Notre Dame is Burning

notre dame burning

The headline alone is enough to make your heart skip a beat.  We all saw the pictures, the videos, heard the comments, read the stories.  Even for folks like me who are no longer obsessed with news sites, it was a hard event to miss.  Notre Dame burned. The iconic symbol of the Catholic church and the city of Paris, one of the great churches of the world, caught fire and from what we understood by those telling us the story — it would never be on the skyline again.

Gone were the unique spires, the recognizable roofline, the countless works of priceless art and artifacts, the stained glass windows, the wood frames, carvings and furniture.  All gone.

And then, the smoke and dust began to clear, and we started to gain some insight on what happened.  Well, what didn’t happen:

  1. Notre Dame was not completely destroyed.
  2. Those formidable spires would survive.
  3. The artwork including the crown of thorns were saved.
  4. That two French billionaires known for the competitiveness with each other have committed to rebuild what was said could never afford to be rebuilt.
  5. And, that among all living beings that could’ve died or been harmed in this tragic event, everyone survived, including the 180,000 honeybees and their 165 lbs of annual honey production.

Wow; while tragic, the world came together and prayed, hoped, donated resources and energy to commit to the restoration of Our Lady.

What’s it all about?  I think it’s about the fact that we can lean into a narrative so hard that it becomes a distorted mess in our minds.  Ruling our emotions and future thoughts; and commandeering our energy when, frankly, NO ONE REALLY KNOWS WHAT THE FUTURE WILL BRING!  Why am I shouting? As a coach at both the personal and professional development level I hear this, I witness this, daily. We invariably create an incredibly grim outcome for what’s next.  How many times have you rev’d yourself up about the possible negative outcome of something coming your way only to declare once you’ve arrived that “Well, that wasn’t so bad!” Or, my fave for those of the glass half-empty crowd: “That could’ve been worse!”  Excuse me while I pull my figurative boot out of something or someone.

While “staying present” is a popular perspective in today’s culturespeak, staying present is what it’s all about and it can actually serve to mitigate this needless energy spend.  So, what to do?

  1. Well, STAY PRESENT! Be here in the now; recognize the event as it connects to you at this moment.  The rest is just a big guess and a lot of those so called “experts” out there are bad guessers.
  2. Pump the brakes.  Slow down there Speed Racer.  It’s not a race to get to the bad-news finish line.  These moments are to be witnessed and not to govern our time.  Time is too precious to let others take control of it. Appreciate these moments for what they are — dark or light, win or lose; and that you actually got to witness it.  To live in it.
  3. Control what you can control.  Unless you were a fireman at Ile de la Citie that night, there really wasn’t a whole lot for you to do at that moment.  Positive thoughts and prayers aside, what you could do is take note of this unbelievable event and connect back to your present self.  Great preparation is one way to alleviate the thoughts around negative outcomes. So, when in doubt, go to your plan. Study and planning bring calmness and confidence.

Much of our stress and anxiety come from within our own walls, and it can be so intense that we actually set the fire! Then we allow this fire to burn us down, using up valuable energy. But you can take back that energy spend.  Think about what you’ll do when it’s back in your control again. If Notre Dame can survive something as grim as fire within its 800+ year-old walls, can you survive the next event in yours? Of course you can. Now go build a fire where you’re in charge.

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