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How do you manage energy and emotions while your country is facing the biggest natural disaster in its history?

· Intentional Living,Mindset,coaching

My heart is about to burst on the third day of this catastrophic event, and one of the ways I know that help me process it all in a healthy way is through writing. So, after my dogs and I came back from our 7 am walk - a pate one for us - I am surrendering to the power of the keyboard to express and articulate what witnessing the biggest catastrophic event was…is…like.


For those of you in my network who are scattered around the world and unaware of what is going on - and between the US political scene and human rights issues, the Ukrainian war, and Chinese flooding and earthquakes, the global media has little space (or interest) in a country of 2 million people and the size of New Jersey. If it weren’t for Luka Doncic, Jan Oblak, Primoz Roglic, Anze Kopitar, and Tina Maze, most people would not even know of its existence.


But this place exists and has existed for millennia. Although it only gained its political and geographical independence in 1991, the culture with its unique language and 50+ dialects, and the pristine nature spanning the Alps and pine forest-covered hills that seemingly run into the Adriatic sea along the 48km of the coastline, squeezed right between Italy and Croatia, and famous for its Fleur de Sol. After crossing the Karts region and its world-renowned caves, underground rivers, lakes, castles, and Lipizzaner stud farm, it takes a few short hours across the vine-covered hills to reach the Panonian plains at the Hungarian border. Every step of the way, you would be greeted by a native Carniolan honey bee, and welcomed with distinct local cuisine, diverse and delicious wines, and handcrafted artifacts; may it be wicker baskets and brooms, handmade lace, iron sculptures, woven honey bread, or baked clay bowls, the secrets of the trade have been passed through generations.


This is also the land where I grew up until basketball brought me from my medieval hometown of 20,000 to metropolitan New York City. Over the past 18 years, I have grown, evolved, came of age in a sense, and built a new home 4,500 miles away from home. Except, as years have passed, it felt like a home. Instead, this yearning to come back grew into a fully raging knowing that we ought to come back. We are my husband and our two daughters. What exactly it was that finally brought us back to my sometime just early this year, I am still having a hard time articulating. Exquisite nature is deeply embedded into every aspect of our daily lives - not only do 2/3 of the people have their own vegetable gardens, but we are also one of the most outdoorsy and active nations when it comes to lifestyle. Then there is this grounding energy of the place. And the most delicious locally-sourced food. Extremely well-balanced lifestyle - although the locals are quick to remind me that even that is changing now but that coming from the notoriously fast-paced, stress-inducing, and busy-is-a-status-symbol place high makes me biased. But then, I remind them that they still have at least 4 weeks of paid vacation, unlimited paid sick leave, a year of paid maternity/parental leave, universal healthcare, and a variety of other social safety nets, none of which exists in the States.


Anyway, this place just looks so much different now…


Just like anywhere else in the world, this summer has been quite atypical here as well, with progressively hotter days, more severe thunder and hail storms, and extended rains. “At least it’s not the raging fires!” I would hear people say out on the street. Perhaps…


On Wednesday and Thursday, the news channels intensified the reporting on the upcoming weather system that carried an excessive amount of rain and that would last for days. By Thursday afternoon, there would even be countdowns of how much time was left to prepare for flash floods. Maps would illustrate the most endangered areas. Having lived through Superstorm Sandy in New York and countless such warnings, I checked my supplies - batteries, a fully charged phone and laptop, ice, and shelf-stable foods. Yet, a part of me felt quite calm knowing we now lived in an elevated area that has weathered all sorts of conditions since the 1550s… Plus, I wasn’t really concerned about power outages as they rarely occur due to how the lines are installed. Since my husband and our kiddos were overseas, I took the puppsies and we went for a long walk around town and up to one of our favorite lookouts. I even did a livestream on soaking up some sun while we washed the stormy clouds rolling in.



Day 1:

My phone dinged, it was a text from mom. Half-asleep, I reached for it and what I saw next was enough to wake me up entirely. Where there was a stream across the street from where they lived, was now a river of rushing brown water spilling across the street, onto a field, and drawing along its path anything that stood in its way. They were now cut off from the world because if this it how it was at their place, it mean the road just up from them and the one further down, were washed away.


