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Strong winds and big waves | Moment's Notice


Last updated 12/28/2021 at 9:59am

“Don’t let people pull you into their storm. Pull them into your peace.”

– Maya Angelou

This past Sunday morning, our 11-year-old dog, Lulu, took on the strong winds and big waves at Edmonds’ dog beach, officially the Off-Leash Area Edmonds, by Marina Beach Park.

She ignored the sea spray, the cold, and the frigid winds, just as well as she was unphased by the 30 or so other dogs at the beach attempting to get her attention. Lulu’s peace by the sea is evident and infectious.

The waves and wind were so extreme, we triple-checked the tide charts, thinking there had to be a king tide or another special circumstance to create such conditions.

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, creates a High Tide Bulletin each year to warn coastal communities of the perigean (or exceptionally high) tides that result from a new moon, when the moon is closest to the earth, but we were days after the high of the perigean tides this month.

Dec. 4, the date of the new moon, should have seen the most intense tidal reactions.

But much seems to defy expectations these days, and the storms in our area are not limited to the beach.

Unprecedented weather events were again in the news, with the tragic tornadoes in the South and Midwest. FEMA says it is our new normal, and that it will take much collaborative effort among politicians, community leaders, and citizens to reduce the impact of these severe weather events and create comprehensive programs to protect every community.

Amid these great challenges, we still seem to spend more time being pulled into each others’ storms. Even in Washington D.C., today’s political interactions are reaching the point of hysteria, or behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion.

The word “hysteria” is, in and of itself, a contentious one. Sigmund Freud, perhaps the world’s most well-known psychiatrist, published salacious and mainly disproven theories of hysteria in adults in the early 20th century.

Since then psychologists have better defined the origins and outcomes of the fear and anger that manifest as hysterical behavior (although it did take nearly 100 years for many to acknowledge Freud’s accurate assertion that not only women suffer from hysteria).

So what is this hysteria?

When our brains detect stress, it diverts oxygen and glucose from one part of the brain to another, triggering the fight-or-flight response and pumping stress hormones into the body. Political conflict brings about this stress and physiological response just like being chased by a tiger used to.

Our brains do not process information as well in this state, and we cannot distinguish between a real threat (like a tornado) and an imaginary one (from, say, a TikTok video).

In this moment, our brains make it more difficult for us to feel empathy or perspective and choose instead to lash out at each other – anger and fear become indistinguishable.

People are so afraid that something will be taken away, perceived deprivation, that the fear turns into anger toward certain politicians and their supporters.

We know that we can be manipulated when we are in this state and unable to focus on the simple facts of what is most important, but we can also use these intense emotions to drive us in calmer moments.

Public opinions, shared calmly and productively, can lead us all to a greater collective good.

I do not want to believe that this is our new political normal – constant storms rolling in and out, fomenting division and extreme demonstrations, even a lack of civility.

I do not want to give up hope that the media will pay more attention to the facts and less to algorithms pushing drama and, even understandable, frustration with leaders who prefer the storms to the peace.

Our dog, Lulu, is quite capable of existing in a reality that she believes she has set for herself. She never fights with other dogs, but every Sunday swims as if she has something to prove to those waves.

Storms can be beautiful and create conditions that bring us peace, but only if we are not rendered hysterical because of them.

Happy New Year.


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