When a natural disaster occurs and it’s not in your region, you may feel guilt about enjoying your day. But miring yourself in depression and projecting your fears on an already-tragic situation won’t help anyone. Not those facing monumental challenges. And, it certainly won’t improve your well-being. By doing so, you’re heaping additional negative energy on the situation and depriving yourself of what you need to thrive.

Yes, pray, and send love and hope to them. Give your time. Give money.

But also fearlessly seek joy and serenity. Then, when you find it, let it replenish and strengthen you. Store this precious experience deep within your heart so that when the turbulent waters of life threaten you, you may tap into this memory to remind you that the bad times will pass.

I made this realization on Sunday when Ken and I kayaked a Sierra Lake. The waves were lazy and gentle, leading me to compare this setting to what Floridians were enduring with Irma. I dwelled on the chaos, fear and loss that the hurricane was probably causing at that same time. And, I felt guilty paddling in such an idyllic setting on this mild late summer day.

During our picnic lunch lakeside, we discussed the hurricane and I felt even more depressed. Shortly afterward, three heads popped out of the waters. Otters! We’d never seen otters here before. Ken ran along the shoreline following them while I waded knee-deep into the lake watching them with our binoculars. I felt like a child, immersed in this unexpected experience.

Photo by Ken M. Johns

Ken photographed the critters crawling out of the water and onto a large boulder, where one plopped down on top another and relaxed in the sun.

Wonder and happiness filled me, as the heaviness of the world retreated. Those playful creatures taught me that agonizing over others’ fates doesn’t change the situation nor does it help me live my best life. We all need joy. We all need serenity.

We must nourish ourselves, emotionally, spiritually and physically. And, in doing so, we’re not dishonoring the plight of anyone else.