Storms: The Deep Breath

Photo: Ryan Moreno

Photo: Ryan Moreno

We've made it. The storm has passed. Typically, this is the time when we assess if there's any major or minor damage, determine our next steps and start moving forward. But, before fully jumping into the post-storm endeavors, please join me in taking a deep breath. 

When it comes to our post-storm health, I've found how it can be easy to get back into "normal" life without taking actual stock of how we're really doing. Wanting to put the storm behind us, we may rush ahead to wrap it up. We're usually attuned to realities in our environments, including the people around us and tasks that need to get done, but... What about the toll the storm took on our bodies, minds, and emotions?

In the days that followed Irma, those I encountered here in Orlando were tired and ready for our power to return. Slowly but surely, it did. Still, debris lined the streets (and currently does, actually) and I began to observe a shift in dialogue on social platforms as basic needs were met again. Most of the questions and concerns posted in my neighborhood group were about eradicating the memories of the storm by ensuring debris was quickly picked up from the curbs. The city, working hard to perform a myriad of tasks post-storm, encouraged us to notice that 4.5 months-worth of yard debris awaited pick-up by trucks that had limitations with workers who were already working deeply into overtime. That news was likely very unwelcome to some.

Just a few days prior to the storm, I'd booked a trip to Colorado and after a week post-Irma hopped on a plane headed westbound. My trip provided me with space and time to reflect. I had no idea how much I needed both. Given that life had mostly returned to "normal," I was amazed by how tired I was when I arrived. I spent no less than the first two full days of my trip in PJ's. Every time I thought of getting some work done, I opted to watch another old episode of Monk. (Anyone else out there who loves him??) 

The fatigue pointed to a larger perspective on the storm. My body wasn't ready to rush ahead. The achy, tired physical part of me was saying, "Hey there, stop for a while. Rest. Recover. You've just been through a big ordeal." But, the logical part of me was like, "That's over... You've gotten behind on all of the things! Time to get back to work!"

My Mom encouraged the rest. I felt like, "Are you crazy? Didn't I just get rest when everything shut down for a few days?" I may have also said something along these lines to her while omitting anything to do with crazy... You can see that it took me a while to take a deep breath, yes? But, she was right. My body was right. Even though we didn't experience the worst of the storm, everything leading up to it and the process of going through it meant something. Even if we didn't lose people or property, we lost productivity, some forms of connection, comfort, structure... And, our bodies needed time to grieve our losses.

Culturally, we're not very proficient in grief. We tend to move through it quickly and without much thought. This is a generalization, of course, but I have found it true in my experience with loss. We often don't identify our minor losses as pieces of death that we need to grieve, but we experience the fruit of burying them without gazing upon the face of what we lost. Agitation, impatience, anger, sadness, numbness, denial, exhaustion... Each of these showed up in post-Irma Orlando. I saw it on the roads, in the grocery stores, and in my newsfeed. What if we all took a collective deep breath, though? What would we notice? 

After soaking in 50 degree days and mountain air, I returned to Orlando. In the week or so since, I've taken a freshly infused joy in seeing the debris piled high on the curbs of my neighborhood. It's a reminder that it's okay to still feel the loss of control and comfort. It's okay to be tired right now. It's okay to take the days as they come and work hard but press more fully into rest. Browned leaves and tree branches remind me of those who have lost more than I have, too. I'm remembering how my love and time and resources are needed by others who are experiencing profound loss and need some hope. I'm not wishing the grief away today. I'm taking a deep breath and remembering what is important, what I need and who I am after seeing how I encountered my small losses.

And in the days to come, I'll focus on wrapping up this experience of loss. But for now, join me in taking a deep breath. The storm has passed. We are standing. Let's be willing to notice what it all feels like. Stay here for a while, won't you? Write, paint, draw, create a spreadsheet, share with a friend—be yourself—and employ your creativity to capture what it's like here.