Hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires, tornados, floods. Lately the barrage of natural disasters, each one worse than the last, have left so many of us in shock. For us in Houston, the aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey, reveal themselves not just the surroundings but in the very psyche of the city. It’s going to take time to shed these physical and emotional scars.
After being focused on just the necessities of life, (Do we have enough food, water, gas? Are we safe here? Will a tornado touch down here? Will the levee system hold or will our house get flooded with 6-8 feet of water?), all else pales in comparison.
Seeing our small town reported on national news continued to racket up the angst. For so many days, I lived somewhere in a quiet state of panic, the place between fight or flight, between anger and despair. Reducing that full-blown anxiety back down to nothing takes time.
But besides the passing of time, I ached to experience things that brought me back to “normal.” Activities that reminded me that we were fine, stuff could be repaired, and everything could go on (like before). I was surprised to see myself craving of all things…routine.
Being “displaced,” physically or mentally, leaves you foundation-less so you have to find something to grasp. Routine provided that cushion of familiarity, the bosom of the known in the monotony of its moments.
And it was only the simplest of acts. Drinking my own coffee, sleeping in my own bed, meeting friends for a friendly meal, writing again. Oddly, it was routine that gave me the greatest comfort, not group therapy, not psycho-analysis, not phone calls from afar. Just plain ole routine.
Routine gives us a focus other than ourselves and our tendency to over-think. You can ask yourself a multitude of times, why me? Why us? What should I change? But when a satisfactory answer doesn’t come, you must keep going. You begin to move away from the whys and move toward acting to resolve, to protect, and to reinvigorate you for another day.
I spoke to an acquaintance who recently lost a loved one too early, they too remarked, “the routine helps.” Our daily regimen has a way of soothing us back into ourselves. It reminds us of our simple day-to-day purpose, which over time, helps us to heal.
I’ve long advocated how breaking our routine can help inspire us (How Breaking Routine Can Add Value), but after going through Harvey, it was the very sense of routine and normalcy that started the flow of time again. Until then, I could not remember even what day it was.
If you’ve had the horror of facing any of the natural disasters, or just your own unexpected tragedy, find a part of your routine and get back to it.
Experiencing fear, loss and pain is inevitable. Getting thru it requires our participation. Going from passive mode to active mode makes all the difference, and even just a meal at a favorite restaurant can help rejuvenate that sense of normalcy. It is nothing but a succession of single steps that opens the doorway to make us feel whole again.