As you may have heard, the southeast United States was recently hit by a massive 400-mile-wide hurricane. What you probably don’t know is that we (my husband and business partner Joeel and I, as well as the Transformation team) live in Florida, on the west coast where hurricane Irma hit directly.
So, what DO you do when life gives you a hurricane? Below is our story.
For days we watched updates as a category 5 hurricane barreled toward us through the Caribbean. We stayed busy working on our courses, trying to remain calm as we waited to know what to expect. As it inched toward our country and state, it looked highly likely that it would move up the east coast of our peninsula-shaped state surrounded by water, putting us on the far side, away from the strong winds and ocean flooding. Our heart went out to the residents on the other coast who were evacuating and preparing for the storm. But, with a 400 mile wide storm approaching a 100 mile wide state, we knew we were going to be in the path too, so we, along with all of our family, friends, and other Transformation team members, prepared by gathering water and food and protecting our homes.
We planned to stay put in our home or move inland to stay with family during the storm if the wind speeds were going to be low.
But, 48 hours before the storm came, it unexpectedly turned to the west… heading directly at us—and at the time the wind speeds were 165 miles per hour.
Although the news was surprising, we had prepared in advance for the worst case scenario, so we took action.
We heard the news late at night and called all of our family to make sure they knew that we all needed to head to higher ground.
We made sure all of our loved ones going to be taken care of, and then we decided that what was best for our immediate family was to leave.
We left immediately, at 12:30am, and drove over 500 miles into Georgia. The storm was so big, even Georgia was going to be affected, but we had to get away from the strongest winds and there were NO HOTEL ROOMS available anywhere in Florida and in most of Georgia. In all, over 6 million people evacuated in the several days leading up to the storm.
As soon as we left, we felt a sense of freedom and peace. We knew we were going to be safe.
The experience was surreal. Gas stations and rest areas were filled with evacuees, quietly walking their dogs, and their cats. It was obvious that we were all there, in the middle of the night, for the same reason, so no one said a word about the storm.
The rest areas off the highway were lined with cars, like a drive-in motel, with hundreds of people sleeping in their cars.
We joined them and stopped to sleep in our car for a few hours before we continued to head north. We found it surprisingly comfortable and we were in good spirits! We felt grateful to have the ability to leave and were relieved to know we were safe.
Although our hearts were still with those who stayed behind, we continued on and finally arrived at our destination one day before the storm hit.
What stood out the most about our journey was the compassion being shared between everyone we encountered. At a gas station off the highway in Georgia, a woman and her family and friends were offering home-cooked food and water to evacuees (see photo). A stranger in Walmart heard we were coming from Florida and offered for us to stay in her home if we did not have a place to go. We heard from family and friends back in Florida who were working together to make sure everyone was safe, opening their homes to each other, helping each other hurricane-proof their homes, and sharing scarce water and goods, no questions asked. We even had one of our clients offer us her house when she saw our posts about our travels on Facebook.
Our hearts are open.
So what do you do when life gives you a hurricane? We did exactly what we do with any challenging situation in life:
- Stay alert and learn as much as you can about the situation
- Accept and make peace with what you cannot control or predict
- Take the practical steps to be prepared and plan for your alternatives
- Remain clear-minded, calm, and optimistic
- Keep moving forward with your day-to-day life
If you ever find yourself facing a hurricane, or any other unexpected challenge or potential threat, our final advice is to:
Hope, pray, and intend for the BEST, but plan for the worst.
We are happy to report that Hurricane Irma slowed before hitting land on the southwest coast of Florida and then further slowed to a category 1 storm before hitting our home area. Many received damage to their homes and minor flooding; most were out of power for a week or more all across the southeast United States. Our heart goes out to the residents of the Florida Keys and the Caribbean who were not as fortunate as us and our families, and those in Texas who were hit by Hurricane Harvey just a few weeks ago.
Despite the likelihood of future hurricanes in our area, I WILL NEVER LEAVE FLORIDA. In fact, our heart calls is to live, one day, in the Florida Keys, which were devastated by the storm. I watched a video interview of several of residents who chose not to evacuate and weathered the worst of the storm on the tiny islands. Two of their statements really stuck with me.
“We lost everything… It’s a part of living here. There is a price to pay no matter where you live. You save what you can and nature takes the rest.”
“I’ll never leave. Why would I leave? At the end of the day this (pointing to a badly damaged home and pool) will all be back. Material goods can all be replaced. And you keep going.”
These two men had lost EVERYTHING. Yet, their acceptance and optimism illustrate the humbling and also comforting reality that it is not the material aspects of life that matters. It’s the safety of our loved ones that matters. It’s the opportunity to continue to make the most of life, even in the most challenging moments, that matters. It’s knowing life always moves forward from wherever you find yourself today and that nothing can hold you back in the end that matters.
When life hands us a hurricane we remember that as the storm clears there will always be a rainbow. And, there was. This photo is of one of Transformation’s team members, Leah, blessing the after-storm-rainbow over the house where she stayed during the storm!
We are blessed. We are grateful.
Natalie Rivera is a firestarter, speaker and entrepreneur. She is passionate about empowering others to GET REAL and live authentically. After a decade of living a life that wasn’t hers and developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Natalie let go of everything and completely transformed. Through her journey to healing she rediscovered her true self and greater purpose—to inspire others to transform their lives. Natalie “retired” from the rat race at 24, put herself through school as a freelance designer, created a non-profit teen center, and later created Transformation Services, Inc., which offers motivational speaking, curriculum development, life coaching, event management, and publishing. She is also the Publisher of Transformation Magazine. Visit www.ignitelife.me.