For the past week, Floridians have braced themselves for what could be the worst natural disaster we have faced thus far…Hurricane Irma. Between the recent destruction hurricane Harvey brought to Texas, and watching hurricane Irma attack island after island almost in slow motion, families have been faced with days of fear, anxious preparation, and really tough decisions. The burning question in my house has been “Do we stay or do we skip town?” A question that has been analyzed with every possible scenario being explored. Although we are yet to face the storm, (it is now looking like we will be hit by the outer bands of the hurricane sometime this evening), the waiting process in it of itself has been torturous.
For me, this time has been one of deep reflection and realizations.
On Wednesday morning, around 12:30a.m., my husband, who’d been watching the news in the living room, opened the door of our bedroom and gently shoved me to wake up. “Caro, I’m going to fill up the gas tank and we are going to Georgia. Get up and start getting ready.”
Panic set in. Oh my God, this is serious. Swiftly I got out of bed and went into preparation mode. What do I need to protect? What should I take? My first move was to pack a few outfits, a jacket for all of us, and our toiletries. Immediately after I gathered my hard drives that contain pictures and videos of my children, my wedding album, and my box full of postcards my father sent me. I kept looking around. I tried to focus. What am I forgetting? I couldn’t think of anything else. Pacing around, looking at my beautiful home, I kept thinking how will I feel if I lose this painting, or this piece of furniture, or this TV.
My answer was consistent.
It doesn’t matter what happens to those things.
In fact, the only thing I cared about, at all, was my family’s safety. What a liberating moment. For two years since my father’s death, I have agonized over what to keep of his and what to toss. Rummaging through every one of his papers and files, I feared losing a treasure. Suddenly I found myself thinking I could lose it all in one sweep, and it didn’t bother me at all. On the contrary, now it made sense. Everything I need to hold on to I carry with me, in my heart and my mind. No hurricane can take that from me unless it takes my life.
After all that turmoil and packing, fear of the heavy traffic and gas shortage changed our course of action. We were back to staying home. With the hurricane still days away, but closed schools and offices keeping us home, I grabbed the bikes to take my kids out to ride. For two days, we spent hours riding outside with friends and our neighbors’ kids. This was the first time since we moved into our house three years ago, that our kids played with the neighbors kids. Looking at my street filled with children having fun and not worried about getting their homework done or getting to soccer practice was delightful. I found myself secretly thanking the universe for giving me a few days before the storm to enjoy my children and the outdoors.
Once we were anchored, our home became the hub for the family. Little by little, our evacuated members have arrived with air mattresses, food, water and flashlights. My kids are thrilled to have a slumber party with all their favorite people at once. We’ve spent the days preparing for the storm, and the evenings laughing, eating and joking with our family. Despite the worry and the anxiety, we are finding peace in being together.
As of now, the news is offering some relief that the storm has shifted and is no longer as big a threat to our lives.
We may have dodged a huge bullet this time around, even though we are all currently playing the waiting game. But already the threat of this natural disaster has given me a gift.
The gift of perspective.
I’ve learned that in life we often have no control over how things are going to turn out. More often than not, we are faced with choices and each option can lead us down a different path. There is no way to know which answer is the correct one but the uncertainty causes more pain than the path. Trust in yourself. Weigh your options, make a calculated decision, take action, and have faith that things will work out.
I’ve learned that community matters. Surround yourself with the people you love. Help each other. Stick together. Laugh and love each other. Nothing matters more than that.
I’ve learned that the only real fear in life is the loss of it. Other fears are often fabricated or exaggerated in our minds. But when one is in a life-threatening situation, things that seemed overwhelming in the past become trivial. If we could somehow bottle that wisdom up and open it in times of stress, we would eliminate most of the unnecessary fear we place on ourselves.
I’ve learned that material things don’t matter, time does. Time well spent with family and time to enjoy life. The time we have is our most prized possession and sometimes it takes the universe to force us to STOP the grind and just be present in the moment. Even if that moment is a bad one, it pulls us together and brings out the best in us. This creates memories that will last forever.
I am not sure why there are so many natural disasters occurring around the world, nor why there is so much destruction and devastation. It is all happening so fast and all at once. But my hope is that we can focus on the gifts instead of the grief. We humans are resilient beings, we can lose it all and still come out strong. As we band together to repair and rebuild what has been lost in the face of these disasters, I hope we can all remember to look around and reconstruct this Earth with the most powerful weapons we have…love, hope, and the power of working together.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families all over the world suffering from earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes. Wishing everyone peace and strength during these times.