After the Storm

It’s a Tuesday morning and usually I am in the middle of my Fitness Walking class at this time of day. However, a hurricane (you may have heard about her) came through my life recently and now things are upside down. Disaster tells you a lot about yourself as an individual, as a human, and who you are in your relationships. First, I’d like to preface this post with some good news: My family was very lucky and had no great loss during this storm. You may say that that means I have no right to say anything more, but these are just observations and musings from having lived through this storm. Just a recount of my blessings and relief.

September 10th was the last day I taught a class. People had already started preparing for what was supposed to be a Category 4+ storm to hit very near or directly at our town. See, I live in Wilmington, NC and hurricanes are second nature to the people who have grown up here. I have not. I’m a midwest girl used to the Mississippi flooding its banks and tornado drills in the basement. A hurricane brings both of those things plus wind. We made a decision to stay put this time even though it would be the biggest storm that I and my children would have lived through. Again, we are lucky that it hit near us at only a Category 1 storm, but it still came. I bid farewell to my students that Monday and came home to start prepping.

We had already purchased water (because of the Gen X problem in our area) and packed up on snacks to last us 5-10 days. There were canned beans and pears and crackers and granola bars and a couple of loaves of bread and peanut butter and trail mix and the like. We had bought a generator to save what we could of our freezer full of my husband’s fishing and hunting spoils. We boarded windows and sandbagged the front door. We moved every item off of our main floor floor that couldn’t be replaced and put things in storage bins and space bags. We tarped things and moved things in the garage and tied up fences and parked the soft top in the garage and put my car in the front yard away from all tall trees. We hoarded batteries and flashlights and prepared our kids for what was to come.

The last class I taught that Monday was Yoga I in which we covered Awakening Poses. My body was alive with energy that week. The storm didn’t hit until overnight between Thursday and Friday and the wind was loud, but I felt calm and safe in our house. My kids’ mattresses were on the floor in our room and they slept through it all. We didn’t lose power right away, but once it was gone it would be 4.5 days until it returned. A tree from our neighbor’s yard had blown down on top of the kids’ swingset and broke it. In the days after the actual “hurricane” there were tornadoes (one took the rest of the swingset out) and rain. There was a lot of damage all around us, but still I remained calm.

A few days later we took the boards off the windows in order to let in the light and assess the damage. We opened windows for fresh air as the temps were in the high 80’s each day. It was a lot of sweaty, slow moving time we spent. My kids seemed unphased by most of it. We played UNO each night by flashlight and they learned how to play solitaire after I played a million games to pass the time. They played with toys that had sat unused for awhile. We took daily walks around our neighborhood. We took a few drives in the Jeep to see what had happened around us. Eventually, one day, we got a pizza from a place nearby that opened its doors. We went and waited in line at Walmart (my least favorite store) to pick up a few new snacks and see about buns for cooking up burgers. We hit the grocery store when it opened up as well.

Everywhere we went it was worse than at our house. Every store was filled with people who looked run down and desperate and angry. I kept thinking how grateful I was that we were all fine and together. The heat was getting to people. The lack of help, lack of supplies, lack of the unknown was getting to people. Our friends who had evacuated were anxious to see what was left for them. And for us, at least 4 families we know are without their house at the moment. When our power came back on it was a glorious celebration of showers and clean clothes! We slept coolly that night on clean sheets. Again I felt blessed and serene…..but also guilty.

I have tried to help out our friends in need at this time. I have offered what services we have (though limited) to those who do not have any. You get that kind of survivor’s guilt when you have so little that has gone wrong in your life comparatively. The yogi in me kept trying to get others to feel the same sense of blessing and relief that I feel. I compare the situation in Eastern NC with the people of Puerto Rico who are still suffering a year after Hurricane Maria. I think of what it would be like to be a year without a home, water, food, medicine, electricity, etc. I think about how hard it would be to not be able to bury your loved ones when they perished during the storm. The survivor’s guilt grows, but it also centers me.

For the past 14.5 years I have been living and growing in yoga. The way I responded during this storm, the way I continue to feel as it is over for me, has been because of the gift of yoga in my life. I am gracious and calm. I am looking inward for peace and outward to give back. I look forward to this coming Monday when I can welcome my students back to our classroom. I look forward to speaking to them about the Yamas and to teaching them Sun Salutations. I look forward to giving them the gift of healing through breath, movement, and reflection.

If you’d like to help out with some of the people who I personally know have suffered from this storm, please feel free to donate to any of these fundraisers:

Hoping you and all yours are safe after the storm. Namaste.

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