Did Harvey hit you? It hit me. Earlier this week, I fled from the home I had evacuated to my car so my foster brothers wouldn’t see me cry. Harvey was beginning to blow over – again – and the car was rocking from side to side. I realized my phone has so many numbers in it – and I could count on my hand the number of phones I could call in that moment who would be answered by someone who wasn’t evacuated, homeless, or worse – trapped. Trapped in their houses, trapped in their towns, surrounded by water with nowhere to go, facing rain from clouds above and levies below.
I feel like all my friends are drowning.
These weren’t just images of people I’d heard about trapped in their attics, little nursing home residents up to their chest in the water waiting for help, people drowning in their cars or trying to get out on foot. Those were bad. But now there were friends I hadn’t reached, friends from counties they thought were safe hastily packing up, friends in places where water had covered the roads with no choice but to hunker down. People trapped on second stories who had stopped answering. Friends I’d lost track of during the hours we’d been without service or electricity.
And the friend who answered the phone from halfway across America.
I couldn’t even talk but I had to choke something so he knew I hadn’t called by accident. Finally, I managed, “This is really bad….”
And you know what guys? It was bad. For all of us. Now we’re facing the aftermath. Maybe it’s only affecting you through the distressing clips on the television and the jump in gas prices. Maybe you’re like me and watched as your town was flooded, hit by 100 mph winds, and still somehow miraculously spared with only minor damage. Or maybe your house was destroyed, maybe you’re still waiting to be allowed to go home, maybe there’s no home to go to.
Our brains took a beating. Worry for our homes and belongings, turning into worry for neighbors and friends, turning into worry for the very lives of people we know and love, or don’t know but still love.
And now the danger is passed, leaving the pressure to get things back to normal. Maybe you’re like me and feel guilty that you’re not back at 100% mentally. After all, my electricity is back on, my house relatively unscathed, my clean up comparatively minor. I have little reason to feel traumatized, or tired, or listless.
But I do.
And no matter what your Harvey experience looked like, I’ll bet you do as well. And I’ll bet something else. I’ll bet that if you’ve been affected physically by the storm, some good-intentioned but thoughtless person-or even your own mind-has said something along the lines of:
“Well, it’s just stuff. It can be replaced. Everyone is fine and that’s what is important.”
“God will not give you a trial you cannot bear.”
“Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven.”
God’s grace, God’s judgment, trials, testing, the end times.
Or if you’re like me your brain keeps saying something like, “You have no right to feel worn out/traumatized/sad. You came out fine. Think of all your friends who are facing so much worse things.”
Some of this is true. Some of it’s not. But there’s a subtle underlying message of “Hurry up and move on.”
And here’s the point, guys. No matter where you are circumstance-wise, you are still FEELING this whirlwind of emotions. And you have to realize that no matter what those emotions are or how justified or not-justified you or others believe they are, they are inside of you and they can’t just be shut off or chased away. Even if you have to shelve them now, later you’re going to have to pull them down and sort through them.
And that’s okay.
Be Texas Strong, but it’s okay if you have to sit down and cry a little. You’re not being materialistic and selfish if you mourn the loss of your home or possessions. You’re not being lazy if you have to stop working and sleep. You’re not being uncaring if you have to shut off the news for a while, retreat somewhere away from the fray, find a quiet spot to breathe. This disaster can bring out the best in people and it has. But it’s okay if a little of the worst of you leaks through too. Give yourself that moment. Give yourself grace. Let yourself feel your way through this, not just survive it.