Most people would say that Hurricane Irene came around at the worst time. Trips and weddings were canceled, weekends at the beach for what remains of summer bungled, and New Yorkers forced to hibernate in claustrophobic apartments.
After the deluge of Facebook statuses bemoaning the media hype and pointless fear it generated, it seems redundant to get into here. I was one of the people who paid no attention to it until Friday afternoon, when my mother texted me warnings: “Mayor close. Subway. bus. Please stock. up w necc. water. Flash lite. Trannsvradio.” (a sexually ambiguous transmission of sorts?) Mayor INSTRUCTIONS.” (I’m not sure what the periods are for…some kind of Morse code for Jewish Mothers, maybe?).
And then of course, “Go buy food 4 5 days.” (which could easily have been a text she forgot to hit “send” on from last week). All of this was Mom setting the stage for what my father texted me a few hours later, “Why don’t I come pick you and the dog up and take you to N.J.?”
Jewish parents who don’t get to see their kids enough (is it ever enough?) love impending doom. Dad called Saturday morning and chuckling knowingly he said, “Something that worries us comes up….anything! And we say, ‘”Lets go see the kids!”
I declined their invitation, as generous and loving as it was. I didn’t want to deal with the transit mess and get stuck in N.J., nor did I want to worry about what was happening to my apartment while I was away. I wanted to embrace the forced downtime. After weeks of social engagements or weekends with friends at the beach (I know, poor me), I figured this would be a good time to read, draw, and pig out on the $200 worth of groceries (okay, Mom?) I’d never eat otherwise.
And who better to do this with than a very tall ex-boyfriend with a big appetite to help finish all that food, and with whom I knew I’d feel safe with? Besides, he lives in an evacuation zone. It was the least I could do.
None of this was planned. We haven’t even been in close touch. But the timing presented itself, and I didn’t hesitate for a moment.
It made me wonder whether the hurricane and all the drama that came along with it can serve to bring our needs into sharp focus.
A hurricane, a terror attack, or any dramatic event makes us pause. It creates a need to connect, and forces us to consider certain feelings and the questions that come with the acknowledgement of those feelings: Who is in my inner circle? What do I need to survive? Who do I draw comfort and safety from, rather than who is “filler”?
I wasn’t trying to fill a void of fear or loneliness. If that was the agenda, I guess I could have mustered up a few people to serve as a temporary Band-Aid. But I’d rather be alone than spend time with someone who helps pass time.
Sometimes we crave a little chaos. And maybe the hurricane, no matter how exaggerated it was, satisfied that need. We all know people or have the tendency ourselves to heighten events in our lives – to stir things up. Whether it is an external force, or an internally generated one. We latch on to it, even incite it, in order to wake us up to what matters, or shift our perspectives out of complacency or blindness. Or sometimes simply because we need a change.
And drama always leaves a bit of a mess in its wake, right?
When I woke up this morning, I anticipated mess: a power outage, my dog’s inability to hold in #1 evidenced on the carpet, and my internet and cable shut down. But instead, it was tranquil and quiet. When I opened my eyes, I was welcomed by a working Blackberry, lit up by texts from my mom and sisters, and the scent of brewing coffee coming from the kitchen.
So for that, I thank Irene. She was on a path, headed towards us with her own agenda: to interfere with our plans, shake us up, and leave a big mess in her wake. But in the calm after the storm, it’s up to us to give her intrusion and its affect on our lives meaning and purpose.