Monday, December 05, 2005

Shaking it Off

It’s been over three months since Katrina came through here, the side of the eye giving us a beating that I know I’ll never forget. But still, three months is a long time. I feel like I should be over it all ready. It’s a done deal. Yesterday. We survived and others didn’t. There’re much worse things in the world. My family was really lucky. It’s almost a whole brand new year. I should shake it off and move on.

Enough all ready!

To be honest, I really thought I had shaken it off and moved on, some time ago in fact.

And yet…

I took my daughter to school this morning and was driving back home, just like any other day. I went by Burger King with it’s twisted sign, by the new restaurant they had almost ready to open before that is now having to have a new roof put on and all of the inside work redone, I drove on down by the show with the chunks missing from its front, by the help needed signs every where that promise bonuses because so many people have moved away they can’t find enough workers to operate the businesses for normal hours.

A little further and I found that once again one of the lights on the main road was broken, then I had to take a detour because they had one road blocked still trying to repair phone lines. A little further and another detour because they were picking up hunks of tree trunks.

About then my son called on his cell phone to let me know he had made it to college and I could hardly hear him. The service is still not working about half of the time because of damage to cell towers in the area.

I finally made into my neighborhood and drove over the short little bridge that used to be so scenic but is now only a mess of bare land and missing or broken trees. I passed all of the other damage; huge tree roots side up, roofs covered with blue tarps, a house with the porch smashed off, a house with the backside of it damaged enough that the family is living in a FEMA trailer in their front yard, and all of a sudden out of no where, my hands were sweating, my heart was racing, and I was almost in tears. It was all I could do to hold them back.

When I got home I sat in my driveway and got control of myself, reminded myself how lucky I was that my family was still together and that our home was damaged but standing strong. After a few moments I came in and did e-mail, took care of my on line groups, fixed a page on my website. {I thought about working on my book, but I’m just not back there yet.}

I had just gotten up to do dishes when my phone rang. I smiled when I glanced at the caller ID and recognized the number of one of my dear on line friends who lives about halfway across the US from me but feels like someone I know better than some of my neighbors.

We chit chatted a while, laughed a bit, she asked if I had sent out X-mas cards yet or put up decorations. (I have a habit of going overboard in both areas. I just love Christmas!) Normally.

I said, “Not yet.” Then changed the subject.

She wasn’t letting me off that easy. “Why not? You usually drive me damn near nuts with all of the details and pictures.”

“I really don’t have room in the house for a tree this year with everything still piled up, and I don’t have the time for all of the other stuff,” I said, then changed the subject again.

When I finished that subject she got quite for a moment and then said, “You know, Charlotte, it’d be perfectly normal if you just didn’t feel up to going all out for Christmas this year. If you were still a little at… odds… emotionally. You’ve had a tough year. Hell, you’ve had a tough couple of years.”

I thought about the last two years; my father’s illness, his death, my oldest leaving home, my own battle with finding out that I was a diabetic, a scare with my son’s health, then his wedding, and then--Katrina. I couldn’t say anything for a moment. Finally I said, “Such is life.” And I changed the subject again.

She wasn’t having it. She interrupted me this time. “In the last three weeks your e-mails and phone calls have gotten so damn sweet and fake you should have to put a trademark symbol on them, like sweetened with Splenda!” She added a little bit more too with a few other words I won’t type here.

Okay. Now I was getting angry. “What are you talking about?”

“Something’s wrong. I can read it between every sentence you write me. I hear it in your voice over the phone. You aren’t you.”

“I’m not me! Then who the hell am I?!”

“Some stupid character you’ve made up who smiles while her insides fall apart one piece at a time. What a load of bull shit! I really thought you were a smarter person than that!”

Oh, that was it. I lost it. I started crying and yelling, and raising enough heck to rattle the windows. I let her know just how angry I was that she would say that to me, and then some how I strayed into other anger, then sadness, then fear, then more anger. While I raged on, my friend didn’t say a word. I didn’t even notice until the end, when the silence made me think she had hung up sometime during my fit and I was too loud to notice.

After a moment of quite I asked, “You still there?”

She laughed. She actually laughed.

I didn’t have any anger left, so I didn’t say anything. All I managed was to sniffle a little and hiccup once.

She finally said, “Do you feel better?”


“You’ve been holding so much in, pretending things were all right--that you were all right--when it wasn’t true. I knew you had to be about ready to blow. I just lit the fuss.”

When my mother died a nurse told me that part of any kind of grief is anger. I don’t think I had really allowed myself that since my father’s death, and for sure not since Katrina. I felt--still feel--too lucky. Every time I get angry or feel sorry for myself I just end up feeling guilty for feeling that way. So many others ended up so much worse off than my family did. I feel like I have no right to feel anyway but lucky. I guess I just kind of used that as a reason to push my own anger and upset aside during the last few weeks. I ignored it, never really acknowledged it and got it out and over with so I could move on to the next step of healing.

My wonderful, dear, very wise friend made me give my anger a voice today.

We talked a good while longer after my outburst. By the time I hung up, I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of me.

So I’m not completely over what happened and I still have bad days and private pity parties. She assured me that doesn’t make me a wimp, much less a selfish monster. It was such a relief to hear someone say that. To have someone tell me it was normal.

I’ve decided that it’s okay for me to feel sad when I drive around town and see all of the damage that is still there, even though it could be worse. It’s okay for me to still cry over the family pictures and keepsakes that the floodwater stole from me, even if others lost more. It’s okay for me to get mad about all of the hard work we put into this home that we are having to redo now, even though some people lost their whole home. The greater pain and loss of others doesn’t take away my right to deal with my own and work my way through what ever I feel, even if it takes me months more to completely get over it and move on. Some of us shake things off quicker than others, and that’s fine too.

Feeling what ever I feel right now is okay. Not writing right now is okay. This too will pass as long as I don’t build a damn and keep it all locked in. Maybe those are good things for all of us to remember when ever we are going through some rough patch in our lives.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt any to have a wonderful friend who knows how to blow up damns. Right Lori? (Smile)


Suprina said...

Amen, Charlotte. Good Lord, I needed to read this post today. For so long I have not allowed myself to be angry or much of anything else 'negative' simply because I was taught that there was always someone worser off than me. To count my blessings. Of course I do that, but now I see that there needs to be a balance. How I'm 'really' feelings matters, too. And not dealing with those feelings can/will eventually take a toll on a person.

Once again, thanks so much for sharing, Charlotte. You have truly blessed me today.

Carol B. said...

Well, now, that friend sounds like a keeper, for sure!

Charlotte Dillon said...

Thanks, Suprina. It means a lot to know that my words have helped someone else in any way at all. Seems like we were brought up the same. (Smile)

I still count my blessings and know how lucky I am because there is always someone much worse off, but I'm not going to feel bad about having a pity party of my own now and again...without the guilt and without trying to pretend I don't feel how I feel, maybe I can get over it faster and get back to myself.

As myself I'm much more able to offer something to others. I think we all are.

Charlotte Dillon said...

I agree, Carol. But then I have a whole bunch of friends that are keepers. (Smile)

Desperate Writer said...

Grief is a tricky thing. I thought I was over my miscarriage until a certain situation came up (that I won't bore you with) that brought it all back to me. All the emotional upheaveal rivals any rollercoaster I've plunked my butt in.

God Bless your friend. And God Bless You.