Day 10 after the flood – hitting the wall

Yesterday I finally hit the wall. I haven’t been sleeping much. I haven’t been eating much. I haven’t been doing much of anything except troubleshooting the thousands of small challenges that arise when you’re forced to evacuate your work space in a matter of hours.

After so many days of feeling like I was capably “on it” — adrenaline is a powerful stimulant — I was spent. My mind was fuzzy and the shadows of depression were creeping in, threatening to overpower the optimism and confidence that sheer determination had, so far, held at bay.

I was finally feeling completely, utterly, hopelessly overwhelmed. Everything inside of me was screaming, “Go back to bed!” But I couldn’t.

I had work to do, and others were counting on me to do it. Daily website updates to make. An eBlast to send for our marketing director. Payroll to review. One last round of proofreading on the July magazine, which had to go to the printer no matter what. (We’d used up two days of grace time the company generously extended after hearing about our dilemma.)

I wanted to post in my blog, and read the new posts from our other bloggers. I felt compelled to neaten my house and do the dishes before staff members arrived to work there.

And I had to meet the construction guys at the office at 8am.

So I felt rushed. And I hate feeling rushed. At 7:55am, and with most of my “must do” tasks still only half done, I threw on a pair of shorts and a wrinkled blouse, grabbed my belongings and bolted out the door.

I was on the phone with another member of my staff when I pulled into the parking garage of our building. We couldn’t resolve the problem we were discussing and I could feel my back stiffening. I saw all the construction guys standing outside waiting for me, and I lost it. “I can’t talk right now!” I snapped, hanging up the phone.

And then more frustration: I was told our carpeting would be cleaned, but not replaced. I knew my staff would never have it. No one who saw our office the way it looked the day of the flood would feel good about living and working on that carpeting eight or more hours a day.

The professionals involved in this process of getting us back into our space — the insurance adjuster, the restoration companies, the contractors, the landlord — were having discussions about our space, our home, without me, making decisions that will affect our future there without consulting me. Like a child with no say in adult matters, I seethed with the rage of disempowerment.

But these guys were just there to do a job. And I didn’t have time to untangle the lines of communication. So off I went to Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams’ new apartment in northeast Scottsdale, where — amid boxes she hasn’t had time to unpack since moving there the end of May — we wrapped up production on the July magazine.

Before I left my house that morning, I grabbed two books I wanted to show Michelle. They are children’s books about Ethiopia, written by an author, Jane Kurtz, who grew up in that country, the daughter of missionaries. I connected with Jane after she saw a blog I wrote about getting the shots I need for my upcoming trip to Ethiopia. I immediately went online and ordered each of the children’s books she’s written about the country.

Two have arrived — Only a Pigeon (by Jane and Christopher Kurtz, illustrated by E.B. Lewis) and Pulling the Lion’s Tail (by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Floyd Cooper).

The books’ illustrations are captivating and I knew Michelle would appreciate the skill underlying their beauty.

I told Michelle how I’d taken the books to bed with me when I couldn’t sleep the night before, savoring their simple but profound stories and soothing pastels. I turned the pages slowly, like a child just learning to read. It took me a full hour to get through the slender picture books. The experience was enormously comforting.

Michelle told me that she, too, likes to read children’s books when she is under stress. And suddenly, I felt better.

We can’t control what life hands to us. We can only learn from it. I have learned many valuable lessons from the events of the last 10 days: That I am more resilient and tenacious than I may have thought. That I will fight with everything inside me to save what I cherish. That I have a strong support system in my staff, my family and friends.

And that I can’t run on adrenaline forever. It is up to me to honor my limits and find some peace so I can recharge my energy. For me, that means making time for quiet, making time for processing through writing and allowing myself a mental escape into whatever soothes me — children’s literature, nature, exercise or just a nap.


4 responses to “Day 10 after the flood – hitting the wall

  1. Karen: If you only knew how close I came to ‘running away from home’ to your place yesterday. Now I can try the ‘reading children’s books’ strategy first. If things get really tough, we can do a book swap–and try to keep things in perspective by remembering the families in Arkansas facing devastating losses after a campground flood. We’re all under water, but swimming against the current is something the RAK family does best. You have plenty of life preservers loving and supporting you. Use them…

  2. Karen, My heart is with you as you and your staff feel and work your way through this trying time. Warm hugs …

  3. Karen, you must let me send you another of my children’s books–RIVER FRIENDLY RIVER WILD, which I wrote while I was cleaning up after a flood. Let me know a postal address, and I’ll put a copy in the mail this week. And thanks for this post. So often we float those words out into the universe with nothing but immense trust that some of them will land.

  4. Pingback: Preparing for Ethiopia: the reading list « behind the 'zine

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