When what seemed to be a safe and easily navigated sea suddenly twists itself into a treacherous and chaotic storm.
I call these events the squalls of life—those deep and dark disturbances that leave us gasping for air and questioning our ability to tread the waters of trauma, disappointment, sorrow, rejection or pain.
We feel consumed and drowned of hope. Something akin to the force of a tsunami slams our sense of well-being and pulls us under. How do we rise to the surface and find air when it seems that life has swallowed us up?
How do we survive chaos and come out thriving on the other side?
It’s a question every person alive has asked, at one point or another. As human beings, we desire order and certainty. Chaos shatters every inch of that desire.
In order to begin placing the pieces of a life back together—after a shattering has occurred—I believe we must first understand that it is not in spite of chaos that we grow—but because of it.
Just last week, I filmed the first episode in a new web series I call, The Greater Than Project.
This series focuses on the strength and resilience of women who have conquered chaotic life events and triumphed over personal challenge.
Through this project, I’m searching for what drives the women I interview to rise up and stand greater than the very obstacle that has worked to stifle their voice and drown their dreams.
I’ve decided that I will blog—after each monthly interview—in articles titled, This I Know. These pieces will share the wisdom I have gained through speaking with these exceptional women. Each article will highlight what elements of our conversations I personally commit to implementing into my own life.
My first interview for The Greater Than Project was with Santa Barbara, California resident, Michaella Bruce.
Michaella is the wife of Max Bruce and the younger sister of UFC Fighter and World Champion, Urijah Faber.
In November of 2011, Michaella was involved in a life-threatening car accident in Sacramento, California. During the interview for The Greater Than Project, she goes into detail about the injuries she sustained that left her with a 10% chance of survival.
Chaos was swirling all around her and nothing seemed safe. Michaella’s world had been turned upside down—her future very much in question. What I gained from Michaella’s interview were three key ways to approach chaos, and conquer it.
- Acceptance — When we experience chaos or turmoil in our lives, we are hard wired to fight and often to deny. Michaella spoke of a type of surrender, an acceptance, that came over her in the hospital. A way of being that led her to fully feel or experience the emotional pain of the accident and her resulting injuries. She speaks of a sleepless night when she was alone in her hospital bed—just she with her thoughts and emotions. Michaella said that an acceptance greeted her that night and it brought a sense of internal relief. She didn’t try to force the emotions away, but allowed them to wash through her and cleanse a path to healing. It takes courage to face a strong, uncomfortable—even frightening—feeling, and not push it away. Michaella grew an unshakable strength through the very act of acceptance. Something we can all learn from.
- Leaning In — When we go through a chaotic life event or some type of turmoil, often we can find ourselves wanting to retreat and hide away. Michaella speaks of the power of her family’s love and her ability to lean in to them and gain strength and hope from that love. This, Michaella feels, is one of the key reasons that she’s alive today and why doctors refer to her as a walking miracle. Michaella could have withdrawn from life yet, instead, she drew upon the power of love and prayer. Together, with the help of family and friends, she leaned in, faced chaos and won. I’ve always liked the term, In It Together. We are, you know? We’re better in numbers! Michaella and her family truly stand as an example of the healing power of leaning in and facing chaos—together.
- Embracing Scars — When we suffer trauma we often want to hide the remaining scars—both physical and emotional. Michaella’s example of embracing scars is, in my opinion, exemplary. She suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of her accident and endured a partial removal of her skull. Today, she has a large scar on the top of her head—a scar Michaella says she now loves. It’s a sign of victory over chaos, and of life over death. In many ways, Michaella’s scar is her crown and she wears it as such.
Which takes me back to my earlier statement: It is not in spite of chaos that we grow—but because of it. I have learned more from the chaotic moments of my life—those times of real challenge—than any other moment. It’s within the mess where we can, if willing, discover a deeper sense of who we are and of why we’re here.
And, it is those themes of acceptance, leaning in, and embracing scars that I take from my conversation with Michaella Bruce. They are themes that can, if applied, enrich a person’s life.
I move forward now and see the messy parts of life as an opportunity to surrender, practice connection, and accept the flaws that are sure to arise along this earthly journey.
Yes, I believe that we can calm the waters of chaos… Michaella did.
Onward to peace within,
To learn more about The Greater Than Project, please click here.