise.

But I was also reminded of how we also choose to be optimistic. To look at what’s possible rather than focus on what seems impossible. To decide to take the best possible care of ourselves. To be resilient.

Being a resilient person starts with believing in your own potential to face a challenge. If you’ve faced up to a medical diagnosis, you know what I mean here. That means focusing not on your “powerlessness,” in whatever form that takes, but where you do have power, and taking action. For me, that started with getting up off the couch.

Sandy also reminded me that I can’t do it all on my own. I had to call friends and ask for help with the basics, like a place to take a shower. I needed some human contact, especially during those long evenings in my cold, dark apartment. The text messages helped a lot.

During the storm, I learned to focus on what was going right in my life. To appreciate the simple pleasures like a cup of hot coffee and a few words of encouragement from someone whose life has also been turned upside down.

Life never stays the same. Sandy reminded me of how comfortable I am in my day-to-day routine. And how a stressful event can be an opportunity to look at life in a new way. Refusing to accept uncertainty and change is setting up a battle that is not only unwinnable but unnecessary. Accepting that life is about change helps you to more clearly see what you do have control over, and to take action.

I am probably preaching to the choir here, but this is my Sandy lesson. Recognize your own ability to solve problems. Get connected with your support network. Stay optimistic. Resilience is power. And the real power is in your hands!

32 replies

IronOre 2012-11-09 00:20:30 -0600 Report

In the several days before the election not much was in our news about Sandy after the first day it happened. It's a bit weird hearing all this bad stuff so many days after it happened. It seems almost like a communist country when the media suppresses so much of the news like this.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2012-11-09 22:08:04 -0600 Report

Interesting point, IronOre. I am wondering if there wasn't so much news competing for coverage that Sandy got overshadowed by election stuff. I have to say that I was more focused on the election than on Sandy, but I was also kind of in denial of the potential for Sandy to be such a serious storm.

Turtle 2012-11-09 23:21:32 -0600 Report

Hi Doc. Do you write on the mental health issues? I have DID, do you know if they are addressing that yet or not? It is difficult for me to find.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-11-09 10:02:53 -0600 Report

We had updated news about Sandy during the election. Like James, I can always find news in this country. I read newspapers from all over the country and around the world and at times I watch BBC news to find out what is going on here and around the world.

jayabee52 2012-11-09 00:59:52 -0600 Report

Oh I knew about the hurricane Sandy while it was still churning in the Carribean sea days before it made landfall in the USA. But then again maybe I am weird because I pay attention to so much news. It is not a problem if one knows where to find information and news.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-11-09 10:03:39 -0600 Report

James I am a news hound, I can always find it without having to look too hard for it.

IronOre 2012-11-09 22:02:13 -0600 Report

I guess we have a very left newpaper here, and they were more concerned about protecting the election so that Obama gets re-elected, that getting the news to us.
Unfortunately Obama won.

jayabee52 2012-11-10 10:58:54 -0600 Report

i get my news from a variety of websites, some skew to the left (like Huffington post), and some skew to the right ( like "Freedom Outpost") For the weather, I go to

I try to get a read on what is going on in the world at large this way. Often my inbox fills up with the newsletters to which I have subscribed .

I fancy myself "non partisan" but lean more toward the right in the political spectrum. that is kinda who I am. I do like to know what those who are on the left are saying too. Sometimes it can be enlightening as to why they say what they do.

I am a conservative Christian and will engage those who think more lefty on religious issues. However I will not be abusive about it (like some on both sides have been)

If you wish to discuss it further with me, I invite you to PM me as this is not the place for such discussions.

IronOre 2012-11-10 11:36:19 -0600 Report

no forget the PM stuff, I am conservative too ~ when you were in Milwaukee I am sure you loved the conservative radio talk shows . . . right ? The guy I listen to everyday sometimes sits in for Rush (which is the only time that I will listen to Rush).

jayabee52 2012-11-10 11:46:54 -0600 Report

Still in MKE. will be leaving permanently on Nov 22. I really don't listen much to radio as I don't have a car here (generally the only time I listen to radio)

Nana_anna 2012-11-08 16:46:25 -0600 Report

I feel bad for everyone that was effected by Hurricane Sandy. I have been in that state before. Living here in Florida during Hurricane, Charilie, Frances, Jean, and then the suprise one of Wilma. All in one year. We lost our first mobile home. Than we moved and got hit again by Wilma which tore up what was left of our second home in 2005-06. Which in that time I have confirmed a diabetic. I didn't have any way to get to the Dr. because we stayed at the church. Our car was tore up and had a flat tire, two flat tires to be exact. Our church suffered a loss of shingles, which demanged all the vehicles that were parked there. This storm was H. Wilma. I think in 2006. The first storm H. Frances we had no power for 42 days. We had to take cold showers, but it was in Aug/Sept. so it felt good. We had a gas burning stove to still use, so we had food.We received REM meals, then food at the stores when they reopened. I remember we had to go the to Ag Center in Okeechobee, to get bottled water and ice. I was not on insulin then so that was good. These types of storms can really change our lives. It brought us closer together as a family, and a church family. Seeing your church destroyed and the other ones as well a cross from us. They lost there whole roof. If everyone works together and helps one another. That is the best way to get through any situation. God Bless all of you going through this right now. We are praying for you.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2012-11-09 22:04:50 -0600 Report


Wow, what an incredible story. You have really been through it. YOu lost homes! 42 days without power! Now you are definitely a resilient person.

