Thursday, November 21, 2013

Step Back

Anyone who follows this blog knows that this past weekend, a tornado threw a tree through my roof while I was in the house. In fact, I was standing about ten feet away on my way to the safety of the basement. I'm shown again why perspective matters and why tunnel vision is a dangerous habit.

Since I work from home, I spend a lot of time in my house. Now that the power is back on, I'm writing from the comfort of my living room...the same living room that a tree penetrated just four days ago. While I recognize that my loss is small compared to the dozens of mature trees ripped from my father-in-law's or the devastation seen on the news, the most significant thing that I've lost is the sense of safety I used to feel here.

I love my house. It's the perfect house for me. It has been instrumental in restoring my balance and efficacy and creating a supportive, safe environment from which I can write and consult professionally. Until I had this house, there was too much uncertainty and self-doubt for me to have taken this (big and scary) step. But being in this house has let me grow into the person I am, and for that reason, I love this house and all the memories that my husband and dogs have made for me here. It is home, a feeling that I'd been missing for a while.

So you can appreciate that every time I look up at the ripped-through barn siding, exposed insulation, and shattered frame board, it feels like a personal violation. When I'm alone, the otherwise normal creaking and settling becomes ominous and I can't remember every crack in the century-old support barn beams to know if any of those cracks are new.  If I stare at the ceiling too long, I see shifts and stretches; I can almost feel the inevitable crash of the rest of the roof caving in, the constriction in my chest merely precognition.

Of course, none of those things are real. I never noticed the cracks in the beams because I tend not to notice those things. The ceiling isn't cracking in microbursts, waiting seditiously until I'm standing under it to fully release. The boards aren't pulling away from the plywood in miniscule increments that only I can see. I'm not Chicken Little...the sky is just fine.

But sitting all alone, it's too easy to build metaphors and craft nefarious symbols from the situation. I recognize that it's my creative mind's way of preparing me for any possibility, that to think it through makes it less plausible or maybe just more conscionable. I feel myself preparing to process the next trauma, but I'm not sure that I'm processing this one. I feel on high alert, so I force myself to distraction with meaninglessness. Unfortunately, that means that I'm spending an inordinate amount of time with nonsense which makes me feel less productive and sends me into a downward symbolic spiral where the roof becomes my life and the tree the tornado tossed is some bizarre occurrence that I couldn't possibly prepare for.

So, I step back. I step out. I go beyond. I'm not looking at this from a new perspective; I'm choosing to look at different things. Things that have nothing to do with physical damage and destruction. I'm checking out the Global Education conference online, I'm making connections and building my professional network, I'm thinking about next steps in my career and how to make those happen. I'm doing the small things that get you big places.

Hitting reset on my thought spiral is no easy task, but I'm doing it. Every time that I think to look up but don't is a win for me. It's not denial of what has happened, but a shift in the fatalistic mindset that trauma breeds trauma and the other shoe will drop. No thank you. I'll stick to progress and possibility.

I hope we get this hole fixed soon.

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