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Hurricane Irma: In the Throes of Uncertainty


Hurricane Irma: In the Throes of Uncertainty

Marina Smerling

I write to you today from the middle of Iowa, where my partner and I have come for a wedding, and – unintentionally - to escape the hurricane in Florida.  We are reading the news by the hour, following the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma over the Caribbean Islands, and awaiting updates of how close this hurricane is likely to be to our home when it lands in Gainesville, Florida this evening.

So much uncertainty.  And I am practicing, relearning in every moment, how to be with that uncertainty – indeed, how to relax in the midst of it.

All the same, I recognize that, while I like to pretend that the hurricane is an anomaly, in truth, it’s one more manifestation of life on a planet where nothing is guaranteed.  Not for our homes. Not for our relationships.  Not for our dear bodies.  Not for anything that we love.

How do we live in the midst of uncertainty?  (And isn’t this the question of life as a whole?)  How do we live dignified, with grace, with an open heart… when all that we care about can disappear so quickly?

I thus write today to share four practices that I am very much myself engaged in.  Human to human, I share these with you in hopes that they can contribute to your sanity-amidst-wild-uncertainty, however that may be manifesting in your world.


First and foremost, a familiar one to most of you who read my newsletters.  May we start with mercy.  Holy crap.  Mercy for our trying to get on top of things.  For our attempts to know.  For our trying to “get it together.”  For our woolly ways of attempting to “get a grip” on life – on our relationships, on our career, on our homes-in-the-midst-of-hurricanes, on the health of our precious bodies.  Mercy for all of our efforting, our trying, our marathon-race toward security, unending.  We are dear.  You are dear.  If there is any tendency to lash out and blame ourselves for the condition of being human and powerless, dear Lord, may we forgive ourselves now.


“F*cking ground.”  A dictate that has remained with me, issued by an elder who once guided the closing of a retreat.  Inevitably, when we are in touch with life’s fundamental uncertainty, we long for a sense of ground.  Our bodies know they can be held by ground, that they can rest on the ground, if only we can find it.

And so, if you’re not literally standing on a patch of dirt in this moment, call it up in your mind’s eye: mountain peaks, rolling green hills, a vast expanse of desert earth.  Find the ground you love, and in your mind, stand on it.  Lie on it.  Give your weight to that ground.  Let it hold you.  Feel that ground in every cell, and breathe….


It may be a sense of safety.  It may be love, pure and simple.  Whatever it is, let yourself claim your love of that need.

“I love feeling safe.”  And feel that in your body.

“I love love.”  Breathe that in.

Loving our needs is a way to connect with our power in the midst of powerlessness.  We may not be able to control our worlds, but we certainly can love them – and ourselves.   We may not be able to stop hurricanes – in our hometowns, or in our relationships – but we certainly can love, starting here, within, with our precious human needs.

Go ahead.  Let yourself love what you need.


God dang it.  I wish there were an easier step here.  I wish I could tidy things up with a fool-proof run-around to grasp certainty after all.  But dang it, in this human body, on this wild planet, I have found no way to land there.

And thus I invite you to land here with me instead, in the throes of uncertainty, not knowing if this or that friendship will last, if this or that job will come our way, if this or that hurricane/tornado/earthquake/wildfire will claim our homes … and to rest anyway.  To surrender anyway.  To say a prayer that this wild life may hold us with grace, and then rest back to the extent that we humanly can.

Giving power over.  Handing back control.  Surrendering the reigns, and discovering what grace naturally blesses our unclenching hands.


And as I say this, it feels especially important to notice how uncertainty impacts us differentially – so often impacting darker-skinned folks over lighter-skinned ones, poorer folks over richer, people with disabilities over those without.  In the wake of DACA, and soon, in the wake of this hurricane, inevitably the whiter and richer among us will fare better.  So while we all share in the human condition of fundamental uncertainty, may we hold each other as the waves grow tall.  May we reach across differences.  May we use our privilege to stand with and highlight the needs of those who have been marginalized.  May we find each other, grab hands, and hold on tight for the ride, letting it be a collective grace that sustains us.

With love,

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