I told someone this week that after hearing so many other stories of what people went through with Hurricane Sandy, what they lost, and how they are still suffering, I think that my experience was a vacation in comparison. The suffering goes on and on here, people who lost homes like you did, and are still waiting for power in very cold weather.

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I have a new perspective.

Hope you are doing well!


Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-11-09 10:25:37 -0600 Report

Nana, here in Maryland we experience them also. Added to the hurricanes we can have blizzards and tornado's from time to time. We have lost power for up to 3 days just from a severe thunderstorm. My heart goes out to the people up north.

People simply have got to prepare for storms when they here about them. We bought a slew of batteries in case the power went out and were prepared to buy dry ice also. We didn't need them. It is better to be prepared and not need the items than to not be prepared and need them. We got the bbq grill and charcoal out of the basement so we wouldn't have to do it in the dark. You never know what is going to happen during a hurricane. We have a problem with water mains breaking because the system is over 100 years old. When they break they take out gas lines also.

As a community leader, I was getting constant updates from the Mayors Office of Neighborhoods because our Liasion was in the Emergency Center and was sending emails to everyone on my district wide contact list throughout Monday and Tuesday. Our Community Relations Sgt. was texting me throughout both days making sure I was okay. People lost power for several days but we all made it through the storm.

I am glad you survived all of the storms you have been through. This kinds of natural events only make us stronger and teach us that preparation is the key. You can lose houses and possessions and can rebuild. Coming out of it alive and unharmed is the most important factor.

GabbyPA 2012-11-08 09:20:23 -0600 Report

I am so glad you are doing okay through it all. What is more encouraging is that you have the way to share it in a way we can all relate to. Life lessons come in many packages, some are pretty in bows, and others are the ones the mail truck ran over before delivering it to you.

Now you are tested yet again with the Nor'easter that is messing with you still today. It will stay cold and yet you will find a way to rise above the tribulations that come.

Power truly is a loaded word. It is what you make of it and I am glad you are making good of it. My prayers are with you and those in the aftermath of Sandy.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2012-11-09 22:01:05 -0600 Report

Hi Gabby!

Thanks a lot! I love that -- yes, some lessons feel like they got run over by the mail truck. It's really a blessing to be able to share life experiences here, as I know you know.

I did have to cancel a class that I teach from the Nor'easter, another little challenge tossed our way. But not as bad as it could have been, that's for sure.

I really appreciate this!


Ms. DAT 2012-11-07 02:19:33 -0600 Report

Hello Dr. Gary!! Thanks to God You are alright in the aftermath of Sandy!!!
It is always a great insight to share your empowering words to help others who are going through loss and devastation at this time of crisis that effects the nation.

Although I am on the West Coast but yet my prayers and hope for recovery is in high gear.

Many times as you reach to empower others yet you yourself need that inner encouragement that propels you to appreciate a cup of hot coffee! It is real cool to hear somebody preaching to the choir to avoid becoming complacent.

We have got to move forward regardless of the Storms in Life that we face. The strong in heart and mind will survive!!!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2012-11-07 16:03:31 -0600 Report

hello Ms. DAT!

Thank you very much! You said it so well. We have to empower ourselves sometimes, take our own advice. So often, the words I say and write for others are words that I have already said to myself.

Weather is one of the best teachers -- we are all affected by it. My friends on West Coast have certainly learned that lesson.

I really appreciate this!


Ms. DAT 2012-11-07 16:32:57 -0600 Report

Dr. Gary You are very welcome and thanks for taking the time to respond! Yes we have had our share of Weather lessons here on the West Coast. It's sunny here in California for now! No that's not bragging! haha! The sun is out today!!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2012-11-07 22:06:36 -0600 Report

Ms. DAT, I was actually going to say that my friends in California are the real experts in what it takes to cope in times of weather disasters. Lots of resilient people in CA! I am glad you have sunny weather!

