This is an open love letter to the survivors of Hurricane Sandy and all of those touched by this disaster. And that, actually, includes us all, for no matter how much in the middle or on the sidelines of something like this we stand, its impact hits everyone, and in this moment of national pain and challenge, it will take us all to move forward together to heal and recovery.
The Inner Bottom Line ®
A Column on Personal Choices & Ethical Dilemmas by Olive Gallagher
November 1, 2012
“Getting On…Not Getting Over”
In light of the utter, incomprehensible devastation from Super Storm Sandy facing so many millions of people, it seems the appropriate moment to offer some simple thoughts that hopefully can be of comfort and use.
No matter how seemingly small or large your loss may be, loss is loss. And as such, part of the horrific experience is what happens, how you feel about it, and what you do with those feelings once you come out the other side having physically survived the ordeal.
With any disaster, there’s the adrenalin build-up as the threat approaches. In this case, there were more than seconds or minutes or even hours to anticipate, worry, and plan. There were days since the weather experts in this country did a phenomenal job of warning us of what was heading our way. http://is.gd/F5DMaY And while that was an immense blessing, it also prolonged the dreadful anticipation, during which time imaginations can get the best of our best intentions and determination.
And then, as the first impact of the storm began to hit, there were the countdown hours watching it crawl across our television or phone screens, like watching a bullet heading towards us in slow motion, as the minute-by-minute reports kept us apprised of every few feet of higher water as tides and surge combined with the unthinkable power of the ocean began the assault on our shores.
And then, as the deluge roared across land, taking everything and anyone in its wake with despicable ease, those in its path hunkered down to wait it out, praying and hoping and bargaining that they would somehow come through alive, untouched and intact.
I’ve lived through a flood of national proportion as well as several hurricanes and a handful of earthquakes. You never forget what it feels and looks and sounds and smells like. I’m fully acquainted with the painful, mind and life-shattering process surviving any disaster demands, and while each one differs in geography and scope, all of the rituals, on a small or large scale, still have much in common.
But then, the immediate horror passes. The waters abate, the rain and wind passes on, and only then does the truly painful, hard and stark reality of survival and rebuilding hit us.
That’s where so many millions of people are today in the process. Facing what’s left and handling the initial and immense challenge of cleaning up their lives and getting on with it. http://is.gd/ItrEQu
This is where the real challenge, pain and opportunity on The Inner Bottom Line begins. For in all this loss is also the promise of renewal and recovery. A reboot.
I spoke about this on The Inner Bottom Line Night Time radio show last evening on blogtalkradio. One of things I stressed is the sometimes seemingly impossible task of managing the multiple, conflicting feelings of frustration, anger, depression, sadness and futility that so many folks are bound to be feeling, either right now or later once they leave behind denial and reality hits them. Any kind of loss demands mourning. And everyone touched by this disaster will be experiencing the stages of mourning, just like we do when someone we know and love dies.
A lot has died or been obliterated, in addition to the tragic deaths of dozens of loved ones. Along with the forgettable, replaceable things like refrigerators, televisions, beds, and groceries, precious things that held memories of special moments or loved ones are gone forever: tokens, irreplaceable photographs, recipes handed down through the family, a tattered, stuffed animal, faded ticket stubs from a night to remember.
In the face of that kind of heart-beat loss, please remember when the platitudes start, and they will come, that you never get over loss, you just get on with it.
In moments like this, just as there was on 9/11, there’s a surreal element to resuming the quotidian of our lives. The clock ticks on, food is eaten, sleep is attempted, attempts to reach out and connect with loved ones and colleagues begin. http://is.gd/glUoX6
And then there are the platitudes. The totally loving, well-intended comments from others trying so hard to help and comfort and support you. Statements such as “well, at least you’re alive. You can always rebuild.” Or the predictable, “It’s just stuff; just be grateful.” And of course, on some level, you probably are. But you’re also still in shock, and probably disoriented, scared, and on your way to being justifiably angry.
And that’s totally understandable. Everything in your life has been either ripped away from you or turned upside down. Every boundary, every item, every routine that you had built your life upon is either destroyed or damaged.
And in this stripped, naked, vulnerable state lies the possibility for renewal and new choices. As you move through the next few weeks and begin to regain an elemental sense of control over your life and things again, you will have the priceless chance to rethink everything. I mean EVERYTHING.
Did you really need or even like half of the “stuff” you had accumulated. Did it really enrich your life, and was it truly irreplaceable, like the wedding album or children’s report cards, or was it just something to have to take care, dust, polish, store, worry about, insure or go into debt to obtain?
There’s something incredibly enervating about being stripped down to the basics; the essentials we need to feel safe and comfortable. A bed, clean towels and sheets, a bath, a toothbrush, a toilet, clothes that handle whatever climate we’re dealing with, enough food to stave off real hunger, and shelter in which we can feel safe and at ease. After those elemental survival needs are met, all the rest is icing on the cake. It can taste great, but is not particular good for us or nutritious. And it doesn’t really add anything invaluable to our bodies or souls.
Stuff is kind of like that, too. So in this moment of renewal, please remember, on The Inner Bottom Line, where values and choices meet, that in the course of an average day, you will make thousands of choices everyday. And right now, moving forward, you will have the opportunity to make a lot of really important choices, because the values in your life that are non-negotiable – things like health and safety and freedom and love – will determine the choices you make, and the choices you make will determine the value of your new life.
My loving thoughts and prayers go out to everyone facing these hard, scary but incredibly empowering choices ahead in the coming weeks and months.
You can submit your questions or book private phone sessions with Olive at theinnerbottomline.com, explore her new blog at whatskeepingyouawakeatnight.com, or call into her blogtalkradio.com show, “The Inner Bottom Line,” at 661-449-14225 with your questions. All letters and calls can be anonymous and confidential.
Kindle and audio versions along with the hard cover of Olive’s book, The Nude Ethicist: A Simple Path to The Good Life, are now available on amazon.com.