They were also out of running water due to a broken water line. My first instinct was to ask if I should come to get them. “You know, I could come up across the hills and I’ll pick you up at one of the hiking trails.” Even if I wanted to, that was not going to happen - as it turned out later, landslides had blocked those roads as well. Besides, leaving the safety of the town would go against the warning from the first responders who had been hard at work for hours at that point. “Stay safe!” is all my mom, dad, and I could say to each other.


As I was waiting for my fur babies to finally sniff out the most optimal location to pee, seeing clearly just how unamused they were out in the pouring rain, an RV pulled into the square. Out jumped a woman who herself was soaking wet. As she was approaching me, I could sense something wasn’t right. She pointed at my brown dog and said something that sounded German. Uh, English maybe? My German has been very rusty! Turns out, a flash flood surprised her and her husband, and as they were rushing to get the RV out of harm's way, the dog got scared and ran away. They were now trying to find her. With the help of another passer-by, we were able to direct them to the central base where they could report the missing dog and then hope for the best. My heart was breaking at the thought this would be either one of mine.When the rain let up for a bit, it was time for another walk. The dogs still haven’t found just the right place to poop, which is not all that unusual with our faintly 3-year-old one. So I decided to extend our walk a bit and we headed towards Lontrg aka the lower square. There we saw people standing on a bridge that barely cleared the water, meaning they were one floating tree away from a potentially life-ending disaster. A hotel I had just passed the day before, and made a mental note to set up a meeting with the owner to discuss arrangements for the attendees of my mentoring in-person immersion, was now immersed in water. I could only hope the beautiful German Shepherd dog we had just recently encountered on one of our walks by a nearby house was released from the kennel in time because that would now be under the water as well…


Having no desire to add ourselves to the list of people who could possibly obstruct any intervention with our presence where presence was not requested, we headed towards the other side of town to see how the other Sora River was behaving. Lo and behold, that bridge barely cleared the water as well. And on that bridge, people were taking selfies as well. Moreover, parents would hold their little ones in their arms and together, they would be leaning over the railing to get an even better view of the deadly force of the raging river.


My mind immediately went to the people living near the confluence nearby - I was hoping they would be OK and they had retaining walls high enough to sustain this force and amount of water…

I did not need any news to know very well that what I witnessed here meant houses, barns, factories, and fields alongside the north valleys were severely flooded and cut off as well. And that many of the bridges that might have been still standing, would not be standing much longer.


As we were passing through the town square, a scene got imprinted in my mind: we are quite a touristy little town here, and many of the tourists were not trapped here, just like the rest of us. On a rainy day where there is not much else to do, an open coffee shop is always welcomed. Every table that was not out in the rain, was full. There was laughter. There was tranquility. And there was, less than 1/2 a mile away, the devastation that would forever alter lives. What a dichotomy. What an accurate representation of the world we live in.


The doggies and I were just approaching the castle from where I was hoping to gain a better overview of the situation when a familiar sound cut through the sky. A military helicopter was approaching at a very low altitude. And then it descended right beyond the red clay rooftops of the city center houses. I could not see it but the sound kept bouncing off the castle’s walls for quite some time. As we later found out, a family had to be airlifted from a house that was now submerged in the water with no other way out but up. It was a family I knew quite well.


Finally, back home, both dogs toweled off and burled up on their little rugs, I opened up my laptop and saw for the first time the images and videos. A sight I had seen before.


In 1991, I was standing at our kitchen window with Babi and we were watching how water levels kept rising around the local high school. It did not take long until there were people in boats making their way around it. I remember Dad showing me pictures and recounting what had transpired at the places I had now just visited myself all those decades later. In 2004 and 2014, this town and surrounding areas braved through similar events, and have worked hard every since to not only restore facilities and nature but to improve water management systems to mitigate future risks as much as possible. Well, we were just shown again just how powerless we are against the Nature.


Then, I was reminded of just how dependent we are on the convenience of the infrastructure when I went to wash my hands and not a single drop of water came out of the faucet. Of course, the waterlines are either damaged or shut off as a preventive measure.


