Bend, Don’t Break

I was able to return home Monday afternoon. I returned to a power outage and a medium-sized puddle on the floor. Nothing to fret too much about.

I was grateful to return to a home and to sleep in my own bed.

That evening I took a walk and surveyed the damage around my place. Two big trees in the parking lot by my place were knocked down and hanging on power cords. The likely culprits for why the power was out!

I walked down to the Bay, and water levels were back to normal. It didn’t look like there was much if any flooding down there. When I got to North and South Straub Parks, there were a lot of branches down. There were a lot of big trees down too. The wishing tree at the Dali was toppled. But aside from the trees and branches, I didn’t see much in the way of serious damage. Of course, I walked mostly in downtown proper and not out into the residential areas.

The next day I took a walk around Mirror Lake. The water got high, which you could tell from the brush line, but it didn’t breach its banks. There were palm trees visibly pushed by the wind. They stood straight before the storm.

Then there is this guy. I thought he fell into the wires too. Instead, he’s growing through the power pole! Must have been there a long time, and I never noticed. 

Whenever human beings blow ourselves off this big, blue rock, Mother Nature may quickly grieve, but then forget about us altogether…

Through the course of the storm, I’ve realized some things about myself. My first realization is that I’m less likely to be judgmental. I also saw a lot of people offering advice and judgment, sometimes from hundreds of miles away. Instead, I tried to encourage my friends to do what they thought was best. Make a decision and go with it. Trust your gut. I tried to avoid unsolicited advice and judging those who made different decisions than I made.

The second thing I realized was that I’m more grounded than I once was. When I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed before the storm, I saw a lot of panic and a lot of indecisiveness stemming from that panic. I never felt really paralyzed during all of it. I got a plan together, then I sat back for the ride.

And that’s what I did. When St. Pete evacuated Zone A, I left. I had already made contacts so I had options. I picked the one that seemed best, and then I sat back for the ride. I could have chosen other things, but I didn’t. I could kick myself for not evacuating further out, but I’m not going to. I could judge myself for returning to my apartment that has no power, but I’m not going to. I made my decisions, and I’m at peace with them.

Just as easily the place I stayed at could have been crushed by a tree. Or my car could have been crushed. Or I could have been bonked in the head by a tree branch during one of the times I peeked out the door. Etc…

I used to be great at that game: “What could go wrong?” “What’s the worst that can happen?”

When I first started counseling after my separation, my counselor asked me to play that game, but challenged me to see how much that really bad thing happened. After awhile, I realized the answer was never. My imagination was always way more active than reality.

Which doesn’t mean bad things don’t happen. Some people lost their homes. Some their lives. I only lost my for 4 days (Today is day 4.). Sometimes reality can catch up with imagination. But often not. Might as well stay here, now and see what happens. Even if it’s bad, good can come from it. If you survive, you can rebuild.

Or maybe we can take a lesson from those palms. Bend but don’t break. Cliche, but true.

I hope everyone reading this who faced the storm came out Ok. If you have been affected, reach out for assistance. There are so many people and organizations ready to help!

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