It’s October 21st, 2023. A hurricane is coming. The first one since the monster that was Irma in 2017.
Personally, a hurricane is just what I need right now -can you read the sarcasm in that sentence?- Life has its ups and downs, we all know this. It’s through the low parts that we learn to have such appreciation for the high. In all honestly, I haven’t had a lot of lows in recent months. I have been working very hard on being grateful for what I have and not focusing on what I don’t, I’ve been improving my mindset and really honing in on manifesting my dream life, and all of that good stuff. But yesterday was a a hard day, even though I carried a smile throughout it all.
I was already having a crappy morning when the latest update from the weather department confirmed what we were dreading. What was supposed to be a tropical storm had now intensified into a category 1 hurricane. Rumors started flying around that she could potentially grow into a cat 2 by the time it reached us. Hurricane Tammy is slowly taking her time but has her eye set on St. Maarten.
My landlord boarded up my apartment, leaving me sitting in a dark cave with just a little sunlight coming through the small kitchen window. Although I knew that my apartment would definitely hold up and I would be safe there, I opted to pack a small suitcase and go to a hotel instead, where I would feel safer but also would probably have modern day conveniences such as electricity and hopefully wi-fi throughout the storm. But if I must be honest with myself, I guess the real reason behind choosing a hotel instead of staying home, was to not be alone. And believe me, the thought of how fortunate I am to be able to make this decision in the first place does not escape me.
Here’s the thing, I don’t mind being alone. In fact, I love my own company and at times I even prefer it. Hell, I’ve had a lot of experience with being by myself. The last year’s of my marriage were bad enough that we both started living separate lives. So, I had a lot of practice. But the thought of being by myself in my small, dark apartment during a hurricane was almost unbearable, even if I have gone through storms by myself before. Tammy in a lot of sense marks a few firsts for me. The first hurricane after the separation from my husband, the first hurricane to affect St. Maarten after Irma, and the first in a very long time to hit us this late in the hurricane season.
While I sat in the lobby of the hotel waiting for my room to be ready yesterday, I could sense the uneasiness of the hotel staff. They felt it too. I can say as many times as I want that Irma was 6 years ago, and we have gotten over it, etc., etc. But the truth is that all of us who survived that hurricane, have been affected forever. The trauma is definitely still there.
It came to me as I rode the elevator up to my room on the the 4th floor, that category 1 hurricanes never had this effect on us before. We used to see these as just small storms that meant that we could stay home and not have to go to work. Some would even use it an an excuse to party and there were many hurricane parties all over the island, where friends got together to drink themselves silly, while there was a curfew in place. But this time it’s different, at least it is for me.
This morning I woke up early as usual. I needed coffee to steady my nerves, so I walked to a nearby deli. The prime minister announced last night that businesses were allowed to be open until midday today. Tammy was supposed to reach us by now but she slowed down, which could mean that there’s a potential of her intensifying, and would now approach us in the early morning hours of tomorrow, Sunday, October 22nd.
The roads are quiet with just a few cars and even fewer people around. Besides a few tourists and the staff who were rushing to get things done, so that they could get to the safety of their homes, there weren’t a lot of people at the deli either. I felt a sudden pang of envy at these tourists going about their day, probably annoyed that their vacation was being interrupted by the weather. I wish lost vacation time was my only worry.
The weather is changing. The skies have darkened and the coconut trees just outside of my window, usual cheerful reminders that we live in paradise, are now swaying hopelessly as the wind is picking up.
The waiting game is on and two words come to mind: sitting ducks.
This is the time I hate. The time before the storm when all you can do is sit and wait. We are collectively holding our breath and waiting to see what Tammy is going to do. Previous category 1 hurricanes have obviously caused their share of damage. And while that damage was nothing compared to Irma, experience has taught us that we should still be cautious. Soon the hotel’s maintenance department will come by to close the shutters and I will find myself in a different dark cave. And this time there is no small window where a little bit of sunshine can peek though. But here at least there are people around.
It’s October 22nd, 2023. The hurricane is here. Or, is it?
At least I assume it’s here by the sounds outside. Whatever it is that I am hearing it is not much though. I slept through the whole thing. Obviously, she wasn’t as ferocious as my imagination painted her to be.
As I lay on the bed in this darkened hotel room and listen to the wind and rain outside I can’t help thinking about Irma and how she affected so many of my friends. I’m reminded of days long gone. How my husband and I worked as a team to clear up the destruction in our immediate surroundings, and how we kept each other motivated through it all. While we were cleaning up debris, friends were completely displaced, homeless.
As Tammy slowly retreats away from us, I realize that in just 6 years so much has changed. Friends who were basically left with nothing then, have now found a new house and are thriving. While Irma spared our house back then, betrayal, disrespect, and no communication broke our home from within. The hurricane I worry about is not the one outside but the one currently wreaking havoc in my heart. Instead of debris flying around, there are emotions. Hatred. sadness, and disappointment swirl around uncontrollably. The need to escape from it all is almost too much to handle. Just like my friends did then, I feel displaced right now.
That’s the thing about trauma. Whenever we experience it, it can bring back in an instant all those emotions that accompany it. The trauma could be completely unrelated to other events in life. The physical threat of this storm churned up emotions I thought I had put to rest, and it is only logical, isn’t it? What I did immediately after the breakup, I must now do again. Like with any storm,. the only way to get past it is through it. I need to feel each one of these emotions, acknowledge them, respect them for what they are and what they are trying to tell me. So, I cry and I cry some more. Because I know that at the end of this pain and feeling of despare is peace, calm, and happiness.
In the end, Tammy decided rather last minute that St. Maarten wasn’t worth her trouble. She pulled north and passed close enough to the island to only pummel us with rain, thunder, and some wind. There was no damage other than the stress she caused. But for me, Tammy inspired the storm within and left me to deal with the category 5 emotions I still carry with me. But just like with a real storm I know that this emotional turbulence is temporary, no matter how much it hurts at the moment. I will heal and I will rebuild again. Clear skies are ahead, and this is a promise.
Thank you for reading this. I hope you know that whatever storm you are battling inside, you are not alone, and remember that after rain there is always sunshine.