Life, now and then, presents us with the opportunity to pause, take stock, consider our current path, and make a few necessary course corrections. To wit: I spent a few moments on Saturday hiding in a coat closet, curled up on the floor on a quilt, listening to a battery-powered radio shouting at me to duck and cover, as tornado debris thunked into my house.
It was brief. Ninety seconds in the closet. Two minutes, max, from the “emergency personnel have evacuated the station” announcement to the power outage to the debris thunking to climbing out of the closet to making a beeline to my neighbors’ house. But I’m thinking a lot of people are with me on this: time telescoped in there, in the closet, with the battery-powered radio. There was no hysteria, I didn’t cry, and most of my emergency brain was functioning rationally. Thunk: something has hit the house, but I can fix it. Whoosh: there is a lot of wind, but my roof is still attached. Thwackety thwackety thwack: there are lots of things flying at my house, but nothing is smashed yet. I am ok. I am ok. I am ok.
The part of me who is much more emotionally attached to having my body and soul tethered together had some additions to the closet monologue. Thunk: this could be it. Whoosh: I have had a fabulous life so far, but I am not done yet. Thwackety thwackety thwack: my to-do list is not done and there are people I want to be with and I haVe nOt FiNISheD BeCOMInG WHO I WAnT to Be aND I AM NOT READY TO LEAVE THIS EARTH YET.
And indeed, I did not. My neighbor stood in her window and watched the tornado come down our street and said she thought it was the apocalypse, and was a terrifying pure white monstrosity. It missed us by a matter of feet, and yet we were spared everything except a mess in the yard and some lingering emotional aftershocks. Bits of other people’s roofs, and insulation, and branches, and small twisted-off treetops landed in my yard, and I did not lose so much as a trash can lid, and all of my loved ones are fine.
And so: There is gratitude, for being granted a near-miss. There is sorrow, for those who were in the path of this calamity and fared much worse. There is resolve, to stop complaining about small things and start doing big things that matter. There is bewilderment, because there is no logic to where, and why, and to whom, and all the rest of the standard disaster questions. The time to get serious about those to-dos, is now.