I heard someone on the radio the other day say that silence, control and having a stiff upper lip pushes people apart. It’s showing our vulnerabilities that draws us together.
Cuddle up, won’t cha?
Right now I’m reading One Dead in the Attic by Chris Rose. I’ve been meaning to read it for years. It’s about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, my former home. Nope, I’m not a native, but I went to bed there and woke up there and laughed and cried there for nearly 400 days many years ago. The city is imprinted on me.
When that storm hit I was far, far away in Pennsylvania. I spent a week watching CNN with a two-year old Megan toddling around me. I’d give her anything she wanted just to keep her busy. Every now and then she’d ask, “Why are you crying, mommy?”
I tried to explain. I can’t tell you what I said, but I’m sure it was jumbled and way too long-winded for a girl who had only just turned two.
Reading this book, I’m reminded once again of how total the loss was. How devastating and complete.
I remember — months after the storm — I finally tracked down one of my NOLA buddies. Jill was in Kentucky. She told me that her apartment was gone, but that her sister Jenny’s house was still there — the house that I’d been to for barbecues and crawfish boils and even Thanksgiving night. That house that was right across the street from a levee was still there. But so was the mud.
Jill told me Jenny was pretty down after the storm. Jill was determined to go back to the city and get something out of Jenny’s house to cheer her up. Anything. A small photo. A knickknack from a high shelf. Hell, even a refrigerator magnet. She was prepared to wade through mud and climb over wrecked, moldy furniture and get as dirty and stinky as a nutria rat climbing out of the bayou. But she was going to get something.
“Trish, you can’t even imagine,” she told me. “The mud — it was so deep. Maybe four feet of it. You can’t even imagine what mud can do. I couldn’t even get in the door.”
She’s right. I can’t imagine. I can only try and I bet I still can’t get there.
Anyway, Hurricane Katrina is a whole involved topic for me, so I’ll just leave it there and get to my point for today.
And that is this: Sometimes the unimaginable happens.
Shit sneaks up on you. Sometimes it’s a natural disaster. Sometimes it’s a personal one.
Surprise! Your house is totaled!
Your city is totaled!
Your marriage is totaled!
Your family is ruined!
Your mom died!
Your kid is never going to be “normal!”
You have a life-altering injury!
Surprise! Your world will never, ever again look like it did five minutes ago. No go-backs.
When I think of what I and the people around me have gone through in the past few years, it’s pretty hard to swallow. And we’re all just normal people. The stuff that has happened to us happens to people every single day.
A friend of mine who has certainly earned her stripes in the trenches of hellish life experiences these past few years keeps saying, “Wow. We’re all dealing with real problems now. I guess we’re the grownups now.”
For me, personally, these last few weeks have been tough. Not hurricane tough or earthquake tough, but I’m finally going through some of the expected aftershocks from everything that has happened the last few years. I knew those jolts were coming. It’s almost a relief when each one hits — one more out of the way.
There are more. They’re sapping me a little bit. I’m not sleeping. Except when I am, and then I could sleep for days.
I’m trying to be gentle with myself right now. I’m trying to breathe through it all until it’s done.
Chris Rose writes about a “cat lady” who rode out Hurricane Katrina in her Uptown cottage with her 34 cats. She didn’t pay attention to the news, so she didn’t realize anything was going down until everybody left. She lost power and she ran low on food and water for her and the cats but they made it. She didn’t know how bad the city was until someone brought her a radio. Then she had a decision to make: Give in to the panic … or not. And then she realized they were all fine. They had been fine all along. And the quiet after the storm was really nice. She suspected that the chainsaws and the construction equipment would move in soon, but for that moment she was enjoying hearing the birds.
I do that every now and then. Take stock. Sometimes the long-term can be dismal, but I don’t want to look at life through the lens of gloom-and-doom. I remind myself that we’re OK in this moment.
In this moment, right now:
Everyone is healthy.
We are not hungry.
We are not cold.
We have a place to live.
I have paid the rent on time every single month.
My children know they’re loved.
I know that I’m loved.
I have an amazing family.
I have amazing friends.
The sun is shining. My kids can play outside.
No matter what happens, I can always write.
There is beauty even in struggle. How we handle the hard times teaches us who we are.
I like who I am.
I have never lost faith that I’m going through this time for a reason and that beautiful things lie ahead and that, indeed, there is beauty in this very day.
So yeah, the mud came into my world. There’s no going back. That mud needed to be dealt with and I’m still shoveling that mess out my living room but it’s starting to look like my space again. Like someone could live there. And outside, all that mud is sitting under the sun and some green things are starting to poke out. I don’t know what those green things are yet, but I’m looking forward to finding out.