Saturday, September 9, 2017

Disaster

I've been a little down in the dumps this week.  Part of it is the stress associated with back-to-school week.  It's getting back in the groove, getting used to nightly paperwork and homework, and dealing with all of the battles with Jacob that result from each of those things.  It has not gone particularly well.  Another part of it is work stress, as I have a number of projects that involve decision-making, which I am not good at.  My boss is extra stressed, too, and I feel like I can't help her the way I'd like. 

But I think the weight that is really dragging me down above and beyond the usual is the knowledge of the natural disasters that are impacting other parts of the country.  Natural disasters have always been hard for me to watch, but parenthood has elevated everything up to a whole new level.  Having kids raises the stakes and makes everything even more unfathomable. 

This round of disasters has been even more difficult thanks to a few recent doses of reality.  Six months ago, we were hit by a serious windstorm with 80mph winds.  Luckily I missed most of it in my bunker of an office, but what little I experienced was plenty.  I wouldn't have wanted to be home listening to my house creak or watching the trees bend, but I was rather anxious not knowing what was going on at home.  We were lucky because we only lost our grill, but other people were not as fortunate.  A number of houses were crushed by trees, and plenty of other houses lost shingles or had giant trees down in the yard.  My drive home from work brought on a helpless feeling I haven't felt very much before.  The wind was still whipping, and as I came across downed tree after downed tree, I realized that I wasn't safe in my car.  At any moment a giant tree or a piece of debris could come down on me.  I'm used to being nervous in the car in snowy weather, but for the most part you feel like you have some degree of control.  Yes, other cars and ice can take that control away, but the wind brought on a complete lack of control I wasn't expecting.  That fear was even worse once I picked up Carter and felt like I couldn't protect him the way I wanted to. 

More recently, a couple tornadoes hit Buffalo, right near where Craig's family lives.  One of them actually hit right down the road from his mom's office.  While we rarely get tornadoes in this area, it can happen...but mostly we can choose to ignore that.  But seeing damage, even something as simple as a bunch of car windows blown out in a parking lot, was a sobering reminder that they can happen--out of nowhere and very close to home.

It was hard to watch the coverage of Hurricane Harvey in Texas these last couple weeks, seeing so many families who were impacted by the flooding or the wind damage.  And now, with Irma approaching Florida, I actually know people who are evacuating (or not evacuating), and the reality is sobering.  People I personally know could be seriously affected by this storm.  Imagining how awful that would be if that was us was nearly unthinkable.  My first thoughts go to the complete upheaval of your life, the insurance hassles, and the cost of getting everything cleaned up and replaced.  I cringe at the thought of losing things of sentimental value--the photos, the mementos, the things I kept from my grandmothers' houses--or having to start from scratch with everything in our house, or how sad it would be to throw out all of the baby stuff instead of having the chance to donate it.  All of it was overwhelming a couple weeks ago as I watched that storm come through.

But now that Irma is going to hit Florida, it's become even more stress-inducing.  Knowing that people I know, or their close family members, are there and having to make the choice to evacuate hits so close to home.  And with the power of this storm--knowing what Andrew did there many years ago and this one is worse--it's so scary.  For whatever reason, this one really got me thinking about what I would really do if we were faced with a situation like that.  I came to the conclusion that I would feel completely paralyzed.  Part of me would be tortured by the thought of leaving my house, but the safety concerns are clearly huge.  But the thought of waiting in line and co-habitating for days on end with complete strangers?  That's pretty scary on its own.  I can't even fathom how horrible it must be to choose what you take with you, or to leave your home and your neighborhood knowing for sure that you won't ever see it like this again.  With a storm like this damage is a given, and it will be widespread.  Your entire neighborhood might not even be here anymore, let alone your house.  It has to be completely agonizing to leave, only to spend days not knowing how anything fared.  I feel like the stress of driving home afterward would be enough to send me into heart failure.  But being there during it would probably literally drive me insane, in addition to it being super unsafe.  But the reality I'm seeing now is that it's not as easy to evacuate as everyone would like to believe, that it takes money and the ability to be away from work and the availability of gas and supplies.  I just don't know what I would do. 

Then I think about the kids.  I think of how sad Carter would be to lose his cars or stuffed animals, or how upset Jacob would be to lose his Legos.  Heck, the Legos got a little mixed up when his cousin played with them at his birthday party and he flipped out a bit afterward when he couldn't find things.  What would happen if they were gone?  Sometimes I can see times where Jacob flips out more than you'd expect, and I think it's more anxiety than anything, a desire to control something controllable.  I can't even imagine what mental troubles we'd be dealing with if everything he knew and loved was gone.  I know it would devastate Carter, too, and their whole sense of security would be gone, possibly forever.  I don't do well with insecure situations like that either, so I can't imagine trying to keep the kids stable, too. 

I suppose that is part of the reason why we live here.  We probably could have moved elsewhere and made more money or found more opportunity, but between wanting to be close to our families and the downsides to living elsewhere (not just weather, but traffic, cost of living, etc.), it makes a little snow in the winter not sound so bad.  I truly don't mind living here, but it doesn't make it much easier to watch what's happening down south.  It's a bit of "survivor's guilt", I suppose, along with simple human compassion.  Why was I blessed to be born and to stay in an area like this that doesn't have these problems?  And why do so many other people's prayers go unanswered as they beg for the hurricane to shift?  And what can you do from here as all of these other people suffer?  I feel fortunate to be here, even as I complain about daily stuff that other people wish was their biggest problem.  But it's all so hard to know other people are going through hell, and yet still selfishly hoping that it's never our turn.  All I can do right now is keep everyone in my prayers.  It doesn't feel like enough, but it's all I've got.

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