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Sitges, Spain

The Big One! If you live in California you intimately understand this reference. A Business Insider headline on October 19, 2019 read, “A California fault capable of producing a magnitude 8 earthquake has started ‘creeping.’ It’s not the only one.”

The largest earthquake in CA this year was 7.1! It shuddered from Ridgecrest to where I was standing in Palm Springs, 155 miles away (and beyond). It rolled under my feet and left me nervous, dizzy and nauseous. Today there was a magnitude 3.4 in Ventura. In the last 24 hours there have been 56 earthquakes in California; in the last 7 days 248, in the last 30 days 1,008 and 19,950 in the last year. According to, the USGS records 20,000 earthquakes annually and estimates millions occur globally!

The second definition of “earthquake” in the Oxford dictionary is “a great upheaval.” Those of us who live in ‘earthquake country’ know that not all earthquakes result in perceptible “great upheaval”. And we also know they are always right around the corner and you don’t know when or where they are coming, at what magnitude, or the extent of the damage the upheaval will cause. We know we should prepare but many of us don’t. We just go along, day in and day out with our feet planted firmly on the ground believing in its solidity.

This got me to thinking that we often go through life in much the same way, finding our ground and trusting in the constancy of the things.

And just when it’s all “figured out,” BAM!

3 weeks ago we had to take my mother to the hospital; too week to walk she has been there since – BOOM. Yesterday I flew from Los Angeles to Barcelona. I left my iPad, apple pencil and book in the seat back pocket – SHAKE. I got on the train at the airport and missed my stop – ROLL. I woke up in Barcelona the next day to a text from my husband, car accident – WOAH

Can’t find a job, hate the one you’re in – BUMP; empty nest, a move, relationship issues – RATTLE; divorce, financial trouble – ROCK; Illness, death - CRACK

Like the constant movement deep in the earth, there is constant movement and disruption in our lives. As with earthquakes, the magnitude and impact of the earthshaking events in our lives varies and we often don’t know when they are coming or how hard it’s going to be when it arrives. Some shifts roll through quietly without perceived impact and others hit with a magnitude of 8.0.

How do we hold it together with all this shifting? Find our ground again? Recover?


We tend to think of earthquakes as bad and at their worst they bring tragedy, death and destruction. But there’s another perspective. Earthquakes are important and necessary for the planet, our survival and the ability for us to thrive. Earthquakes release energy that cycles materials deep in the earth and the sea floor that support the health and growth of the ecosystem. They create mountains and valleys, the very texture of the planet. This movement is critical life giving activity.

As with movement of the tectonic plates, upheaval in our lives can be the catalyst for life affirming change. When we hold this perspective we make new commitments, create new life supporting habits, build new relationships, and learn new things. We often find strength and resourcefulness we didn’t know we had.

The car will be fixed and perhaps my husband will stop following WAZE’s zig zag directions into unfamiliar neighborhoods to shave of 5 minutes (though the accident wasn’t his fault). Mom is coming home with a new awareness and learning about what her body needs and a commitment to doing the work required to get strong. A community of support in her recovery is being built. The iPad incident got me to change passwords which is a generally good security practice, I learned to navigate the technology as well as the Barcelona airport lost and found system. And I made it to my destination by asking and receiving supportive assistance from kind strangers whose language I do not speak.

Further, the recent course of successive shifts (BTW it’s mercury retrograde) has launched an exploration into the perspective I want to hold and who I want to be in the face of the challenges and upheavals in life, what I believe about who others are and what I need and value most.

PS. It’s also helpful to be prepared. I’m going to dust off that earthquake preparedness checklist out and create our boogie bags post haste! As for preparation for the earthquakes of life, I will enhance my commitment to my current life event survival checklist which includes: gratitude practice, mindfulness meditation, exercise, creative projects and quality rest.


What perspective do you want to hold and what’s on your survival checklist?

photo by Lynne Harris Bernstein ©2019


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