January 1, 1970


The air is thick outside and heavy with the scent of Gulf island tears.

I know you’re prepared. Probably over prepared. I’m proud of you. Now, if need be, you can help someone else who couldn’t prepare.

One label for the anxious feelings some of us are experiencing is PTSD. If those of us who live on the Gulf Coast are labeled “traumatized” and triggered by the mention of a heavy rainfall then it ought to come with a dang merit badge and a certificate. We earned it.

Allow me to suggest another framing of our current experience.

We know what it’s like to be swept into a current moving faster than we can swim. Literal. Figurative. Anticipating that current, the moment when the ground is washed from beneath our feet, is really tough. Dread weighs us down. Makes it less likely we will keep our heads above water.

If we’ve been swept away before, shipwrecked, and washed up on an unfamiliar shore, when a new threat appears, we will turn our thoughts to the past. Dreading destruction.

Empty reassurances will not help. Admonishments to be positive are positively aggravating.

Turning our attention to past upheaval is normal and useful. IF. IF.

When memories of past storms resurface it’s an opportunity to reflect upon how we moved forward after the last upheaval. Who was on our team? What strengths and resources allowed us to face loss and restart our lives? What aspects of our character are well suited to handling disruption? Are we good planners, good improvisers, cautious savers? What practical skills come in handy when things that ordinarily work, stop working?

Whatever our strengths may be, it is good to review them. Quick but earnest scan. And scan the strengths of those around us too. Taking a quick inventory of those strengths that allowed us to face adversity in the past, identifying all the resources currently at our disposal, is how we take our past experience and turn it into useful anticipation. We change dread into emotional readiness.

We mustn’t try to deny our difficult memories when they intrude. If our home has flooded twice, a hard rain washes up our soggy angst. We still have mold in our emotional walls. But our response to those memories isn’t to add more drywall, it’s to shine a bright light on the strengths that got us through, the friends that held our hand, the inevitable lessons learned. The practical knowledge we now possess.

We need to know what we’re made of and disasters teach us that. You’ve got that badge now. You’re a certified rider of rough water.PS : if you feel like there have been too many threats to take in and too prolonged a sense of dread, you might be saying “f*#k it. Let the storm winds blow. I’m just popping a top and scrolling through the entertainment options.” Tempting. But you’ll feel better with a quick prep and survey of resources.

Wrote this for me and for everyone in the eye of a storm. Of any kind.



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