Keep yourself close to the ground.
When the gulls chose to sit still, they did so on a large nearby dock, or on the ground. They always chose a large flat surface instead of the railings and rocks they normally prefer. When we are in the midst of the worst times in our lives, we need to keep predictable ground under us. This is why people tend to lean on the familiarity of their religious roots during times of trouble. In an unimaginably difficult time in our lives, we may need the literal ground to keep us steady. When we deliver horrible news, we often ask people to sit down first to avert a fall. One of the moms who lost her child in the Sandy Hook tragedy spoke of this in a recent interview with Anderson Cooper. She said that in the days immediately after her child was murdered she had to sit on floor, not on the furniture. She said that if she didn't feel the ground under her she felt that the world was spinning out of control.
Be sure to keep moving.
The birds never sat for very long. They seemed to need to keep moving. Normally these birds have no trouble just hanging out. But during this tumultuous blizzard they only sat for a few minutes. Then they got up and flew. They seemed to have a need to flap their wings. Although they weren't looking for food, they still needed to move, move, move. We hear this from people all the time when they experience distress. They talk about trying to focus on something positive. We have a rule in our house that we are only allowed to stop and wallow for a day. After that we start to move again. The momentum of movement is necessary in life, no matter how tragic our circumstances may be at the moment.
Glide for a while.
In between bursts of frantic flapping the seagulls glided. They flew as if their lives depended upon it straight into the blinding snow toward the north, and then glided along with the horizontal flakes toward the south. This flying into the wind and then allowing themselves to be carried by it allowed them to stay relatively stationary. This technique of fighting and submitting can allow us to sustain ourselves through very long periods of trauma and grief. We must routinely push and then rest in order just to stay sane.
It is not unusual to see lone seagulls during nice weather. During the blizzard, however, they clung to each other as if they were on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. Their flock was tighter and moving more closely together than I normally see. When things get rough, we must rely on each other more than ever. We must find others who have experienced similar things and learn from their histories. We must be kind to one another and help each other through our darkest hours if we are to survive.
Get back to a new normal as soon as possible.
Today the seagulls look like they did before the storm. They are floating in the water, scrounging for food and perching on the railings. But, they seem to recognize the differences in their post-blizzard world. They are avoiding the icy and snow-covered areas, in a sense adapting to a "new normal." I experienced this after Hurricane Sandy. Our "new normal" at that time was a a changed landscape, gasoline lines, and living in the Hampton Inn instead of our house. But I craved a normal routine. It was thrilling to have a bagel and coffee each morning and to get in a quick workout in the gym at the hotel. This was so reassuring after several days with an unpredictable schedule, no power, and doing work that was so different from my normal life. Just having meals at normal times and a morning workout became incredibly important as everyone in our community began recovering.
Be a seagull.
Next time you are weathering a storm of your own, take some lessons from the seagulls in the blizzard. Keep yourself as grounded as possible in your family, your faith, and routines. Keep moving forward, but be sure to allow yourself to intermittently glide to preserve your energy. Surround yourself with good, positive people who share your values or have shared your experience. You will need their support in ways you cannot imagine. Finally, be sure to establish a new normal life that will allow you to continue living the life you want to live. Even the worst of storms can be weathered by being like the gulls.