Last night, as is my custom, I watched the ten o’clock news before retiring to bed. The weathermen seemed to be all astir as they related to the viewers that yet another hurricane had dragged itself out of the Gulf. The demon wind maker was, as they spoke, speeding malevolently from Louisiana northward. I smiled dismissively.
When I lived on the Gulf Coast, I paid close attention to the weather during hurricane season, having experienced (more than a few times) the havoc that could be wreaked from the consistent pounding of 100+ mile an hour winds and sideways rain (Not to mention the tornados and storm surge). Now, when I heard the words hurricane, I prayed for those in its path, adding an extra thank you that I wasn’t one of them.
Because, you see, I now resided in the greater Birmingham area, almost 300 miles from the coast, where even the big named storms lost most of their steam before they made it to me. However, the giddy weathermen predicted, Zeta would be different.
Maybe he had a hurricane inferiority complex. I mean, this storm was already coming in at the tail end of hurricane season and got branded with a Greek alphabet character instead of a real “name”. He even looked puny in the Gulf when he tried to cross Cancun and got sucker punched back down into a Tropical Storm. Zeta must have decided that for us to remember his name, he would have to do something different.
At first glance, he looked no different from Laura or Delta who also chose the state of Louisiana for landfall.
He even mustered up enough strength to come in as a Cat 2. Again, not the first of the season. So what did Zeta do that the other’s didn’t do?
Apparently, Zeta demonstrated that if you go very fast, after landfall, you can stay a hurricane longer! He barreled through Louisiana, barely taking a breath, and took aim for the North. According to the weathermen, by the time the storm hit Hattiesburg, Mississippi he was clipping 40 miles an hour! I noticed, wryly, that the station had called in all of their weathermen (even the weekend people) to remark on what this speedster meant for the Birmingham area as they predicted he would still maintain tropical storm strength. I laughed. Those guys were just reaching for ratings. Even if it did come through as a TS, it would make very little impact around here. I went to bed.
Three hours later, the sound of a cannon jolted me out of slumber.
Cannon? What? There it was again!
“Boom! “Boom!” “Boom!” sounded transformers as they blew.
Then everything went dark. The air-conditioner hum was gone. The whine of the electric fan that brings me white noise disappeared. Everything was deathly silent, save for one sound.
The high-pitch scream of the wind assaulted my ears as I sat up in total darkness. My fit-bit announced that it was 1:40am. And Zeta had arrived. The darkness enveloped my body and mind, with a thickness I could almost taste. And for a few moments, I felt disoriented to my surroundings. I remained still, waiting for my eyes to adjust.
But they didn’t. And I realized for one geeky science moment, that there had to be some light, even a very faint one, for your eyes to adjust.
Okay. Accepted. It was not going to get any better.
Then I heard another sound. Soft, whimpering came from the floor by the bed. I knew that noise extremely well. Juno was scared. She hated storms. Somehow, her fear gave me the catalyst I needed to get out of bed and make sure that everything was secure. (My house is completely surrounded by Pine and Oak trees)
As I walked through my bedroom towards the other end of the house completely blind, I mused at how sure-footed and confidence I felt in the knowledge of the layout of my home. My phone had been charging in the living room(not anymore). Once it had been retrieved, I utilized the flashlight feature, and located the other things I would need to check on the house.
Finally, after ascertaining that no windows had broken and no trees had fallen on the house, I returned to the couch, where Juno and I sat together and listened to Zeta beating his chest with the fury of the unjustly overlooked.
When the sun came up, the aftermath for me was minimal compared to the states who received the hurricane winds. My yard, littered with limbs, branches, leaves and someone’s trash can(?) could be easily cleaned. The linesmen restored the power later that day (some areas of Birmingham are still without power.) But otherwise, I escaped pretty much unscathed. I know that most of the coastal areas experienced very different outcomes and I prayed for them.
As I picked up the branches I could lift, dragging them to the curb, my brain went into overdrive with musings that despite my 50 odd years, I still had a lot to learn. Not just about nature, but about human nature and my own evolution. Two distinct lessons presented themselves.
People come in and out of our lives, at different times, and we are changed by the experience. Sometime the change is imperceptible and sometimes it is significant. A simple truth is that we can learn from every person in our tribe, if we take the time to listen. In other words, when someone gives us a warning, or a word of guidance, we should not be so easily dismissive of it. Even though I had some experience in tropical systems, the experienced had infinitely more knowledge than I. Perceiving differently was hubris. Think about how that truth can be translated in every aspect of our lives.
I was reminded that, when in a crisis, the things we have practiced and are comfortable in doing, will come to us when we need it. The muscle memory of my home layout really helped me to navigate in the dark. The same premise is true of your social work practice. There will be days when it feels like all the lights are out! You will be faced with a crisis in one of your cases, which will lead to a super-shot of cortisol laden anxiety. But know this, the longer you work with those in crisis, the more skills are being deposited into your toolbox. When you need them, they will appear for you.
Overall, the experience was less frightening than I expected but sparked more bemused introspection that (almost tauntingly) reminded me that I still have some growing to do.