The Perfect Storm

This is probably going to be a little rusty. I cant even remember the last time I sat down to write, with the exception of a journal entry or two. The truth is that the only reason I am finding the time now is because of Hurricane Irma, the result of which called for the week-long cancellation of work- among other tragic circumstances.

To be honest I’ve been procrastinating. But as every writer knows, you can only go so long before you end up throwing up on paper or screen. So those of you still reading, prepare to see my beautiful vomit.

Whenever I’m about to write something fantastic or futile, I think of a quote from Hemingway. Hemingway said something like: “When you write, get in front of a typewriter and just BLEED.” Bleed. Vomit. You get it.

I

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

This storm did more than just create monumental physical damage and inconvenience. Here’s why. In my personal experience, this storm represented the end of what had turned out to be a pretty productive and empowering routinized part of my life journey. I guess it had a good run.

Prior to the storm, I had done something I thought I was never capable of doing. I am NOT a morning person. I never wake up to the sounds of birds chirping and somehow feel energized. I believe there is scientific research out there that echoes the idea that some people just aren’t wired that way. I make a pretty convincing case for it.

For a month, I rose at the ripe time of 4 o’clock in the morning. I hit the gym at that lifeless hour because I knew it was the only way I could hold myself accountable to being there (with work expending most of my energy, I become completely useless in the evenings). With the help of a pre-workout supplement, I got the task accomplished. I even kicked my coffee addiction.

What was mind-blowing was that I had actually started to ENJOY it! That ungodly hour provided the kind of relief that was lacking in the rest of my life. I was free.

Quickly, the AM gym sessions became my favorite part of the day. I loved being there, being part of a routine, and seeing the same people who were doing the same things with their bodies. Though I never spoke to any of them, I felt connected: “Oh, that’s the guy who always stretches his leg on the ledge like he’s a gymnast after each set.” “Oh, there’s the woman who has a chiseled body but somehow still looks a little like Miss Piggy.” Their clothing became recognizable, as I noticed not everyone appreciated my need for different daily wardrobe choices. I was immersed in their routines. Something felt good and stable about it.

I kept saying to people: “I never felt this focused in my life.”

Inside and outside the gym, my life and eating habits were planned strategically. At work, I had a certain rhythm to my day that wasn’t completely dreadful. The weeks were passing, one workout at a time, and I found myself busy but thriving. Sure, there was a part of my brain that knew this kind of structure wouldn’t last. Sure, there was a part of me that knew my super-efficiency mode could only go so far. If I’m totally being honest a part of me was even anticipating it. Structure is great but boring.

What I didn’t know was that the break in routine would come in the form of a Category 5 Hurricane.

II

THE STORM

I like to think of myself as a calm person. Sure, do I have a crazy fiery streak in my personality that has gotten me into many altercations/consequences- absolutely. I’d like to blame that on being half-Spanish and half-Italian and having a Mars in Aries. I was doomed from the start. However, I believe my normal, default demeanor is calmer than most- especially in the face of some kind of crisis.

I was wrong.

While I first shrugged off the storm as “inconsequential” and did absolutely nothing to prepare for it when it seemed like others were, a phone call from an ex-military friend triggered my insecurities. I realized just how unprepared I was for this kind of event and it didn’t help matters that I was alone in my home. It was up to me to stock up, in a hurry, get gas, in a hurry, and put up shutters that were bigger than my entire body upright.

I panicked. I had a meltdown. I remember thinking: “but you’re usually so calm in these situations.” “Why couldn’t this be a shooting or something, surely you’d be calmer then?”

It sounds crazy but as a teacher I always think about what I would do if there was ever a Columbine situation at play. I’ve gone over the scenario hundreds of times in my head- and in a messed-up way- I feel prepared for it. What I never think about (being a city-girl from New York) is what to do if/when 185mph winds hit my home on top of flooding.

People offered to help me, I wont deny that. And it got to the point that all I could do was pray. My pastor always says that you should start with prayer instead of end with it. In other words, prayer should be your first course of action. It wasn’t. I was too insecure.

What was clouding my judgment was this idea that I was alone. What did I do wrong in my life to be alone in this life-or-death situation many were predicting? Why didn’t I have a loving family automatically surrounding me in my household- or at least- a family of friends? How could it be?

But those thoughts were short and few because the truth was there wasn’t any time to think them. Not when you’re busy with the unexpected, your routine is interrupted, and every day becomes a checklist of completed/uncompleted precautions.