The grocery store just across the town square was surprisingly empty when I walked in, but so was the shelf with bottled water. Another shopper and I determined that we will have to do with mineral water and that our dogs will just have to be ok with whatever there will be left after we would boil out all the bubbles… “How did I not even think about stocking up on water?!? This is not my first rodeo, I should have known better!” went through my mind when I realized there was another thing I kept procrastinating on replenishing… Dog food. There was no way to get to the vet’s office to get the brand the dogs are used to. I phoned the pet store in town and they were just about to brace up and close for the day. “Come on over, we still have dog food available,” the voice on the other side reassured me.


For the rest of the day, I would immerse myself in work as there were some deadlines I still had to meet and honestly, “I had no excuses not to. If anything, I should have been grateful for the ability to work!” Still, I kept distracting myself by checking the latest news.


What was so different from any prior experience, however, was that this was not something only limited to local and regional areas… This time, it was the whole country! Where in the past first responders and resources could be reallocated from other places to the ones in need, this time around every corner of the country was in need. People everywhere are affected. Animals all across this land as well; we could only hope that they were freed from chains, ropes, and kennels so that at least they stood a fighting chance to try and save themselves…


And, there would still be at least 36 hours of downpours to come!


Luckily, my parents were still safe but would be a few lucky ones. And luckily, my sister and her family were safe at sea.


By the time evening rolled around, the image of that lost dog had been shared on Facebook at least 800 times, along with the phone number of that German couple. My heart went out to them! Wait… the dog was found! Rescued from the water and held safely by some family. Yes! Wait… when that family had to be evacuated, the dog ran away again. Ugh… But something happened that reminded me of just how charged we all have been.


A Facebook group was established specifically to circulate information and updates as they pertain to pets that went missing in the midst of all of this. And when I went to share the info about the lost German dog, I was told it was already safe and with the owners. So I thought it would be helpful to share that update in the thread of the original post, “Apparently, the dog is now with their owners.” Heavens, the attacks I received. Apparently? How dared I while there were no official updates on it? It was such a glorious opportunity to take an inventory of my own emotions:

  1. For a moment, I wanted to respond that perhaps, the update was not made yet because maybe just maybe, the moderator was busy with something else at the moment. The devastation raging all around, maybe? But I refrained from engaging any further, especially via something as petty as social media argument with strangers whose mental, emotional, and physical state I knew nothing about anyway… So why waste my own?
  2. For a moment, I was back in 2nd grade and mercilessly bullied for numerous reasons. One of them - “always having to be the smartest” - still echoes in my mind although all that I can remember was just immense fear of being perceived as stupid! To this day, I can still clearly see the faces of the two girls who set out to make that year hell for me.
  3. For a moment, I felt so useless waking my time and energy at home when I could have been out there, helping.


That’s when my phone rang and it was my dear friend all the way from California.

For the next 90 minutes, we talked about all sorts of things, and she was able to offer me the most divine support I did not know I needed - simply holding space for me to be. And then, she offered something else: was my only way of helping really being out and about physically moving things? Besides - weren’t we all ordered to remain indoors if only possible, to be out of the way? The conversation poked and provoked the part of me where I stored and compartmentalized my past traumas. Memories of another experience I clearly thought had already been processed a healed…


In 2012, when my firstborn was only 4 or 5 months old, we were warned about a hurricane approaching. New York was rarely in a path of a hurricane, so this was quite something. By the time the eye neared our state, it was downgraded to a superstorm. My husband was working for one of the largest media companies and we decided it would be the safest if he just stayed NYC for days as opposed to risking his safety during his hours-long daily commute. So, all alone with the baby, our dog, and our cat, I hunkered down. I dragged the mattress down to the main floor and away from the windows. Hard to do with an open-concept floor plan. I taped the windows. I created an emergency shelter with blankets, food, water, baby formula, dog and cat food, spare clothing, and spare batteries down in the basement as well. I turned the car around so that it would be as easy and as quick as possible to get out of the garage. If the driveway won’t be blocked by downed trees… As the wind kept howling outside, the backyard kept filling up with branches, and the power lines running above kept swaying in the gushing downpour, I threw myself into work. My business was not yet one year old at the time and there was still so much to do. Plus - with the declines looming and intact power and Internet, did I really have an excuse to not work? I also remember trying to find the right balance between watching the news to keep informed and prepared - and simply turning it all off because seeing entire houses washed into the Atlantic, entire neighborhoods submerged in floodwaters and without power, was just too gut-wrenching. But what did it for me, was seeing kids and babies. And their moms who were trying so desperately to do the best that they could to shield them. A new mom myself, and that hit in ways and in places I did not know existed. I felt so powerless, so useless, and so guilty in all the gratitude that after all, our home and our neighborhood were shared. But wait, how could that be trauma, millions of people had it so much worse.


