As a kid, when the dark clouds were angry and the TV crawl let us know of a tornado warning, I would quickly pack a bag to take with me to the basement and wait it out. In my anxious young mind, it made me feel better to have with me the things that I deemed I didn’t want to be without. Back then, I’m sure my Curious George (complete with neck brace from over-loving), my latest favorite book, and other quirky treasures that had my heart made the cut. Thankfully, the end result was always a house spared and a bag that could be unpacked.

 

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Of course, our “stuff” in life is important to us. If you’ve never heard George Carlin’s take on it, you should. (Know that the video is NSFW.) Our material possessions do seem to have a natural ranking to them, don’t they? Some things are critical to our day-to-day or long-term well-being, and some things are frivolous and unnecessary. So many of us could purge pounds and pounds of stuff from our homes and miss nothing (though maybe gain some clarity).

The material “stuff” of life is like that, but what about the rest?

 

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When the metaphorical storms of life hit—as they do time and again—what’s in your storm bag? What are the bare essentials, beyond the material, that you cannot do without?

I think knowing that helps when dealing with life’s deluges. In our everyday world we can get so consumed with all of the HaveTos that are…well…not really HaveTos. The minutiae of life can overwhelm and make you lose sight of the essence of your heart and soul, making you feel like every day is just an impossible race to catch your tail that starts all over again the next day.

In a sense, an early version of my “heart storm bag” was packed for me when my dad was battling cancer. Life was pared down to the essentials of school, work, family…but mostly Dad.

I remember the late nights driving home from the hospital with my mom and trying to make sure our bases were covered, and I remember one of those bases was our garden tomatoes. Now that may seem like an ancillary thing for one’s storm bag, but we wanted to make sure that they did well because my dad was our “head gardener,” and he loved those tomatoes. And that is why I would find myself out in the garden late at night watering them.

And even though there was a ridiculous heat wave that summer, we had a bountiful crop of tomatoes that we were able to share with his nurses and others. Though his battle worn body was no longer interested in eating any tomatoes, I think he appreciated seeing the fruit of his labor for others to enjoy.

Of course, tomatoes themselves weren’t in my storm bag, but what was was the desire to see to it that something my dad valued and loved would flourish one more time for him.

 

 

Yes, the critical mundane still needed to happen—money made, bills paid—but it took a back seat in my mind and heart because I knew that while all that stuff was necessary, what mattered most was what my family was going through.

One of the gifts that the experience of my dad’s cancer battle gave me was the ability to look back on those times when I feel inundated by a current storm, and know that I can get through a whole helluva lot if I remember what truly matters and keep the other stuff in its proper place.

It’s very much like when you see people on the news who have just had their house obliterated by a tornado, and they speak of being okay because everyone made it out. The devastation is all around, and it’s hard to know where to begin to pick up the pieces, but as long as everyone is okay, they know that they can rebuild the rest. And then the typical coverage shows them rummaging through the debris in hopes of finding their wedding photo album or baby book. That’s what matters. Not the new golf clubs or the Keurig.

My storm bag has obviously evolved over the years, adding in a husband and child, as well some other “things” I’ve come to love and value along the way. This is what matters most to me.

 

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What is in your storm bag? It’s good to take inventory so that when you are feeling overwhelmed by all the other “stuff” of life, you know what deserves your attention most. It helps to keep the other stuff in its proper place—not ignoring it—but making sure that it doesn’t trick you into thinking it belongs in your heart storm bag.

No…that is reserved for the very best of your heart. That is reserved for your grownup version of Curious George.

And don’t head down to the basement without it.

 

All photos are my own.
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