It’s all perspective, this I know.
I live in St. Augustine, specifically in Davis Shores, one of the two or three neighborhoods that was recently devastated by Hurricane Matthew. I’m not a whiner, but everyone in our neighborhood, like those in Treasure Beach and Crescent Beach, pretty much lost everything in their homes that was not lifted up above 2-3 feet inside. Which means all appliances, most furniture, kitchen cabinets, heating/air units, and then all of the countless items you use regularly without valuing until they’re gone. Who knew their blender was so vital?!
A bummer, yes, but if you’ve suffered real loss before it almost seems trivial. Material loss is so insignificant compared to other losses it almost seems ridiculous. My first morning waking up in my bed at home after a week away happened to be my birthday. We got lucky; the box springs were gone but we got to keep our mattress. It was a sunny day, by all rights MY sunny day, and I was ready to rock and roll. I am an optimist by nature, in the extreme, like everything else about me. We had lugged out everything wet to the front lawn, we had scrubbed and bleached, along with much help from many wonderful people. We decided to keep hope alive and didn’t cut our sheetrock. Instead we moved a semi-damp thrift store couch back in along with some lamps and plants and our living room looked empty but almost decent, if you ignored the floor and all the piles of family albums and books drying everywhere. To be honest, I really wasn’t that upset.
That night friends of ours were playing at a local pub, so we met up with some peeps I enjoy so, so much. We sat outside in the warm sweet air, listening to George and Dave crank out beauty, eating a delicious birthday meal. A number of friends who live elsewhere in summer had come in from out of town to check on their properties, and none of us had good news. Some had traveled from the mountains, some from Canada, and all arrived to some sort of shambles, as our little haven has really been hit hard. I was particularly happy to see one woman who, like me, has just gone through a rough couple of years. But also like me, she refuses to lay down, and we grabbed each other and exchanged knowing smiles, comforting hugs. I felt that more than anyone else here, with the exception of our men, she knew how little this really meant, in terms of life significance. It did me much good to see her warm smile, as well as the joy, laughter and love of all of the others. I do so love this little community and all of its magnificent people. We were all very brave that night.
Fast forward two weeks or so….. our initial optimism was unwarranted. We repented in ashes and sackcloth and tore out the sheetrock. More loud industrial fans, constantly, mind you. We had bought one new fridge, filled it with food, then came to realize it didn’t work; a second more insulting food loss. Same thing with the motor on the AC; paid for a new one, left the house for a weekend art show with house locked tight and the AC in war mode, chilling the mold to the death hopefully. Came home to a house eerily quiet and filled with a sweet stench; yep, the whole AC unit died over the weekend and left the house cooking in its own filth. More stories like that, times a hundred, as so many friends are going through the same struggles. Debris still in massive piles all over the house and the hood. And I find myself quietly… wilting. At first I think I’m just tired, but then I realize these feeling of loss and weariness are very familiar. I notice that when I run into friends in the same situation they too look exhausted, they mention unexplainable tears. ….I get honest with myself and cop to it: this stinks. Yes, it’s only material things but it’s tapping into buried emotions, and instead of crying about the loss of the washer and dryer I’m really missing something, or someone, far more important. That’s the thing about loss; you expend much unconscious energy daily not losing yourself to it, and then you suffer a far less meaningful loss, and those emotions get too close to the pit where you’ve buried the real pain. Exhaustion is not your friend when you’re fighting unconscious battles.
But… we moved here because we recognized the unique, very beautiful spirit here. It has played a huge role in my recovery from the loss of our son, and I’m so grateful that I was led here even before I knew how badly I’d need that solace. The particular beauty of the place and also its people is greater than the force of any hurricane winds, and I’ve seen so many instances of this power at work in the past few weeks. I will choose to focus on these now rather than the loss. The throngs of lovely peeps who showed up at our house immediately after we were allowed in, bringing fans and tools to help us lug out all our heavy soaking wet things; nasty work and yet we were turning people away who came to help, turning them on to our neighbors. The myriad kindnesses of strangers who traveled from near and far to drive up and down our streets offering food, cleaning materials, hugs. People who I don’t even know very well coming by with gifts of Home Depot and gift cards. The loving support and gifts from our dear artist friends and love from as far away as CA. The giant bags of candy sent by my intuitive sister. The home cooked meals, so very helpful. The friends who let us crash in their condo, and my daughter taking us in also. My girlfriend parking her camper in my driveway, allowing me to use its fridge and bed if we needed it. Friends who came by with lunch, flowers, prayers and laughs, both equally healing. Our neighbor generously picking up a dehumidifier for us when he got his. My crazy girlfriends who happened to be going by my house when the giant claw was picking up debris; seeing that my car was blocking them and that we weren’t home, they quickly called us, got into our house, found the key and moved the car in time! Friendship above and beyond! My sweet friend who came by to offer to help glue art with me so I wouldn’t fall behind in my work. SO touching! And then, the topper: offering us two tickets to see Bonnie Raitt this weekend! I’m telling you, I live in the best place! Matthew couldn’t TOUCH the love that resides in this town; in fact, he only inadvertently strengthened it.
I may be tired but I’m not too weary to know that the good here far outweighs the bad. If I’m going to honestly admit my weariness I’m also going to proclaim my hopefulness. We are StA strong, and it’ll take more than a hurricane to shut us down. I am thankful, and I am proud, even if I am a little grimy around the edges. Still standin’.