Just like during another event when our home, our town, and our country were also spared. This time, it was during the Balkan Wars. I remember hunkering down then as well, at least in ways a 7-year-old would remember this looming sense of danger but with lacking evidence because my parents would shield me from hearing much less seeing the news. But I could feel something was up. And, I felt so powerless - even when the refugees would eventually join us in school, and I could not do anything to help. A sensation so familiar that I dare to contribute it to epigenetics and the fact that people in my lineage also hunkered down - and bravely fought against and lost lives to the oppressors - during WWI and WWII. Yet the women I was told about, (had to) remained strong, focused, brave. They persevered.


Am I strong, focused, and brave? Do I persevere? I shall put a pin into this one and learn more about trauma, trauma response and its manifestations, and trauma healing. Especially for people like myself who are deeply compassionate, hyperaware of the world around us on levels that can’t even be articulated, and cable of correlating the seemly unrelatable in a gazillion of new ways. But I digress…


By now the images began to circulate from a rescue mission with local volunteer firefighters wadding through waist-deep waters and evacuating 22 children from a daycare in Menges. One of the firefighters, as it turned out, answered the call even when that meant abandoning his own home. While he helped save the kids, his home was completely destroyed.


Then, there was a video from a local landmark that dates all the way back to 1639 dubbed as Devil’s Bridge, how the last piece of it was engulfed by the raging Poljanska Sora. The bridge is the centerpiece of many stories Babi would tell me about her childhood, the same goes for my dad. We would cross it to get to the river for a swim - and now all of that was gone. Like so many other memories!


And here I was again, safe and sound, with an apt supply of water and food for myself and the dogs, with my parents and sister safe on this side and my husband and kiddos on the other side of the world. Again, I was feeling so useless. Powerless. Pathetic, in ways.“Spaceholding is not doing nothing! And you have a remarkable capacity for space holding!” my dear friend offered. In a way, I got it. I mean… We live in a society where the only contributions that count seem to be the ones that are tangible and measurable. I tried to imagine way back in the day, if anyone would come to the Wisdom Keeper and accuse them of “not doing anything”? Or to a healer and expect them to put in manual labor in order to earn their place? I don’t know… But it felt precious to think of my mere presence and space-holding capacities as useful and helpful in that moment.


Before finally going to bed I checked in on several other people from around the country, ensuring they were OK.


Day 2:

Just after a wet nose and a lick on my cheek announced it was time to go out again, at 5 am nonetheless, I reached for my phone to quickly scan the latest developments. More devastation. More lost homes. More lost animals. More rain. And more solidarity among the people.

broken image


During the morning walk, I was happy to see some of the water levels have subsided, the hotel was no longer submerged and the river tho still high and rushing with a threatening speed, seemed to return back into the river bed. The parking lot right across was somewhat dry as well, although one can only guess what the owners will find once they open the car doors.


Mom and Dad messaged that local farmers have rolled through high waters with their heavy equipment and were working hard to clear out the stream of excess rocks and branches so that the water could hopefully stop flooding the roads and fields. Still, they were unable to go anywhere and tho their water supply was restored. Neighbors would be less lucky - many houses, as they learned, were flooded.


In between the attempts to get some more work done, to complete my kids’ school report for their academy, and the correspondence with my loved ones, our outings were a bit more frequent as well. Unlike yesterday, the town was hustling and bustling. Some coffee shops and stores were open again, some remained closed. One of them boasted a compelling sign on their doors: “Instead of coming over for some coffee, go help a neighbor in need.”


