I hate driving through Wisconsin. But, in order to get to my family, I must. It’s not that I don’t like the WI—forests, beer, and cheese are all some of my favorite things—but often when I trodding along I-90 or I-94 I encounter weather. Rain, snow, wind. I’ve experienced it all.
One July weekend, my husband and I decided to visit family in Minnesota, which is a journey that requires crossing Wisconsin. On the way home during the seven-ish hour drive, we hit a rain storm. In a minute’s time, the sky went from being blue speckled with white clouds, like we were in a milk commercial, to ominous and dark. We watched the wall of rain come our way as if we were entering a car wash. Our little windshield wipers could barely keep up and visibility was less than a car or two lengths ahead. It reminded me of the many whiteout winter storms I’ve driven through in South Dakota. We had to slow way down, and at times, big gusts of rain and wind hit us as if they were waves.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve white knuckled my way through many winter storms on the highway, including spinning off the road a few times (thankfully, without harm). I am a bit scarred by these experiences, and often refuse to drive if there is anything but clear skies. My husband is a good driver, and he would rather be at the wheel than have me steering us through the elements, but even in the passenger seat, I am panicked and afraid while driving through storms.
During this summer storm, my anxiety was in overdrive. What if we hit another car or one hits us? I found the radar online to make sense of this storm, and the blobs of green and yellow seem to be headed in the same direction as us. These gusts of wind and torrential rains could be with us the entire trip home. The fear of what could happen was like an itch all over my body, and I kept adjusting myself in the seat, hoping to find some relief. “Should we pull over?” I asked my husband. I was willing to spend the night in a small WI town if it meant that this big scary moment would be over. “No, we aren’t stopping. That would be worse,” my husband said. Not to me. I just wanted this terrible feeling and situation to end.
This is how I approach a lot of big scary things in my life—looking for an out, searching for something to control so I can get to the other side. Here is the thing, though, I can’t control Mother Nature. I can’t even dictate what my husband, the driver, was doing. Rather, the absolute only thing I could do was to accept the worry and fear and trust that my husband knew he was doing. I had no other control beyond myself.
This is often what happens to us in life. We are presented with something terrifying and too big for us to control. There are no quick fixes or easy outs. Rather, we just have to endure. We have to trust ourselves, and we have to reign in our emotions. The only way to get through is to get through.
We are living through some really frightening and nightmarish times right now, and there doesn’t seem to be an end. Even once there is a vaccine or economic rebound or substantial changes to systemic racism (and none of those are guaranteed to come quickly), we will be feeling the ripple effects and trauma of this time for decades to come. We will likely never return to normal, but rather create a new one and try to put back together the pieces of our world.
There are little things we can do, such as wear masks, vote in the upcoming election, educate ourselves, etc., but there is more that is beyond our control. This is a storm we cannot dictate, and while we have every right to be afraid and scared, we can’t let those things become us. We can’t let looking for a quick solution or the easy out redirect us. Rather, we must learn to trust one another, acknowledge our emotions and feelings, and do our best to endure.
After about 20 minutes, the storm in Wisconsin that day lifted, and we returned to the clear skies of a milk carton. If we can find the will and faith to keep moving forward, all storms eventually pass.