Hurricanes and Clarity

“typhoon” by NASA on Unsplash

Who thought a major hurricane could sweep through my life and leave me in a better place? This is a story of my personal journey and in no way is meant to diminish or trivialize the immense suffering I have witnessed after this catastrophic event. Nothing can begin to touch upon in incredible loss and suffering so many people are dealing with in Hurricane Michael’s aftermath.For me though, it was a cleanse of a different sort.

I live about 20 miles from the beginning of ground zero of the hurricane’s eye. On the Monday before the storm we were informed that if you lived in an evacuation zone you needed to get out. I raced home from work and realized I needed gas to make my escape. I went to eight gas stations with no gas and finally found a long line of people caught up in the frenzy of fear waiting for this precious commodity. As I got closer to the pump I was informed that it was cash only. I had little with me but enough I figured to get me far enough north to fill up. My fear escalated as I worried about the gas running out. By the time I got to the pump my adrenaline was making my heart race.

A woman in front of me saw my distress and patiently waited to be sure I was lined up to follow her to the pump. I was still in stress mode and she saw it and asked me if I had enough money. I told her I had $15 and she shoved a $100 bill into my hand and told me to fill up my tank. I tried to protest but she insisted. I filled my my tank returning the change to her. I tried to get her name and number but she refused saying it was the least she could do for a neighbor. It was a godsend.

Once home I began the packing of all I thought I would need for the trip 135 miles away to my aunt who lived north. I tried to be organized thinking only of what was necessary but required if I was to lose everything in this storm. Important papers, clothes, toiletries, medicines, everything for the cat. Chargers, computer and of course cash I had set aside just for this reason.

I cleaned everything out from my porch, covered the electronics I was leaving behind with plastic, and unplugged everything I didn’t need. I was in preparation mode remembering how I had once made the mistake of not preparing for another hurricane only to be trapped into staying because I waited too long. It was a fearful experience and one I was not going to repeat for this much stronger storm.

Then came a crisis of conscience. I had been seeing a man for quite some time. Recently we had come to a difficult and awkward place in our relationship. He was not familiar with hurricanes having lived most of his life in climates that don’t experience them. I really wanted just to escape but the gift from the woman at the pump made me realize that he did not understand the seriousness of this situation and might need to be aware of the possibilities.

So with trepidation I texted him of my intentions to leave early the next day and my destination. I offered him the opportunity to join me, hoping in many ways he would refuse and I could feel like I had done my duty. He was hesitant at first. I felt relief. Then he saw the latest report and agreed he would come with me. I was not thrilled but knew it was the right thing to have done.

We made the trip north with no issues. I had warned him my aunt was no housekeeper and that if he wanted to find a hotel once past the danger I understood. He took it as an adventure and was polite and gracious to my aunt. I felt awkward and unbalanced the entire time. I felt caught between trying to help my aunt, him and the anxiety I felt about this storm and what I would come back to. I wanted to return to my normal life in the worst way.

As soon as I found out my complex had electricity, water and no huge damage I was ready to return. His complex had not fared as well having no power, water or sewer. He was not happy about returning and chastised me for wanting to leave. I had a job to return to outside of the hurricane’s wrath. He made it very clear that he felt I was being premature in returning and despite my offers to let him temporarily stay at my place he made the decision to leave for his sister’s as soon as he got back. He never even said thank you.

My initial reaction was just a numbness about it all. Life was not exactly normal. Curfews, looting issues, horrific devastation not far down the road, gas shortages, grocery store shortages, boil water notices. All these things were part of my return and on top of this was this feeling I had somehow survived with so little loss compared with others. It created an anxiety that was hard to define.

It has been almost two weeks since all this drama started and life is slowly creeping into a rhythm that I understand. One thing that I discovered about myself is my need to cling to things and people long past their value to me. I do not regret having invited this man to come with me. It was the right thing to do. My issue was I expected something in return, unlike the woman at the gas station. I wanted this to be a turn around in our relationship that was already falling apart. I was trying to hold onto what was not there. I needed this storm to clear away all the what ifs to let me see that he and I were not meant to be what I had hoped for.A crisis did not bring us sloser, it only showed how far apart we were.

It has been hard to let go. Everyday I have cleaned out some space in a closet, a drawer, and my life. Some things are given away to someone who can use them and some things are just thrown out because they have no real use for me or anyone else. The hurricane did not clear out my life in one fell swoop, it just blew away some of the physical and emotional hoarding that had cluttered my life.

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Tonia Falzarano Murray

Tonia Falzarano Murray

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