Mainly the square turned into a parking lot and a through-way for cars that were previously unable to cross the two low-lying bridges. Luckily, I had no need to go anywhere with our car and had the privilege of being able to stay off the roads for one more day.


From what I could gather, the first responders from around the country are still fully engaged, plumbing crews were fixing the waterlines to enable to system again, and the military and police helicopters were now scattered around the country on various rescue missions. One would make a quick return to our region for another successful evacuation. This one is due to landslides. While several rescue crews from various places kept seeking extra boats adequate for water rescuing, people continued to open up their homes, offer their cars, and offer their physical presence and assistance whenever possible. In fact, the outpouring of willingness to help with various resources prompted an organized response from umbrella organizations, outlining the typical process: before they can accept any donated clothing and furniture, the damage needs to be assessed and debris cleared first.


A resolution was also passed that allows essential stores to remain open on Sundays, something Slovenias voted against some years ago. But desperate times call for desperate measures. The Slovenian government is expected to apply for EU help funds as the damage is currently estimated at over half a billion Euros. By now, the flood waves and storms have reached Croatia and wreaked havoc on the mainland as well as colored the pristine sea waters brown.


In the meantime, life goes on as usual. Several Slovenian athletes are participating in various competitions and have secured the highest rankings despite the devastation their own homes have faced: sport climber Janna Gambrel won the record-seventh world championship title; cyclist Matej Mohorc just won the race across Poland while Tadej Pogacar is set to take the road at the world championship in Glasgow; the Men’s National basketball team lead by Luka is in the midst of preparations for the world championship while the U20 women’s team just advanced to the European Championship finals… And then there are business dealings, political spectacles, celebrity drama, social injustices as well as never-ending natural catastrophes from raging fires, earthquakes, trouts, and flooding… You know, all the other stuff that typically consumes our attention.


But the one piece of good news that caught my attention, was that that unfortunate dog was rescued at last, and reunited with her German owners! I hugged mine extra tight and expressed a few extra gratitudes for just how lucky I got to be.


While I continued to observe the world around me, I was acutely aware of my depleting levels of energy and proportionately increasing agitation. I had a really hard time staying focused on any work more than anything, it pissed me off to waste so much time being so unproductive. Why couldn’t I just be the way I used to be as an athlete - put my head down and get shit done no matter what. If that meant playing 40 minutes on a severely sprained ankle because the team needed, me, well then so be it. If that meant leaving anything and everything that did not serve me off the court, well… I had the training. I had the tools… Why couldn’t I apply them this time? What excuse did I have to binge Suits on Netflix because I had just finished the 12th season of Call the Midwife? Those thoughts would come in waves, and I took them one by one and processed them in ways I had learned over the years of recovering from severe burnout, postpartum depression, and this numbing sense of deep disconnect. I had to learn how to be soft on my edges. How to soften into receiving. How to be kind to myself. I had to learn that being productive is not just physical, tangible, and measurable work. I also had to be reminded by my friend from California that maybe, just maybe, this gets to be the time I retreat and rest for a change… “Would you please take a look at what you had accomplished, what you have moved, and how much you grew over these past 18 months? How much you had to hold, maneuver, release, mourn, reimagine, rebuild, reignite? What if right now, you are not needed out there, but in here?” Damn, sometimes I envy those who get to walk a linear line of Destiny… Wait… No, I am good, I would not change a thing as all it is the way it ought to be. At least in here… Out there, on the other hand…


Day 3:

The morning was promising, there were even some rays of sunshine peeking through the clouds! But not for long, another thunderstorm just rolled through and the road by my parents which was finally cleared out just this morning, is flooded once again.


As I am wrapping up this on our balcony, a “frrrrrrrrppp” goes just inches above my head. It’s a swallow that just flew through! Naturally, I am now curious about the message this beautiful bird bears: the internet says that “These adaptive spirit animals symbolize new beginnings, positivity, good luck, and representations of loved ones passed.”

Here's to the new beginnings, positivity, and good luch to my beloved Slovenia...May we emerge even better and more beautiful than ever.