Ms. DAT 2012-11-08 00:41:34 -0600 Report

Dr. Gary I was just watching the 10 o clock news and now it is snowing in NY! The Sun will shine again!! Oh by the way I shared your message with some friends here in CA over the telephone and they are inspired as well! The response sounded like a small portion of the "Serenity Prayer" when you said that you learned to face the issue and do what you can to do something about what you can do as well as understand that some things we have no control over! I hope you don't mind me sharing your experience with my friends because it is really empowering!

lavenderchild 2012-11-06 22:18:08 -0600 Report

I hope thing's are getting back to "normal" for you. I can totally relate to your post about diabetes and I am sure a lot of other people would as well.. I have learnt over the years that in any situation be a problem or health related I have taken the easy way for me and dealt with it head on.. It makes my life easier. Yes there are something I would like to fix and make go away but it's not going to happen so I sit on it for a couple of hrs and then let it go. When I was diagnosed with Type 2 back in July I walked out of my doctors came home through out all the sweets and soft drinks and have never looked back. I have lost 31kg's to date and I am dealing with diabetes the best I can. It's not easy I have my bad moments where I think why me but then I think Why Not! I am never given anything that I can't deal with. I hope you and your family are extremely safe and my heart goes out to all who have lost there homes and loved one..

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2012-11-07 15:55:43 -0600 Report

Hey lavenderchild,

I really appreciate that you took the time to share your inspirational message. They are getting back to normal for me, but many people are still suffering, and will be for a long time.

Life on life's terms. When you stop fighting life, you can open yourself up to all kinds of possibilities. You clearly took an empowered approach to your diagnosis, from day one. And look at how that attitude is benefitting you. Congratulations!

I am sure that your positive attitude is a gift to everyone whose lives you touch!

Thank you!


Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-11-06 18:27:47 -0600 Report

Dr. Gary, I am glad you had your hot cup of coffee. Right now I am huddled by a heater waiting until Thursday for the furnace man. It is unfortunate that a storm such as Sandy makes people do one of two things. A. Appreciate what you had before you lost it and B. Being angry because you lost it.

I say it a lot on here. A person can remove a lot of stress by stop trying to control everything and everybody. No one can control anyone but themselves because sooner or later the spouse, friends and adult children will get tired of it. No one can control nature so why get mad at a storm? While talking to a friend, I said, it is almost as though God is cleaning up what man has dirtied.

Life brings many changes, you cannot control those changes because you never know what is going to change your life or if that change will be temporary or permanent. What you can be thankful for and grateful of is being alive.

Friends come and go, children grow up and move on. Depending on how you treated your child or how your child sees you as a person while growing up will depend on how often you see your children or if you will ever see them again.

Reflection is good for the mind, body and soul. If you look back at what you didn't have, what you had and lost, how you solved a problem, may help you appreciate what you now have in your life and with future problem solving.

You can't dwell in the past because if you do, you cannot move into the future. Preaching to the Choir, I don't thinks so because those who are listening may learn something. Those who are not listening will miss out on things in life that could help them.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2012-11-07 15:43:08 -0600 Report

Hi Joyce,

I am sorry to hear that you are without heat. It's just awful to be without heat in this cold weather.

Very good point. We have the opportunity to be appreciative or angry. Always a choice. Mother Nature constantly reminds us that we are not in control. We just have to deal with it.

You have a really uplifting philosophy of live. We all have the opportunity to live with gratitude, to focus on what's good in life. And I agree that a stressful event is an opportunity to look at the meaning of life and your own place in life, to examine your attitude, priorities.

Life is always moving. We can choose to dive in or to hold back, but it still keeps moving.

Thanks so much.


Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-11-07 19:05:44 -0600 Report

I will be okay through the chilly nights. You make an excellent point. Life is always moving whether or not a person moves with it doesn't matter, life isn't going to wait for them.

Two women got together and plotted and planned a takeover and to force someone out of a job in the community association. To do this they had to make sure my sister and I were not at the meeting. So one went to court and filed separate restraining orders hoping we would be served at the meeting and asked to leave. That did not happen. My sister and I ended up in court and the woman filing the charges did not appear. We went back to court to get our cases expunged and again the woman was a no show.

My sister and I could have chosen to do nothing or fight back. We fought back and because of this our reputation is still intact because we had a police officer and others ready to come to court as character references if needed. In an effort to destroy us, the woman who filed is now homeless with no one in the community to help her. The person who paid for her to file the paper work is not speaking to her. Too often people do not realize that to destroy others you often destroy yourself.

Life isn't always easy nor is it always happy and care free. When you use resilience, patience and perseverance, you find that you can do what you must do to face life for what it is and make it better for you and everyone around you.

I have learned that if I face problems and work through them, the end result can be rewarding most of the time. It keeps my stress level down and my blood sugar manageable. It is better to move with life than it is to try to catch up to it.

Ms. DAT 2012-11-07 02:27:53 -0600 Report

Hi Just Joyce ! My Prayers are with you!! Yes it is true that reflection is good for the mind, body, and soul. Reflection helps us realize what is importaetnt in Life in the losses of any kind such as family, possessions, employment, friends, even hope and courage to survive and recover.
Even though I am here but yet I reflected as well. I really have a heart of gratitude because it can happen to me, maybe not in the same way but another type of Storm can come and upset my conveniences.

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