Today no words seem adequate. A week ago, they were the tools of my trade. And I was sure that when I finally sat down to write this, they would flow easily and naturally as they always have for me. But frankly, I’m having a hard time, because the person I was a week ago is not the person I am now, and there is some more knowing and wiser part of me that is saying, “Hallelujah!” to that.
We East Coasters could all tell you anecdotal tales of trying to prepare for the unthinkable wrath of an earth we’ve mistreated, but in truth, there was no way to prepare, only small things we could do to feel like we had some control over that which would render us at its mercy in the end.
I could try to describe the stark contrast between the silence of the chilly post-storm nights and the perpetual sirens that seemed even more ominous without the bustle of other activity to distract from knowing that neighbors somewhere were in real trouble.
We could all entertain you with stories about just how useful that jar of peanut butter was by day four without power. And damned if any one of us wouldn’t trade just about anything we ever owned for one hot shower. (Camping seems like a great idea only when it’s voluntary.)
But we could also tell you of the many kindnesses we’ve experienced firsthand from friends, family, and strangers alike, an outpouring unlike any other – genuine, authentic, heartfelt, yet still unable to touch the massive pain and loss every one of us feels for as many different reasons as there are people here.
For some, it is the loss of everything they spent a lifetime working for – a modest house, food, clothing, and a car to get to and from work. I believe we call it the American Dream. And for those who are older, it will not realistically return. For that, there is no consolation.
But for the rest of us, we are faced with a different view of our world, a sense of uncertainty we never acknowledged as real, even though we knew intellectually it existed. We know that our physical landscape can change in the blink of an eye, and that our safe return home is not guaranteed, indeed that home itself is not guaranteed, and that life, ours and the lives of those we love, is very, very fragile. These things seem obvious, maybe even trite when not threatened, but to know this at our core changes the way in which we walk through this life.
There’s that saying (and song), “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I think that’s not quite true. I think being put to the test makes us recognize and use the strength that was within us all along. For most of us, that strength lies dormant until or unless we have no other choice but to call it forth and claim it as our own.
I’d like to think I now know that, after facing the possibility of actual obliteration, there isn’t really much else to fear. Really. Of course, I’d also like to believe I’ve made peace with my curly hair and cast aside my flat iron forever, but personal growth can only go so far.
We have all seen images of people sifting through rubble, searching for photographs or mementos of personal significance. But the truth is the only things we can be assured we take with us are those we carry in our hearts. If we want to honor the memory of the people in the pictures we cherish most, we should embody the best of their qualities and keep their image in our mind’s eye. That’s where those images reside now, anyway.
Here are some other things I’ve taken away from this past week:
If you’re going to invest your time and energy in anything, do it in the depth of your relationships. They are what sustain us in both the best and worst times in our lives.
Take any and all opportunities to laugh.
Be a compassionate listener. It may be the biggest gift you give someone.
This storm was not an act of God. It was the result of man’s blatant and continuous disregard for the environment. (If I had my own religion, which, if L. Ron Hubbard can do it, then seriously, why can’t I? – I would have my one and possibly only tenet be “Clean up your own mess.”)
Gratitude breeds more to be grateful for.
There is a very strong possibility that I will abandon my one handshake rule altogether. (I shake hands the first time I meet someone, but after that, it’s a hug.) Everyone could use a hug. So yeah, I’m gonna go with that. Hugs all around.
And lastly, love. That’s it. That’s the only thing eternal. Love is the force that propels us, keeps us grounded, compels us to act courageously, and breathes life into us. How well we love defines our existence, not just individually, but collectively. And that is perhaps my biggest take away from this week.
Thank you so much for stopping by. I wish you peace, blessings, and love.