The tree we're forever worried will fall on our house. But it didn't! Yay!
We've never had this much warning for a hurricane before, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. We're all exhausted here, tired of worrying and making disaster preparedness checklists and debating whether or not to evacuate and especially tired of "hunkering down."
There's also a conversation to be had - in the stabbiest of tones - about the 24/7 sensationalist news coverage. Coverage that justifies itself by claiming it only scares us because it cares. I avoided it while I could, but when it's 2AM and the house is shaking and there's no power and you just want to know when it's all going to be over, of course you go to Google. And in that moment, the last thing you need are headlines like "KILLER STORM BARRELS THROUGH CENTRAL FLORIDA," and helpful death tolls and slide shows of decimated houses from past hurricanes.
This was also the first time John and I've boarded up the house for a storm, which had the completely unexpected consequence of scaring the crap out of me. Our power went out around 8:30pm, and in that unnaturally black darkness - without even the glow of starlight through the windows - my agoraphobia ratcheted up to full panic mode. All I could think was I had another 12 hours to go before I could leave this boarded up Doomsday Bunker, with only the howling wind and worrisome THUMPs on the rooftop to tell me what was happening outside.
I joke a lot about how I never leave the house, but I need those views outside. I just never realized how much before.
As you might imagine, it was a long night. Sleep wasn't happening, so we burned through the batteries on John's laptop, watching stand-up comedians (Ryan Hamilton's Netflix special is hilarious, y'all) and Brooklyn 99 to keep ourselves distracted, pausing at times so I could pace around like a caged tiger. When the news came around midnight that the storm had switched course right for us, I made my smartest decision of the whole hurricane - smarter even than baking a batch of chocolate muffins the afternoon before: I took a Xanax.
In about 30 minutes I went from teetering on the precipice of something dark and airless to feeling like I was back in control again. I knew we'd be OK. I knew I could handle it. I was still worried, sure, but the irrational terror was gone.
If you have anxiety it can be hard to know sometimes which fears are just your panic kicking around and which are healthy. For most of the storm prep I think my fears were normal and rational, but when I reached the point where the ground seemed to open up, when I felt the world twist sideways with panic and couldn't imagine a moment beyond this one because I just couldn't THINK - I knew it was time for modern medicine to intervene.
I'm a writer. I process things like this, tapping away on my laptop in our still-powerless home, listening to the hum of the floor fan and the soft snores of John on the couch beside me. For whatever reason, I simply don't feel things fully until I write them down. To tell a story is to relive it. To express an emotion is to feel it distilled, concentrated. It's why I will write and say and tell a thousand happy stories, and still thirst to write just one more. I don't want to relive my panic, my fears and shames. When I write these things, they drag me down with them again. But you know what? As much as I'm feeling the walls close in again, and the roof shudder and the still air choking me, I'm also feeling relief and gratitude and triumph. And THAT I want to remember.
If there's a point to any of this meandering, it's one I've made before and will make again: it's OK to need a pill sometimes. It's OK to grab your monster-slaying sword. No, I'll go farther: it's AMAZING to grab your monster-slaying sword. Last night was hell for me, but it didn't win. I beat back my personal demon, sword in hand. And dang it, it felt good.
Today we emerged to find a lot of debris and fallen fences and trees, but no major damage to our street. I know others weren't so lucky. The neighbors banded together and went house to house, making giant piles of tree limbs by each driveway, chainsaws sputtering through the gusty morning. John helped. Then we took down all the boards and opened the windows, letting the wind and sunlight blow in. After the stale still night, it was heaven. (Turns out heaven is super humid, btw.)
Our house backs up onto a newer neighborhood with buried power lines, so they never lost power. Thanks to John - of course - the neighbor behind us there agreed to throw an extension cord over the fence, enough to power a fan and this laptop. We don't expect to have power back for nearly a week (that's how long it took after hurricane Charlie), but that's OK. We have local friends we can stay with if need be, but for now I'm happy to be here, typing away in the dark, the stars watching through the windows.
G'nite, gang. More silliness and stories of hope and happy things, coming soon.
P.S. Sending much love to all of you in the path and the wake of Irma. Locals, now that the curfews have lifted we have power tools and are ready to travel, so if you need help, please say the word.