Yes, the storm was physical, but it was emotional too. The break in routine allowed me to feel things again. I lost power for three days and spent one of those days at a friend’s. Sleeping in a foreign bed- and still hyped up from the anxiety of the storm- my brain began to wander. This montage of past experiences came to me in a series of failed relationships, friendships, and endeavors. My life, my journey, started to flood my mind one memory at a time. I know that my intentions in every friendship, every relationship, were always good. I also know that it’s not enough to have good intentions.

But it felt okay. I felt like I could let it all go and start over. I felt freed from them, somehow.

Maybe there’s a cleansing in every storm? Maybe “hurricanes” in life are the things that break us from our comfortable routines? Sure, they come on violently. Sure, they can be as destructive as death. But when we survive them, we really SURVIVE. Why? Because we’re not pacified in the humdrum drowsiness of a stellar routine. We’re actually living, then.

III

POST-STORM

A Christian friend told me that the hurricane created a beautiful aftermath: neighbor turning to neighbor, friend helping friend, families coming together for the first time in a long while. Why does it take a natural disaster for us to live in that moment? Why does it take a killer storm for us to realize we need to prepare for things one day at a time and that we need to NOT take what we have for granted…

I don’t have an answer for that. I am just as guilty. I was just as zombified in my routine as was every other hot-blooded American.

But it’s more than that because when I returned to my “routine” it wasn’t as simple as the gym opening up again, the air-conditioning purring, and the lights coming back on. The storm stirred up my priorities. The storm shook my habits the way a child shakes a snow globe…. except with mine, they don’t settle back the same.

I realized that the gym is wonderful. I will never deny the benefits I get from working out and it is one of the most positive things I have going on in my life. But I also realized that it’s a double-edged sword and there’s a slippery-slope to vanity for those of us who are gym-obsessed.

What do I mean? We live in an image-obsessed culture. Don’t believe me? Just look at the transformation of Facebook to Instagram. In the former, we used to connect with each other to tell stories, to share, to SPEAK. In the picture-sharing world of social media, we are simply posting these edited versions of what we think a picture should look like. Words have been replaced with Emojis, reminiscent of the caveman days. And I’m guilty.

I was just saying to a coworker that it amazes me how glamorous these high school students are today. I don’t remember people being that glamorous during my schooling. A huge amount of these kids seem to pass right by the awkward stages of teenaged development. But, when you log on to Instagram, you quickly realize why they HAVE to.

Let me just say that I am so impressed with my generation’s dedication to fitness. I am so inspired by my generation’s ability to self-motivate- to do things with their bodies and achieve the kind of “perfection” that no other generations seemed to pay attention to. It takes an incredible amount of discipline/dedication. But what I fear is that dedication is misbalanced. Dedication to our bodies should be comparable to the dedication we have to our hearts and spirits. We should work out because we LOVE our bodies, love each other, love God and love life.

IV

GOD IS GOOD

But God is good. And I have so much reason- even besides the storm- to straight up drop to my knees and thank God for giving me so many second chances I am unworthy of. I know that I need to put my money where my mouth is and offer the same kind of second chances to people even when they hurt me. I’m not very good at that.

I am in awe of God’s graces- and I’m pretty certain that most of the state of Florida feels the same way too. In the aftermath of Irma, the overall consensus seems to be that God is good and we have so much to be grateful for on this earth.

I just don’t want it to take another storm, another Hurricane, another “break in routine,” for us be conscious of this. I mean, could you imagine the possibilities if people lived every day of their lives the way they’ve been living as a result of this storm? Could you imagine the possibilities if we were there to remind each other of that? Like Iron Sharpening Iron.

I don’t know how to accomplish this and reality tells me that I’ll forget about it in no time at all. Reality tells me that I’ll be just as unprepared for the next storm. For all my desire to believe wholeheartedly, I just can’t convince myself that my dreams are 100% possible. Even though I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is merciful- and it’s been proven to me time and time again- I just can’t bring myself to let go completely and have nothing but full-fledged faith in the best. While I struggle with this daily, praying for help and guidance, what I do know is how important it is that we don’t try to do this journey alone.

I want to help my peers- help my generation- see equal beauty in both physical and spiritual endeavors. I don’t know how I’ll do this, but I’m hoping God will use me in some kind of way. It seems like there’s this physical world and spiritual world, and yet most of us live our entire lives in between both- in NO MAN’s LAND… in a realm that doesn’t really exist- because we are too consumed with intellectual or material or societal pursuits. I wan’t to bypass the bullshit. I want to reach my hands and arms so wide that they can connect body to spirt. That’s the kind of “medium” I want to be.