There comes a time in every person’s life when they slow down, look inward and question what they’re supposed to be doing with their lives. It’s one thing to have a childhood goal, like become an astronaut, a firefighter (it was fireman back in my day), engineer (not of structures, but railroads), but it’s another when one is faced with bills, a family, responsibilities, and all those well-meaning people who offered their advice about “tons of money,” a fast road to success and what-have-you.
I’m sure it’s not new to you to read about “finding your life’s purpose,” “finding your why,” “living your passion” and other catch phrases. Are they just catch phrases or are they real building blocks of a meaningful and fulfilling life? Only your inner spirit can answer that question without being influenced by outside factors.
I fell victim to an outside influence and for nearly 4 years I put time and money into a business that put very little return in my pocket. I was told I “only” need to do this or do that, and income would come rolling in when I least expect it. Every year, there were new things to start doing that were touted to bring me even more success.
I trusted the person because he was very successful. I changed my attitude, became a believer, drank the Koolaid. This summer the company went bankrupt. All the money I had invested was gone.
I looked on the bright side. The bankruptcy released me from having to make the decision to quit the company after investing so much into it. I had also learned an incredible amount about becoming a computer techie, online marketing, social media coverage, blogging, making my own videos, and getting my message out there. Still it was a blow and there was no denying it.
In September, more blows came to my otherwise smooth life. There was a significant break in my every day routine that has lasted until now. It was called Hurricane Irma. I live in south Florida, but did not suffer damage or power outages other than one day. That was a relief, but it also planted the seeds of guilt, which I’m very good at, and a real weariness and depression.
There was the seemingly forever preparation for Irma: hunting for bottled water, non-perishable food, cat food, ice, arranging for the hurricane shutters to be installed on my rental home, and gasoline. Forget it. People were panicking and the roads were starting to fill up with vehicles headed north. We see-sawed back and forth whether we would evacuate as well. We began cleaning out the refrigerator of old frozen foods that were too old to eat and would spoil if we lost power for a week. We filled plastic bags with water to freeze in the freezer to keep it cold longer (we did it wrong but more on that later).
The weather channel was on non-stop, another mistake. South Florida and the Keys were predicted to suffer significant damage. As images of smashed houses, piled up cars and boats, giant trees slashing power lines and gouged beaches flashed every 10 minutes, the weather anchors tried to “convince” us to prepare for the worst. I realized that everything could be wiped out.
There were some amusing scenes in our preparations. While standing in the checkout lines in the grocery store, I noted what other people were buying: one lady had thick steaks and potatoes; another had twelve boxes of cereal; another man had crackers, cheese and ice cream! Another lady had only saltines and canned soup – I felt sorry for her family. When an announcement came across the P.A. system saying bottled water had just been delivered, we swarmed through the aisles like schools of fish to get cases of water – limited to two to a customer.
All that to say the preparations were prudent – my city did have a boil water notice posted for 5 days so the bottled water came in handy, but Hurricane Irma shifted its course and raked the southwest coast of Florida instead, up through Fort Myers, then careened across the state and hit Jacksonville! I wish those storms would file a flight plan!
There’s a queer feeling after a storm avoids your area; it’s almost like survivor’s guilt mixed with a perverse disappointment that you didn’t get hit and test your preparatory measures. We began eating the peanut butter crackers and other snacks we had stored up – I felt like a squirrel. Putting away everything we had stored in the house was a giant pain in the neck but you can’t complain because you survived – no damage – just inconvenience. On top of that, we lived in a very dark house for a week before the shutters were removed. This further darkened my mood.
As I watched the news about the damage on the west coast of Florida and the poor Keys, I became really depressed. Then Hurricane Maria bounced across the Atlantic and started smashing islands in the Caribbean, then ripped Puerto Rico to shreds. We stopped putting things away and waited, holding our breath for any news about a landfall here. Thankfully, Maria headed north and stayed away from any landfall on mainland U.S. Sorry, Ireland.
We contributed to agencies helping Harvey victims, Irma victims, and now Maria victims. But this didn’t make me feel better, just inadequate. I know how FEMA operates; there’s nothing quick about that agency. It gets buried in paperwork and, where’s there’s NOTHING LEFT, like in Puerto Rico, it’s agony getting the help you need.
I just became aware of the plight of Everglades City, a long-forgotten town of less than 500 people 30 miles south of Naples, Florida. This city has very little infrastructure – most citizens have small concrete block houses; they are fishermen, fishing guides and hunters who have lived there several generations. Many of their houses were damaged, cars and boats wrecked. They have no income now, and no money to rebuild their homes to livable condition. So we’re sending money and gift cards to them for hardware stores and appliance stores.
The coup de gras was the massacre in Las Vegas. Why a human being would plan and carry out such a thing is beyond my comprehension. Obviously he felt no love inside. Only love can reverse such thinking. I was so depressed by this that I couldn’t watch the news anymore, or hear the victim’s personal stories. It was just too sad. But then again, It was wonderful to hear how many lined up to donate blood to the wounded.
Now there are all the folks in California who have been left with absolutely nothing after a wind-fueled wildfire burned everything they owned. I can’t imagine going through that with very little warning when the fire shifts your way.
So back to having an introspective period. With the bankruptcy of my earlier company, it was time to reevaluate what I really want to do. What would really make me happy? What makes my heart sing? Writing and singing seem to do the trick. So I will continue to write and sing in my Sweet Adelines chorus and enjoy life and encourage others.
Now you’ve heard why I haven’t blogged in quite a while. Forgive me, and let me say that I’ve missed you readers. My emotions have been scraped raw by all these events and I don’t mind sharing that with you. The tragedy about these heartbreaking events is it doesn’t take long for those of us who didn’t go through it to move on with our lives and forget about those still recovering from this year’s disasters.
We’re in a great big neighborhood here in America and the world – and we should take care of each other, as many do, and respond with love for each other every day. It shouldn’t take a disaster to bring out the best in us.
Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy life!
PS One more thing. If you fill zip lock bags with water to freeze, make sure they are dry on the outside because placing them in the freezer. I had to use a hammer to chisel them out after the storm!