The last 11 days have been something. I am having trouble finding a good word to describe them. Bad, heartbreaking, scary, weird, different, emotional…no one word works. They were just something. Watching the water rise up out of our pool and flow onto the back patio and then around the house was a relief. Watching street after street on the news fill up and flood houses, cars, and businesses was almost surreal. I could see the unending rain, but the water here just flowed away. Away down to those places that were filling up. And I didn’t know what to think or feel. I’m good at not thinking or feeling anything so I think I tried to do that. Be numb to it all.
The tornado warnings and flood warnings were coming every 15 minutes those first few days. So much that we didn’t move off the couch after the first few. We just hoped that we would hear the train like sound they say comes with a tornado, and we relied on Candied Jansen who said it didn’t smell like a tornado yet. And we complained that the TV was giving us repeated flood warnings when so much was already under water. It felt like a slap in the face.
Schools closed and offices told their people to stay home so we did. The first Friday off of school seemed like a vacation. I got caught up on some school stuff and felt like I’d had a nice day long reprieve from normal. And then it turned into more days and it didn’t seem like a reprieve anymore. Where was normal?
But then shelters started opening for people who needed to leave their flooded lives, and it sounded like a good idea to go and volunteer. But the shelters close to home quickly filled with volunteers and weren’t taking anyone else. The powers that be on the TV said stay at home and don’t get out into it unless you have to. So we sat at home and watched and waited and felt and I tried to numb it all.
My daughter who is struggling with life right now was staying with a friend, and I worried she would do something stupid and go out in the flood looking for fun. She seems to only be concerned with having fun lately. So I worried, but I didn’t want her with me because I am not her type of fun and that would have caused more stress and different feelings. So I checked in with her but that was all.
My wasband and his wife were already weathering a different type of storm when the rain and winds and floods of Harvey left them with two and a half feet of water in their house. They couldn’t do much about it because her health was very precarious and she was in the hospital fighting a serious infection. Their friends rallied around them to help with their house. He messaged that some keepsakes from when the kids were little were beyond salvageable, and my response was for him to not tell me what was lost so I didn’t have to grieve it.
Day after day and night after night, we saw and heard of the destruction on the news. Every station showed us what was happening. They didn’t even have to replay the stories. Every day and hour and minute was filled with tornados, street flooding, mandatory evacuations, cars, lives, people…all experiencing it in that moment. I got tired of seeing it and not being able to process it so we changed the channel to movies and recorded shows.
Sleep was fitful at best. It was scary to stay asleep for very long at first. We might be need to evacuate. We might need to hunker down. We might need to prepare for the worst. Then when exhaustion finally hit, the sleep that came wasn’t restful. Dreams/nightmares of things not remembered made for tossing and turning and dark circles in the daylight.
When we were finally cleared to leave, Candied Jansen and I went to help some friends who had several feet of water in their house. I don’t know how much actual help we were, because there was so much to do. We carried boxes and cleaned out a closet, but in the grand scheme of things, it was such a tiny portion of their loss. I felt overwhelmed at the enormity of all they had to do.
At first Candied Jansen and I weathered the storm fairly well. But then we didn’t. Tempers were shorter and all of my bottled up feelings came out as arguing and frustration and hurt. Dealing with my fun daughter caused more arguing and frustration and hurt. Candied Jansen is a feeler. She is quite intuitive but because I wasn’t allowing myself to actually feel any of my feelings all she got from me was the arguing, frustration, and hurt.
Yesterday, we watched Collateral Beauty together and I sobbed. All of the feelings that I had bottled up came out and spilled over again and again and again. We watched Selena and I sobbed some more. Words didn’t come…just feelings and tears. So many tears.
Today was the first day back at school for teachers. The school psychologist shared with us about how we can help the kids deal with the trauma that we as a community have faced over the last 11 days and counting. He did so by dealing with us in the same way. Tears silently rolled down my face as person after person shared how they felt during the floods. Of the 25 or so who shared, only two were actually displaced because their house flooded. The survivor’s guilt and the helpless/hopeless feelings everyone described helped me to understand that this was a traumatic event even for me. As I sat in my dry house with electricity and a fully stocked pantry and refrigerator, I experienced trauma, and I hadn’t handled it well.
These are the first words I’ve shared about all that I’ve felt. It’s the first time I’ve really been able to put words to it. I know there will be more feelings to process and the idea of that exhausts me. I already feel depleted of strength. Harvey hit at a time when I was already emotional over my fun daughter’s life choices. I was in a weak and vulnerable place. But I know I can’t bottle it up. It wasn’t pretty and caused some damage to my relationship with Candied Jansen.
Candied Jansen and I still aren’t doing well. The hurt is still there. It is one of my biggest fears and regrets. She is one of the best things to ever happen to me. She is fun and crazy, loving and sweet, and is the best at giving of herself. She makes me want to do better and have more fun and get to know people. She makes me think beyond myself and my situations. I love her more than I have words to express.