I write these words with relief… A relief that my life, my family, friends and my house were spared by Hurricane Matthew. I also write with a sincere grief for the ones who didn’t make it. For the ones who COULDN’T make it. The ones who suffered any kind of loss, material or emotional… or both. My heart goes to them, as I feel that it was only a matter of geography that I am not among the unfortunate ones.
As a Florida resident, I am pretty much blessed with good weather throughout the year but here’s the caveat: the possibility that a brutal force of nature grants us a visit between the months of June and November and create havoc in our lives. We don’t know exactly if it will hit us or when and for how long it will stay but the silence threat is always there, hovering our heads. It’s always a possibility. And we live with that.
Well, like any sensible person in face of an imminent danger, I did as much as I could to prepare for the unwelcoming visitor. Actually, I should say WE as a family. All of us in the household were in hurricane-defense mode… Well, the kids not so much, their approach was a little bit different. They were just too excited, thrilled with anticipation of a close encounter with Matthew (the fact that there would be no school for a couple of days helped, too). The bright side (if there is one) of this phenomenon of nature is that time is our ally. Yes, there is time to get ready. And get ready we did! Bottles of water, ice, bread, cheese, nuts, fruits, crackers… Wine. Batteries, flashlights. Check, check, check.
Being a man that doesn’t leave anything to chance and with his survival and safeguard instincts at full throttle, my husband blurted out: ”How about canned food? Did you buy canned food?”
“How come ‘No’?“
“Why? The only canned food I usually buy is tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and refried beans. What do you want me to buy? Spam? Is Spam considered food?”
I had no idea what kind of canned food to buy, really. Just to comply with the urgency of the situation I got a can of “premium chunk white chicken”. Yeah, you read it right. ONE can. There was only one on that shelf in the packed grocery store. Canned food? I felt a little bit ridiculous buying that can but… Check then! I had made sure that we had plenty of food (at least in bananas and apples), the type we usually have at home. No, I don’t use a nature menace as a free-pass to buy junk. Stuff our faces with things that can help form a hurricane in our insides? I don’t think so. For me, this is not a good reason to aggravate an already potential bad situation.
So we took care of our yard (although for this one we would need a miracle as it usually floods in case of any heavy storm anyway), closed the shutters, put gas in our cars, rearranged the pots of plants inside the garage, turned the AC to freezing just in case. Our generator failed us: it broke down and couldn’t be fixed. Well, too bad. Really, it would be very bad but not the end of the world. And we waited. We waited.
We did all this while getting the weather updates online. As I said in another post, we don’t watch the news and by avoiding the media frenzy with its graphics and alarming voices we could keep our heads leveled. No room for unnecessary panic and concerns. Driving around the town, though, the agitation was palpable. The tension in the air was so thick one had the feeling it could be sliced. No, thank you, no slice of panic pie for me, I’ll pass it. I drove through traffic accidents, witnessed people yelling at each other at stores, stared at empty shelves and endless lines in gas stations… Being exposed to all that was unsettling. I just wanted to finish what I had to do and go back to my cocoon. Safe and sound.
If that giant thing had hit us full force my story would be different now, most likely, a sad one. It’s better, though, to deal with facts than with an overactive imagination. Especially mine. My take was, I did what was humanly possible to protect my family and my house and also turned to my faith in the divine, humbly asking for protection and strength to endure whatever was coming our way. That’s about it, clean conscious, nothing else could be done.
In situations like that I always remember something that a co-worker said many years ago in the face of the same threat, a hurricane (that I don’t recall the name, by the way). It was a simple but distinct message that put all in perspective, and I mean everything else, not only on nature disasters, and that’s the reason it usually comes to my mind every often.
This gentleman worked on his own headquarters (his home), and it was not a regular at the office, but every once in a while he showed up to check in person his “entourage” (his assistants) or to have meetings or maybe just to say hi. He always gave me the impression that he didn’t walk, he glided through the halls, greeting everyone with a smile, starting a conversation… A true breeze spreading a much needed good mood in a work environment cursed by deadlines and demanding clients. There he was: smooth, always smiling, looking fresh, laughing. His usual carefree behavior stood out so much in that pre-hurricane frantic office the he almost looked like a hologram of himself. His posture, behavior and probably unchanged breathing patterns made someone asked if he was not worried about the hurricane at all. His answer: “If something is under my control… Why worry? If it’s not, why worry?”. And away he went, surrounded by flying birds, flowers and hearts, like a happy Disney character. He was no fool or delusional, I could tell, he could show a stern face when needed but his attitude was always like that. The day he brought his son to the office and introduced him to each one of us, I tell you, that boy had the same attitude, flashy smile, the same presence than his dad. Great, this is what the world needs: people that don’t suck you blood dry but inspire and uplift you.
If only this guy could’ve imagined the effects of that calm and composed comment on me. It was a “Bingo”, an “Eureka”, a “Gooooool!” moment. I mentally agreed with him on the spot: if it’s under my control, it’s up to me to have the desired outcome; if it’s not, I don’t waste time and energy, it’s beyond me, after all. Hurricane-related or not. His words (or words that he heard from someone else, I don’t know) had depth. I finished tidying up my cubicle and unplugging my computer feeling a little better.
I no longer work at that office, I don’t know what happened to him but I never forgot what he said. That guy might have aged but he will never get old.
Now back to Matthew. Of course my husband and I took it seriously. Nobody in the right mind should defy the power of nature, ever. Fortunately, it didn’t hit us directly, to the dismay of our thrill-seekers kids and to the contentment of us, the apprehensive adults. Sincerely I would never really know what it would have done to us and I’m not interested in imagining.
You see, like the sun that shines on everyone – regardless if you’re a good or an evil person, regardless of your opinions and religion, man or woman or animal – a hurricane or any other nature disaster is also non-discriminatory. It’s nothing personal, it’s not forcefully directed to anybody or to a group in particular, in revenge or anger. Yet, it has the power, in a certain way, to reduce us in what we really are: tiny creatures living in a ball of dirt in this vast Universe. And this ball is also a tiny freckle compared to many other things out there. In the scheme of things, we are a speck of dust, dust with vanity, with pettiness. That should vanish in face of a disaster or a personal tragedy. Being humble, respectful is the key to accept what we can’t control. It’s different from being passive or defeated, that’s why we should pick our battles carefully. Fighting for the last bag of chips is apparently an error of judgement but depending on the circumstances it’s not. We should know the difference and let go of that kind of control that doesn’t take us anywhere.
Resilience is the word. We must do, fix, what’s under our control and we will. What was destroyed will be rebuild. The lives lost in the hurricane, though, are wounds that will never be healed but we must learn to accept that. Only then we can really see that after every storm the waters dry, the sun shines and the sky is blue again with a promise of better days even among destruction, debris and broken hearts. Like a blessing, the wind whispers for us to keep going. It’s the only way anyway. Life prevails.