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Hello, lovely...

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I Can See Clearly Now...

I Can See Clearly Now...

I have started and stopped this post for almost two weeks now.  I haven't yet appropriately processed my "new normal" but I guess there is no time like the present to begin...

At about midnight on August 27, 2017, flood water entered my home...and it just didn't stop. Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Texas.  It wreaked havoc on Houston.  It wreaked havoc on me...

9 hours later, a boat...a freakin' boat... pulled up to my front door on McKnight Street.  I loaded three bags of the stuff I could grab, my dog, my memories and my heart into the boat, took a seat and watched as a family friend, a stranger and my husband walked that boat through chest-high water three miles to safety.  I never looked back towards the house as we waded away.  I couldn't.  I didn't want to remember my house like that.  All I know is that when I finally waded out of the house carrying a thirty pound terrified corgi wrapped in a sheet, the first thing I noticed was not all the standing water, it was not the deluge of rain that was falling from the sky, it was not the fact that a boat...a freakin' boat...was there to evacuate us, but it was that I could no longer see the Yard of the Month sign in the yard.  I felt a catch in my throat as I thought about how just one week before this nightmare, I felt like after 10 years of home ownership and careful maintenance, I had achieved a goal to win Yard of the Month...and now I was in a boat...a freakin' boat...wading somewhere above that sign that I could not see.  

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I don't know how long it took to get to the truck that would eventually drive us to the safety of my parents' home, but it felt like forever.  I felt silly sitting in the boat while my husband, the stranger and our close family friend walked this motor-less boat through streets full of water, careful not to walk into submerged cars and trucks that we just knew were there but couldn't see (let that sink in - there was so much water that our boat was hovering easily 6 inches above the tops of vehicles...). I offered to help them navigate the currents, but like southern gentlemen, they declined my offer.  And so I sat there looking ridiculous...and feeling helpless...all while trying to console my dog who now can't stand the sound of rain, or running water for that matter, all because of that intense and other-worldly three mile ride through the eerie streets filled with rain water that came from nowhere. 

Surprisingly, I didn't cry during the evacuation.  I saved those tears for the moment I stepped foot on my parents' property and knew I was safe.  In that moment, I grabbed onto our family friend who so selflessly put himself into harm's way to walk his little boat three miles to rescue us...and I lost all composure.  I tried to say thank you but all I could do was cry.  Somehow he knew what those tears meant.  And as he is known to do, he smiled, said, "it's no problem" and passed me over to my mother who did what mom's do and just held onto me and said, "you're home."  

My dad cried.  He never cries.  My husband cried.  He never cries.  And so we just stood there in the rain...crying.  With gratitude, of course, but I think it was also a little bit because we were all scared and no one wanted to admit it - or couldn't admit it - until that very moment.

The next few hours were a blur.  People dropped by the house, I showered, I slept a little, I cried some more.  I gave my dog a bath - something I never do - and cried the entire time while whispering "I'm sorry" to her while gently working shampoo into her fur.  She looked back at me and just looked tired.  

I hauled the only belongings I had - in those three bags - into my old bedroom at my folks' house.  I exhaled and said, "I'm back."  You see - we've been here before.  Floods are nothing new to me.  Who says that?  Me, I guess...

Because I've been here before, the motions are easy to go through.   It's the emotions I'm having the hard time with.  

You see, I know how to file insurance claims and place financial value on lost items.  I know how to put belongings into trash bags and haul them to the curb.  I know how to hire a crew to rip out walls and sheetrock and cabinets and floors. It's nothing to me to mark furniture with red or yellow tape to differentiate between what goes and what stays (although it's mostly red this time...).  Those are the motions.  

But what I can't seem to do is answer the hard questions - "how are you feeling?" "what the hell just happened?" "What's next?" Those questions drum up the emotions I'm not really ready to process just yet.  In the days after the storm, I was in "go mode" - I kept pushing forward because there was just so much to do that I didn't have time to stop and just feel. Well now that the dust has settled, the claims are all filed, the tears are shed, the news is reported, and the walls are ripped out, the adrenaline has worn off and I finally have to feel things.  

People keep telling me how "resilient" I am and how much in awe they are of how I am handling things.  I get it - I'm putting on a brave face and keeping things in perspective. I try to make little jokes here and there to keep things light. But on the inside, I'm pretty broken.  And I feel ridiculous saying that...

As I watched hours and hours and hours of news coverage, I saw stories of people who are far worse off than us.  People who didn't know someone with a boat to float them out of their homes.  People who don't have insurance.  People who have never been through something like this.  People who don't have family or friends who can offer a bed or a meal.  So in the grand scheme of things, did we lose mostly everything?  Sure.  But do we have nothing?  Not even close. And so that's why I feel ridiculous.  And that's probably why I haven't allowed myself to feel what I'm truly feeling...which is broken.

The first time we flooded, lots of people told me to not cry or feel sad and encouraged me to think about how great things would be on the other side of it all. And so I sort of put my real feelings aside and focused on the future and on how we would rebuild and how it would be better than we could have ever imagined.  And it was....

And that big beautiful future just got washed away under waist-high water for the second time.

I get that what we lost are "things" - cars, furniture, clothes, heirlooms.  And I get that "things" can be replaced.  But this experience isn't easy to process or deal with or make sense of. And I don't know that it should be.  After all, no one should ever have to live through one flood, let alone two.  No one should ever have to leave their home in a freakin' boat unless it's on purpose and for enjoyment.  Sure, there are the hard things in life that make life colorful and challenging and rewarding.  And then there are the other things.  This falls into the "other things" category...

I am not naive - I see the blessings right in front of my face.  I am alive, I have a family who took me, my husband and my dog in, and I have insurance.  For that I am grateful.  But I'm also just trying to make sense of the fact that this happened again.  I've been avoiding going back to the house for a week now because the city hasn't had the chance to come pick up the piles of sheetrock and flooring and furniture and belongings and memories that litter my curb.  I struggle with driving down the street towards my house because I just don't know that I can handle the sinking feeling that is seeing my life strewn about on the curb like trash.  I'll get there, but it's just going to be hard for a while.  And that's OK.

A wise friend of mine encouraged me to submit to what I was feeling instead of apologizing for what I was feeling.  She encouraged me to stop trying to normalize an abnormal situation. Because this is an abnormal situation.  And so that's where I am now.  I will still attack each day to come with a positive attitude. I know in my heart that we will be just fine because we've been through this thing before and know that God will see us through.  But there is still something to telling well-meaning people that ask "are you OK?" that "yes, we are blessed and are OK" and actually knowing in your heart that you're not really there just yet. 

For now, the rain has stopped and the city is in recovery mode.  The same can be said for me. I'm still standing, so there is victory in that. I appreciate your patience with me as I work to catch my breath and find my voice again.  And I thank you for your support and encouragement as I work my way through the emotions of it all...

Photo by Lori M. Sousa on Unsplash

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