Sheltering In Place

NASA image 8/25/17

I live in Houston, TX. I have lived here for 12 years now. It took about 5 years for the city to really grow on me, but now that it has, it is home. I quite love this city actually. So living through these past few days with Hurricane Harvey swirling in our midst, decimating my city, has been hard. I am a native of south Louisiana, and hurricanes have always been a part of my life. They’re as integral to life in this part of the world as earthquakes are to Californians. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed time and again to live through each one completely unscathed. In fact, I’ll admit that there was a time in my early adulthood where I treated hurricanes quite blithely. I just assumed, like we are wired to be in our youth, that I was invincible and hurricane damage happened to other people. Thank God, I’ve lived long enough to gain wisdom. I also had the devastating experience, like all of the country did, of watching the horrors of Hurricane Katrina. I wept for my people stranded and dismissed, and I railed at the government for its lack of care and attention when it happened. The big take away from that for me, though, was that Mother Earth was very real and Her energy, desires, and actions cannot be denied. So, when Hurricane Rita struck Houston a few weeks later, I was among the millions who decided to evacuate. I was among the millions who sat on I-45 N for hours and hours, creeping along in the heat and humidity at a snail’s pace. In fact, it took me and my family a little over 24 hours to make the typical, 4-hour drive to a northern suburb of Dallas to stay with cousins. Though I was grateful for their shelter and hospitality, it took days for my body to calm down from that distressing experiencing. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw red traffic lights flashing, warning me to stay alert. After that, I thought, you know what, “Evacuation is not worth it! I’m hunkering down next time.” And then…I drove home to Louisiana on I-10 E — directly through the path where Rita hit land. The destruction I saw told me that my frustration and overwhelm in the traffic jam was worth it. I’ll never forget the metal posts of billboard signs bent at 30 degree angles, the vast swaths of land flattened, the debris scattered. If you’re reading this and have never lived through a natural disaster, trust me on this, you CANNOT beat Nature. She always wins. If you have lived through some natural travesty, then you know exactly to what I refer. Encountering the fury and pure power of Nature aligns your priorities in life immediately. It is a defining moment in helping you understand your puny place in the grand scheme of things. I am grateful I learned this lesson in life sooner than later. I am mostly grateful I have lived to act on the wisdom from that lesson.

Hurricane Harvey snuggles

Motherhood has been another profoundly prioritizing experience for me. I often use the metaphor of looking at life through a camera and watching the image gain sharp clarity once the lens has been focused. This event with Hurricane Harvey is the first of its kind that I’ve faced since becoming a mother. Therefore, when the news about Hurricane Harvey began circulating, it wasn’t a question of if I needed to prepare but how, when would I start, and where would we go. Living here in Houston, you know that flooding is inevitable when major storms push through here. Living through Hurricanes Rita and Ike, you also know that power loss is a strong possibility. So, I called a close friend who lives in a northeast suburb of Houston and asked if they were staying in town and if we could join them. The answer was yes to both and we began to make plans. By the arrival of Friday evening, my little lady and I were relocated with our bags packed with our comfiest clothes and favorite pjs, lots of water, plenty of food contributions from our pantry/refrigerator, games for the kiddos (as we were staying with Asha’s “brother”/best friend), all of our tablets, the laptop, all the appropriate chargers, and wine — lots of wine…and bottles of tequila and margarita mix. :) We were prepared to shelter in place and do so comfortably.

We’re now day 4 into this unprecedented flooding, storm system experience. I am watching the devastation happen via social media and 24-hr news coverage, just like you. I made the right call to come to be with friends. I cannot imagine going through this experience alone with my baby girl. The situation is so dynamic; the rain is constant; and everything is unpredictable. None of those are variables to experience alone as the sole decision-maker for me and the most precious person in my life. We are with friends who have welcomed us with no hesitation and no restriction. What I have come to believe is fundamentally true about life is that we must be grateful for all we are given. I believe we should invest most in our gratitude before and more so than we invest in any material object. I believe when we invest in gratitude the Universe pays us back in magnitudes we could not expect. In receiving, we are all in a better place to help out those with less. So, during this time of great devastation and strife, I am choosing to focus on all I’m grateful for instead of lamenting the destruction. I am grateful for, in no particular order:

1. Communal, loving shelter
2. Community
3. Family and friends’ positive thoughts, energy, and prayers continuously pouring our way
4. Wisdom and intuition to help me make prudent choices
5. Social standing, means, and agency so that I may exercise those choices
6. Electricity and Wi-Fi
7. Netflix, Kindle Unlimited, Hulu, and YouTube
8. Soft comfortable bed and a door I can close for privacy & reprieve when needed
9. Comfort of knowing that all of my friends and family who have been in need of rescue or evacuation have been able to do so
10. Sounds of 5 year olds laughing, their deep conversations about life and love
11. Access to important, lifesaving information
12. Wine
13. Outpouring of love in energy, words, and deed by folks across the country in support of my Houston community

Houston, I know this is scary, stressful, and overwhelming. I’m not discounting that. The rest of the world, keep sending your prayers, positive energy, and donations our way. The city does and will need them for quite some time. In the midst of the storm, I hope you all take a moment out each day to be grateful for all you have. I promise your gratitude will come back to you in the most perfect ways you need.

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Dr. Nikki Knows

I’m a licensed psychologist with a diverse set of talents: therapist, DEI consultant and trainer, sexologist, writer, podcaster, public speaker.