weathering the storm

6 Nov

Hurricane Sandy…you biotch.

I live in New Jersey.  The “impact” of last week’s storm on my life was loss of power for one day.  Our heat was gone, too, but that was mere ironic coincidence and poor timing: our furnace just happened to break – unrelated.  It was “thanks” to getting my power back that I was able to see the devastation and destruction that took so much and too many…so close to me, my family and my friends in NY (where I grew up) and NJ (where I’ve become an honorary citizen who is now permitted to say “Jersey Strong”).  I felt something akin to guilt: guilt that I had what I had when so many others didn’t and that I was so minimally affected so near to others who lost so much.  In addition, I felt what could only be described as heartsick.  I was saddened, so sad…and I was shaken.

We ventured out the day after.  I cried when we first saw a tree had crashed through someone’s second story.  I didn’t think about the tree; I imagined the family that lived there, the happy times they shared there and wondered…what now?  I cried when I reluctantly turned on the news and saw houses that had burned to the ground, learned of the tragic loss of lives, saw images of people trapped in homes surrounded by water and heard stories of families that had lost everything.

I just cried.

Since my office was flooded, without power and I was unable to get into the city for work anyway, I sat at home.  I scoured the internet for ways to help.  Yes, I wanted to help – desperately.  I consider myself a giving person.  But, the imperfect thing about helping is often that we don’t do it just because we are selfless.  Sometimes we do it because we are selfish.  (Yes, I realize I’m describing the question of true altruism as though I just invented it).  I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened and helping was just as much for me as it was for the people we were helping/hoping to help. I felt powerless and needed to do something, anything.  We brought water and hot coffee to a local senior center that was without power.  I filled out a form for the Red Cross.  They called us back and we went to a volunteer training.  Then, we waited.

And, the sadness continued.

But, in between…we went out to dinner.  I sat on my laptop and edited a spreadsheet.  Our traffic lights came on.  The trees were brought to the curb.  I made tea in our Keurig.  I checked Jezebel.  I curled up with a blanket and re-read Life of Pi.  I finished a scrapbook page by candlelight.  I watched movies and caught up on my DVR shows.  I laughed.  I can’t remember a specific moment, but I’m sure I laughed.

I couldn’t deal with the juxtaposition.  I was on this weird, alternate universe ‘staycation’ while the world had turned upside down for so many.

“How are you guys?” – came the texts and e-mails (of which I sent many similar).

“We were lucky,” was my standard reply.

But, that can’t be right.  By default that implies being lucky for some and unlucky for others is all there is to this; this isn’t the lottery and that doesn’t do justice to the horror, the tragedy.  It’s not what I meant.

What I meant…what I mean…well… there are no words for that.

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