Good morning to all of you who have power after Storm Sandy, and to those who will be reading this at a later date. How are you feeling after the storm? I am still adding people to my daily list of friends and family to check on by phone, or through mutual relatives and acquaintances. Most of the folks I am trying to reach have no phone service, so I have not been too successful. Some have gotten out the word that they are safe, but are just without power, and others have passed the word on that they have flood damage to their homes and/or cars.
My family and neighbors here in our area of Connecticut were very fortunate. That isn’t the case in Southern Connecticut and other areas near the shore. Damage and power loss was minimal here. We were prepared for the worse because we often lose power in our town, often for no explainable reasons, and we also have had quite a lot of tree damage in the yard, as well as some flooding in the last few years.
I have to admit, though, that Monday was pretty scary. This was the day the storm hit the East Coast and devastated the New York, New Jersey, New England areas. Local newscasts preempted regular television and radio programming and got everyone quite wound up. I am not saying that they shouldn’t cover the events, or shouldn’t help provide warnings and information that is helpful, but it just seems like overkill at times. During the weekend, we had made the advance preparations we were advised on, but when Monday morning arrived, it turned out there were still some things left to do. Since my husband was scheduled for a long shift at the hospital and, in fact, there was a possibility they might have had to mandate essential personnel to stay over during the storm, I was elected to take care of the additional preparations.
One of the things we hadn’t done, apparently, was to read up sufficiently on the operation and safety of using the generator we had purchased the prior spring after an 8.5 day stretch without power from the unexpected Nor’easter that followed a week after Hurricane Irene. Monday morning, my daughter reported to me information she found on various reputable websites. What she read made us anxious. Was our generator located far enough from the house to keep us safe from carbon monoxide? Was the framework that held the covering tarp my husband had rigged up on the weekend strong enough to protect the generator from rain during such ferocious winds? (It turns out that no, the tarp did not hold, despite his extra precautions late the night before, of weighing down the bungees holding it all in place with huge rocks and concrete blocks.)
I made some calls to a neighbor and to the electrician who had done the wiring of the generator to our circuits. I learned, much to my astonishment, that you don’t run a generator in the midst of pouring rain and that the electical components are not waterproof. Why in the world would they manufacture machinery meant to be used outdoors and not encase the motors and wiring in waterproof housing? There must be some reason that an engineer or electrician could explain, but I certainly don’t understand it. So I was advised to run out to get either a cover made for our generator, a cover meant for a large outdoor air conditioning condenser unit, or some more tarps and straps with which to tie these things down. Lots of luck finding anything to do with a generator just before a storm! Several stores were even out of tarps, or had only enormous ones to cover sheds, boats or cars, for an equally enormous price. I did find something and with the help of my two daughters, (one drove over to help and to stay during the storm) we were able to cover the generator a bit more securely, but not before a couple of comical scenes of me chasing around the yard after a tarp that the wind had sent flying.
As the day progressed, the wind grew louder and more fierce. We watched the sky turn colors as a transformer nearby blew, though it did not affect us. We heard sirens. I kept running to the window to watch the ends of the main tarp fly up, in spite of all the precautions we had taken. The TV was on, giving us all of the gory details and showing us the awful things happening in New York City, on Long Island and in New Jersey. In the end, my husband did make it home that night, and got the generator back into the shed, which would have been difficult for me to do, even with help. He checked it out first and it was fine. We also didn’t end up needing it.
While I am reporting the things that happened during the day of the storm, this post really isn’t about that. It’s mostly about the feelings that were generated by all of the events, by the atomosphere of fear and stress (and things being out of control) that was all around, and not necessarily without good reason. As the day progressed, my own anxiety ramped up and my bad memories came flooding through, of the fire I had been through. in which I had lost my first husband. As we have continued to watch footage of the destruction and to hear the stories of how people are suffering, many of my terrifying feelings and thoughts of not only the fire, but of the many months following it, have come to the surface. Many of my old feelings of life being out of control, have recycled for me, as such things have a habit of doing. I have suffered from PTSD over the years, for those of you who don’t know that, though thank goodness it is nothing like it was for several years following the fire. During those months following our fire when my family moved from place to place, from friend to friend, till we found a rental home to stay in for a time, life felt very scary, very overwhelming, even with the help that we got from many different sources. I did everything I could to maintain order and hope for my kids, but it was sometimes pretty difficult to muster that up. At the time, it felt that life would never get better and that we might never feel safe again.
As the wind whipped around us the other day, louder than I had ever heard before during a hurricane in this area, my body and feelings kept taking me back to that terrible time 30 yrs ago. My daughters and little granddaughter were downstairs, keeping each other company but after a few hours, I needed some solitude in which I could deal with the emotions that were overtaking me. Monday was indeed a test for me of how well I could utilize the breathing techniques, the positive self-talk and other techniques that I have learned over the years, and that I also use with coaching clients. These tools have been so beneficial to me over the years, and certainly in the past days. Most of the time, I know how to bring back the calmness I need and I know how to recognize, accept and handle the difficult feelings when they get stirred up.
There are so many people now who have been affected by the storm. There are various groups out there starting to help. We Americans can be a crazy, divided lot but we do gather together and pitch in during a crisis, for the most part. Tonight there is going to be a telethon broadcast by NBC with Matt Lauer, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Arrowsmith and a bunch of other performers, in order to raise money to help the victims of Sandy. I urge you, if you can, wherever you may be, to think about helping in some way, either directly to people you know, or through reputable organizations and groups. I also urge you to take some time to examine your own feelings that may have been, or are continuing to be stirred up by what you are experiencing, hearing or seeing all around you. Draw upon things you have used in the past that have worked for you, to keep yourself calm. Find some help if you need it. Reach out to someone else who seems to be dealing with painful memories or emotions of loss that have been triggered by, if not caused by this storm.