When it rains, it pours. Fresh from my run-in with rabies a few weeks ago, I found myself affected by an emergency in my social circle. When I learned of it, I was dumbfounded and caught completely off guard because, like most emergencies, nobody saw this one coming. Everything was fine until suddenly it wasn’t.
Part of what makes an emergency an emergency is that the stakes are high and the outcome is uncertain. This adds extra stress and anxiety to an already tense situation because, if the worst happens, we could lose something or someone we love. It’s like Jenga: one small change, one wrong move, and everything we thought was stable and secure in our lives can fall to pieces. Game over.
I think it’s important to call attention to the emotional and psychological stress of emergencies because, frankly, if we didn’t care about the outcome it probably wasn’t an emergency to begin with. Anyone who has been affected by a catastrophe, which is all of us, knows that the worst part is waiting to see what will happen, to learn how this event will affect the rest of our lives. How bad will it be? Can we recover? Will everything turn out okay? When we don’t know the answer to these important questions we usually find ourselves feeling powerless.
I think we feel powerless because we unknowingly give our own power to the crisis, which has suddenly taken control of our lives. Everything seems to be happening outside of and around us, outside of our control, much like Dorothy in the cyclone on her way to Oz.
The root of the word “emergency” is “emerge,” which means “to come into view.” It seems appropriate because that’s what happens during an emergency: in our fear we see ourselves for who we are, including what’s important to us. It also means we have a chance to respond accordingly, to take back our power and conduct ourselves the way we choose. We can cower in fear, or we can face the emergency head-on.
When we’re surrounded by chaos we can forget that we still have the power to choose how we respond to what’s happening around us, and that the decisions we make during the crisis can greatly affect its outcome and the way we relate to it. So, we need to use that power wisely if we want to emerge from an emergency.
When possible, I think it’s best to face the reality of emergencies. If it’s an emergency, it’s outside of your control, which means the only thing you can control is yourself. When emergencies show us who we are and what’s important to us, we should pay attention and find ways to support the things we hold dear because those things are the foundation of who we are. If the emergency does in fact change everything, this is the foundation we will be building upon. Make sure it’s strong.
Emergencies can be turning points, good or bad. Sometimes after an emergency we know things will never be the same, but that’s not always a bad thing. Think of Dorothy Gale – traumatically displaced by a cyclone only to find herself in a new, magical place where she receives a hero’s welcome, complete with a fabulous new pair of shoes. With help, she shows great courage that prepares her for her journey home where she wakes a better person.
When emergencies happen, be like Dorothy. Be brave, ask for help, and remember that you won’t be going on your journey alone. You have power you never knew you had, and you can use that power to emerge from an emergency as a newer, better you. And, if it helps, get yourself a new pair of shoes.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.