Amazing how what is real for you in the day-to-day of your life can shift over the course of one single day to become a very different reality. The ground of what has been real can be wiped away and turned upside down. And when it is more than your private experience, when it happens to your whole community, it’s not simply your inner ground that is affected – it’s the entire landscape of your life.
Hurricane Sandy has recently presented us with just such a new reality. What is generally an isolative experience – that of a major life crisis or tragedy – is, for us, a shared new way of living. Both the inner and outer landscape has shifted dramatically. Familiar structures are gone – ripped apart and broken pieces strewn about the neighborhood. Sections of boardwalk in the front yard of a house down the block, mud and muck rising six feet in so many houses, blocks of burnt remnants of what was recently home to friends and neighbors.
You’ve seen the look on peoples’ faces – you know it from photos or the news footage showing people in locations following a disaster (natural or otherwise). It’s the vacant stare, the paralysis of movement, the bare initiation of taking a step towards something or someone and then the loss of direction. It’s shock – we all know what that is, or do we? From the inside it feels like an overload of information that cannot be processed, because it doesn’t quite fit the reality we have known up until that point. There is no way to create an opening to let it in, to understand what it means, since the meaning carries with it a felt sense of being too much, too different, too upsetting, too disturbing a reality to accept. This is the sense before emotions even surface or become clear. This is the preverbal experience of one’s whole body having lost the sense of ground beneath one’s feet.
What happens next is a check in – verifying the inner reality of who and what you are. Reverting to survival mode is a way to find the new ground, establish new parameters of this new reality. Breathing? Body intact? Family alive? The level of awareness contracts around the immediate reality and then moves outward. From that changed perspective, it is easier to take a look around and begin to bring forth words like “devastation” and “catastrophe” to describe the scene before you.
Then the questions emerge, because there is, after all, a sense of forward momentum stirring even in the midst of not knowing where to begin. How do you start when you are still processing what it is that’s finished, ended and no longer present. But it does begin, the next step taken because you experience a shared feeling, connection to a community of people that moves you forward – that doesn’t allow for stasis.
Maybe that’s the moment of remembering that nothing is permanent, that you’ve been fooled again into expecting that it would be. The moment of knowing once more that this is the way things are – shifting, changing, never staying the same. Perhaps it means it’s time to take in a deeper breath and appreciate that we are in it – not apart – from the momentum of being alive. We have what we have right now and that “now” has already become a new reality, and sometimes that change shows up in a bigger way, on a much bigger screen, louder and more intense than what we’ve experienced before. Comforting then to realize that we have the shared connection of community to support our own ground of being in taking whatever next step we need to take.
This post is dedicated to all those affected by Hurricane Sandy and offered in gratitude for the many who have shown up to provide real, hands-on assistance. Blessings on all of you.