I purposely waited until Irma passed through Florida to write this blog post. I admit that a tiny part of me feared if I blogged while learning of an impending hurricane, that I just might jinx it and make it worse. Instead, during my preparatory steps before Irma made landfall, I eased my anxiety by self-narrating my thoughts about my actions and feelings. (This is a nice mindfulness technique of taking the Observer view rather than that of a Victim.)
Before a potential hurricane and all season long, we are encouraged to stock up on water, flashlights, batteries, and non-perishable foods. In my frequent trips to Publix to buy food (I did buy some perishables in denial of the impending power outages), I had much trepidation about the crowds and long lines.
On most of the trips, I met with few lines but many completely empty shelves. There was no bottled water other than some gourmet brands, no batteries, and no paper plates to be found in my nearby stores. There were plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, and all the other real foods found along the perimeter of the store. The cookie and chip aisle, however, was almost completely empty. Each cashier I spoke with in my trips to the store told me the Oreo’s sold out first.
After all my years of working with people with food issues, it is still interesting to me that the Oreos would be purchased first and seemingly frantically. The pull of addictive foods – both emotional and physiological – is so very strong, and it can seem more compelling than the sometimes slower gifts of recovery.
I learned that my home was in an evacuation zone just a few days before the hurricane was supposed to hit the area. It became abundantly clear that I have accumulated many things over the various stages of my life. I have artwork made by my three children, and memorabilia from my family of origin, and from the family I created. I have some souvenirs dating back to my youth, and other family heirlooms. I love to touch these things with my eyes while they can also weigh heavily in my heart.
I had to decide what to take with me to shelter the storm, what to lock up, and what things to leave behind and be at peace if they were ruined. In comparison to many others in these situations, I had the luxury of time to decide, and spent the three days up to the evacuation time organizing, moving things, and packing up. I viewed all my things, I made decisions, and I also cried. I allowed myself breaks to both grieve losses and celebrate milestones.
My life is where I am today, not back in those photos or in my grandmother’s soft cashmere sweater. I am very much living in the present, but those things took me back in time. I felt like I had time-traveled even before the whirlwind of Irma was upon me. A hurricane can be nature’s way of tree-trimming, and this process was a natural part of grieving life’s losses.
Like most others I know, my available foods looked somewhat different than I typically eat when there is no hurricane. I ran out of some staples that have still not been restocked in the grocery stores. I have gotten creative with canned foods, too. As the stores re-stock, so do I. It is a gentle process to nourish ourselves.
I’m reflecting on some of my rather pleasant takeaways from Hurricane Irma. You are welcome to try them, too!
I am committing to:
- Get back to doing more service or volunteer work to help where I best can
- See and talk to my kids more often (they’re independent young adults now)
- Put my cell phone aside in favor of in-person conversations
- Take a more structured quiet time to reflect and note what I am grateful for
- Purposefully spend time with some of my life’s treasures and not wait until the next hurricane to do so
I appreciate each of you and hope you also walked this storm okay.