“Are things back to normal yet?”
The post-Hurricane Sandy question I have been asked so often in the last month. My honest answer is always “no.” I have not personally experienced any hardship from the storm, as my Brooklyn neighborhood was spared, but in my role as an observer of energy and human experience, it is clear that a major shift has occurred.
Pressing “reset” was not an option. The storm affected us all one way or another – physically or emotionally, energetically or mentally. As I have pondered the experience further, I have come to realize that this change on the individual level must be embraced in order for all of us to move forward together as a community. For one event to test so many citizens on this important lesson at once is a rare occurrence.
In the hours preceding the storm and even during the early hours of the storm cycle, I found myself taking frequent walks and craving outside space. Apprehension and a restlessness had arisen. I felt peculiarly alive and present.
On my early morning walk outside post-storm I witnessed physical damage in the streets, but it was an energy shift that I sensed more. Since my neighborhood had not harbored too much damage there was not much to look at; still, I knew things were not the same as the day before.
The stories started rolling in reporting severe damage to certain areas and I saw how human responses of fear and anxiety, also partially stirred up by the hurricane winds, began to evolve – how many took on the challenge to be there for those less fortunate.
Matters were put on hold. No work was being done. Most had no means of travel. It was odd. Some people were on edge and upset. Displaced New Yorkers found refuge in my neighborhood with friends.
Fear-based emotions were prevalent but what emerged all the more was this sense that many people did not want to get “back to normal”. Priorities had shifted. Food, gas, power, and water were important. Communication with others, donations for those hit hardest, monitoring friends, and talking with one another took precedence. Basic human behavior had re-emerged with the trauma of a storm. It was fascinating.
Personally, the reflective downtime encouraged me to reassess what was important in my work and life and to shed unnecessary draws on my health and energy. How could I be available to others if I was too busy micro-managing my own world and juggling nonessential tasks? My human instinct peeked through in my impulse to just get outside and be with others. Being present to hear the call and respond was a worthy experience, and a reminder that sadly only a tragedy could bring into focus.
Embracing change as a community makes us stronger and gives us an opportunity to reorganize, redevelop, re-inspire, and rebuild. Instead of going back to what was, we can witness what is and take each step together.
As recovery efforts continue, I am reminded of these words by Pema Chodron:
“We don't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts.”