Getting Back to Normal?

I wrote this a few days ago, thinking I’d let it stew a bit and then maybe edit and post it. But now the Northeast is in the throes of another big storm. Friends and I have been talking all day – tomorrow it’s back to the shelters and the volunteering and the disaster relief. The freezing temperatures tonight might kill more people than Sandy did and so life’s not gonna be back to normal as quickly as we expected.

What started as a reflection about a difficult night in a more difficult week quickly spun from some private thoughts I jotted down to a story being shared with the world. (Literally. Haha. World Magazine.) Initially, I wasn’t sure I’d show the words I’d written to anyone, but I decided to send my musings to my family, so they could understand what it was like to for me in New York during Sandy’s aftermath. My sister, consummate story-teller that she is, asked if she could forward it to her editor, who wanted to publish it.

I’m not a journalist or a writer, and my little trials seem trivial next to what some of my neighbors are going through, but they’re also honest and real. I never imagined my private feelings would be seen by people I’d never met or would be cut and trimmed to fit the needs of an online column and that thought made me a little uncomfortable. But my mother pointed out that it was a story that might bless people and so it was published. I figured I was done writing about Sandy; no more blog posts on my little-read blog, no more middle of the night thoughts typed up on the computer. But even though the storm is over and the immediate crisis is past, the storm is still affecting us and still impacting me.

As this side of the country cleans up in the wake of the storm, things are settling down and power is coming back on. The death toll is still going up, but hospitals are re-opening and subway lines are running again. One news headlines trumpets “Still No Murders After the Superstorm” and the internet is full of pictures and stories showing people helping neighbors and strangers. So far, there has been no looting, no rioting. We’re seeing the better side of people.

It’s still hard. Sunday morning, I sat on my roof in my pajamas and cried just because I was exhausted and needed to. Strange that my roof, in full view of the 8 skyscrapers around me, was the most private place I could find, but my apartment was full of friends and my neighbors were trekking up and down the stairwells. We’re all tired here and every day we continue to get emails and phone calls and personal requests for more volunteer time, more assistance, more help. We’ve learned that ‘you can go a long way after you’re tired.’ Having refugee friends staying with us makes our lives easier, even if the line for the shower is sometimes congested, because they help with anything and provide support when we need it, though we should be providing support to them. A little laughter or a drink at the bar downstairs prior to a night with no sleep can go a long way towards improving your mood.

I wouldn’t trade-in my experiences in the past week, though. There were a few adventures, which helped. Driving through Manhattan 12 hours after the storm, dodging traffic in the stoplight-less streets and maneuvering around storm debris made me feel a little like Indiana Jones. Watching the East River surge over the highway and up the street was awesome and awe-inspiring. Prepping for a power outage that never hit my neighborhood allowed me to play with candles and fire. 

Life will get back to normal and while Sandy will always stand out, the small sacrifices we’ve made in the past week will rightfully fade away into barely-memories. The thank-yous we’ve received, while appreciated, are unnecessary and once I get a little sleep, I won’t need the roof for anything but late-night summer parties with cold drinks. More importantly, though, service is what I’m gifted at, and even though this week stretched me a little, I’m incredibly joyful through the tears at how God has used me to help.

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