TED's 31 days of Ideas - Day 22: The storms never stop, and neither can we

The storms never stop, and neither can we

By Will Potter

Tori Murden McClure was in a rowboat no larger than a pickup truck bed, in the middle of the ocean, rowing straight into a hurricane. She had dreamed of becoming the first woman to row across the Atlantic, but as seven-story waves smashed against her again and again, it wasn't clear if she could even survive another night.

Waves capsized her boat every 15 minutes. Some of these were pitchpole, meaning the craft flipped end over end. She broke ribs and, as she narrates into her video camera, she might have broken her arm. 

"The waves are tearing the boat to shreds," she said into the camera. "I'm not sure I'm going to make it through this."

McClure had reached a point in her journey where her preparation, passion and grit were no match for the storm. Some days, after hours of rowing, she traveled only 15 feet. She could not turn back, yet there was no clear path forward. Her communication equipment had been destroyed just five days into the journey, and she was cut off from the rest of the world, completely alone. 

As I listened to Dawn Landes masterfully tell McClure's story at TED in her talk, "A song for my hero, the woman who rowed into a hurricane," my hands and arms started shaking. I had been struggling with depression, anxiety and PTSD; I knew little about rowing or ocean survival, but I deeply understood hopelessness and despair. And this, I knew, was the same way that all forms of darkness can drown us -- through isolation, futility of action and paralysis of spirit. 

To compound these feelings, McClure's struggle did not end when she was rescued and returned home. She was emotionally deflated, financially broke and unable to adjust to normal life. Still, she continued. She found love and a new job.

As Landes tells us, McClure later met Muhammad Ali. When she revealed that two other women were attempting the journey that almost killed her, he responded: "You don't want to go through life as the woman who almost rowed across the ocean." With that, she began preparing for her next (and successful) attempt.

This, I think, is how we must face all of our hurricanes, whether they are personal or political. Some days we must focus on mere survival, and some days we need to heal and recover. The storms never stop, and neither can we.

As Landes beautifully sings, to endure in dangerous times is to care for ourselves and each other: "Listen, dear heart," she sings. "You can fall off the map, but don't fall apart."