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Technically, today isn’t the tenth anniversary of hope. That came a few weeks later. But it’s what I choose to celebrate today, August 29, 2015.
Ten years ago, I was writing in a leather journal by candlelight. We had lost power and, despite the sweltering heat and the ever-hungry mosquitoes, it was far more pleasant outside than in.
I was filled with regret, I think, that one thing left undone before Katrina hit.
We didn’t take it seriously; we on the Mississippi Gulf Coast had weathered storms before. We knew what supplies to gather, what actions to take, what food to store up.
I was on crutches, a foot surgery that had me off of work and unable to carry my last box up the stairs. It was a box of writing: EverQuest fanfiction (ha!), some half-way decent short stories I had dabbled with, and some really bad poetry I shouldn’t have, and journals. Pages and pages of journals. I had been stuck in a stasis for the past two years, post-divorce and having no clue of who I was.
So I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
Of my love for the fishcamp, of my annoyance at my cats, of my first relationship after my marriage, in all its beautiful tumultuousness, and all the guilt and shame of years of silence.
I was tired and annoyed when my mother came to help me load my stuff up. Cats in carriers, important things, work clothes. I was not as gracious as I could have been.
But that last box remained as I said, “Fuck it,” and threw my stuff and myself in the car and headed to my parents’ house. The box remained at the bottom of the stairs; I refused even my mother’s offer of carrying it up for me.
I was definitely not as gracious as I could have been.
As I wrote by candlelight, my father told me that I should stop. My mother told me I should stop. “You’re just going to rehash everything.” They were right, of course, at least half-right: I did rehash everything. But writing is how I think. It’s how I process and refine my thoughts and beliefs. I realize now that, at least on some level, it’s how I breathe.
I didn’t really have much of a choice.
My mother had also told me to “Cut the Polly Anna bullshit out.”
Before the night I was writing, I was okay, in that okay-sort-of-way that meant I didn’t understand a damn thing. “We lost…” someone would say, and I would counter with something positive. “The damage!” someone would exclaim, and say something uplifting and no doubt cliche.
Over and over and over again.
Now, in the present, I recognize it as shock, something so terrible and encompassing that my mind couldn’t process it. I saw a silver lining everywhere. All I could see were silver linings.
Until I broke, and then I didn’t anymore. Not a single silver lining.
That one thing left undone, and no way to see the consequences. Roads were flooded, blocked by debris. There was no way to get to the fishcamp, although my dad valiantly tried until the water was too high, even for his high-sitting truck, and we had to turn back.
All I could see was darkness, All I could hear were stories of death and destruction through the radio. The occasional “I’m okay,” text from friends when they’d go through wasn’t enough to keep my head above the proverbial water.
I was most definitely not okay.
They tried to comfort me, my parents, but I was inconsolable. I needed to be left alone with my darkness and my realization that I was not the strong person I thought I was: I was not able to maintain my okay-ness through the storm.
And I cried. Tears, fat and wet making the ink run against the page before I gave up trying to write. There was a great paradox: everything in me was exhausted, empty, and yet I was filled to the brim with fear. My cup overrunneth, and no amount of crying would stop it.
I hadn’t prayed in a very long time. At this point, I was lost in the woods, God and faith and the core of who I was had escaped me, bounding like a rabbit just beyond the next tree.
And then I prayed.
Continue reading On the Tenth Anniversary of Hope and the Firefly Messengers