Weathering What Is

By: Lara Dustin Scriba


(4 min. read)

I don’t know about you, but the end of April felt like an emotional roller coaster. Maybe it was the combination of a full moon, hormones, and a total eclipse, but WOW, this one knocked me off my feet. We had been planning for months to ensure that our sailing plans aligned with making it to Mazatlan to be in the zone of totality for the total solar eclipse. This is no small feat, as nature often has its own plans, so we were ecstatic that not only had we made it to our destination on time but that there was also a slip available. We were over the moon, which is why what happened next totally threw me off guard. 

I had spent the day provisioning with friends, chatting about the weather and upcoming plans for our next big sail crossing the Sea of Cortez as we shopped. Feeling proud of how far I’d come in understanding the weather and my ability to finally add to the conversation, celebrating every time we actually found what was on our list, pointing one another to the aisle that contained the treasure, especially if it was a coveted block of cheddar cheese! It was a productive and positive day.

I always feel apprehensive when doing big crossings, which is nothing new, and anxiety is something I’ve had to manage for years. So I didn’t see any unusual red flags, though as the day progressed, I did notice some anxiety creeping in and lying heavy on my chest. Nothing unusual, I told myself. I knew I’d talk it through with our crew and figure out a safe time to cross while getting the reassurance I needed to calm my nerves.

We headed out later that afternoon to explore the town, and as we tried to hail a taxi I was suddenly hit with a crushing sense of doom and panic. I was afraid to get in the car, overwhelmed by the smallest decisions, the amount of people, the level of noise. Everything suddenly became too much. I was choking back the tears as we were all shuffled into the car. My husband was confused by my reaction but also needed to move quickly, as we were in a large group and making collective decisions.

I am not new to anxiety or panic attacks, so I knew the drill: I focused on my breath. Luckily (?) the music in this car was extremely loud, so I could hum as I exhaled without anyone noticing, trying to calm myself by stimulating my vagus nerve. I’d be calm as a cucumber by the time we reached our hiking destination, walk off any residual anxiety through strenuous exercise, call it an early night and I’d reset and have a better day tomorrow.

Well, tomorrow came, and so did the next, and I was still unexplainably beside myself. My usual tricks weren’t working: ground my body, move, breathe, journal, meditate, talk with a friend. No alcohol, or caffeine, making sure to eat grounding foods. Nothing was working, and I didn’t feel like I had a “reason” for feeling this way. My mental narrative began to decline, and I was so frustrated with myself and my inability to turn things around. I was angry with myself for “ruining” it for everyone else.

By the second day, I couldn’t speak without crying, so I stayed quiet. On the third day, I had to defer all decisions to my husband. I knew my reactions didn’t make sense, but I couldn’t seem to reign them in. I focused on small tasks, methodically moving through the day as I chopped food, prepped meals, and secured the boat for the upcoming crossing.

It was a miserable crossing, only because I was miserable. It was long, sometimes uncomfortable, but nothing we couldn’t handle. I slept through a lot of it, as anxious nerves also make for an anxious stomach. We arrived to our destination, and slowly, the choking anxiety began to fall away.

It was an exhausting ordeal for all of us, so as we prepare this time for our final crossing of the season this next week, whether I currently feel anxious or not, I am taking a proactive approach weeks ahead of time. Alcohol is off the table, as it is my number one mood destabilizer. My stomach is usually the first thing that notifies me that something is off, so I am mindful of how I feel physically and eat easily digested foods—also tending to any Wiley emotions that arrive throughout the day rather than sweeping them under the rug and allowing them to accumulate.

My movement routine normally includes daily yoga and hiking when possible, but I’ve added in some weights and strengthening to stoke an energy of confidence and solidity, meditating to nourish my mind with a more positive narrative, as well as allowing the time to journal and process any unconscious fears or worries, reaching out to friends and maintaining a sense of connection rather than isolating. Reading uplifting books or listening to music more often as well as ensuring I get lots of rest.

Knowing that I am being proactive helps to give me some sense of control, but more so, if anxiety does creep in again, I will give myself more grace. My self-criticism only fueled the fire; my insistence that this “shouldn’t be happening” only amplified the fact that it was.

Just as we shift to accommodate the wind and the waves, so must I accommodate the unpredictability and intensity of my emotions. I can learn and be better prepared, but I cannot avoid my human nature any more than I can avoid mother nature. 

I recently came across a quote by Byron Katie that summed it all up with such a sense of practicality, humanity, and humility.

“I am a lover of what is, not because I’m a spiritual person,

but because it hurts when I argue with reality.”

So I hold this in my heart as we once again plan and prepare, remembering this time not to forget to also care for the crew onboard. Knowing that I can be mindful and methodical in our approach but accepting exactly “what is” without judgment, will allow us to weather any storm with a little more love and grace. 

Lara Scriba
                                                                     All Things Wellness, LLC
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