We are waiting for Hurricane Matthew to arrive. The waiting began 4 days ago and we are still a day away from the expected hit. This is a long time to be clenching your abs, waiting for a punch. 96 hours spent imagining all of the possible negative consequences and trying to think up ways to mitigate them. 5,760 minutes living with the dread of an impending disaster knowing that there is nothing we can do to stop it. It doesn't help that memories of the long lasting devastation brought about a few years ago by Sandy make my chest tighten. Yes, it is going to be bad. For some, it will mean losing homes, businesses and incomes. It will be a disaster and there is nothing we can do about it except try to manage it to get through it.
Stu and I have done everything we can think of to get ready. Water, batteries, candles, and food have been stockpiled. Gas tanks filled. Windows locked and shutters closed. I do laundry and run the dishwasher again just in case we lose power. There is nothing left to do but wait. And we wait. The weather channel is the guest that never stops talking and won't leave. As much as we'd like to forget about the storm marching up the coast towards us, we can't bring ourselves to turn it off because there might be a new piece of information that we need to hear. It becomes an obsession, this need to know what is happening every minute. I find it impossible to concentrate on anything. Design work sits on my desk untouched. Blogs remain unwritten. Even new shelter magazines sit in a stack unopened. I feel exhausted by the end of the day, even though my activity level is a fraction of what it normally is. I try to distract myself with Instagram and Facebook. I check out the fridge every half hour, even though I'm not hungry. It is paralyzing- this disaster management mentality.
I'm surprised a bit by my reaction to the situation. Observing myself wasting away the hours in front of the tv, "Get up! Go write, take advantage of the time off and do something worthwhile!!", I shout at my motionless body on the sofa. But, like in a bad dream, I can't make any sound come out of my mouth. If someone had told me two weeks ago that I would have a week off from work to spend at home with Stu, I would have been ecstatic! I would have been able to rattle off all of the things I was excited to do that I never manage to get to because of my demanding work schedule. But I can't seem to muster up the energy to move my focus away from the impending disaster to the present moment where everything is, in fact, fine. I ruin the present moment and all that I could be accomplishing by anxiously obsessing over what is coming and how it might affect me.
This got me thinking. I wonder how much of life is lived, to one degree or another, in disaster management mode? How often is the joy that could be experienced in the present marred by fear of something bad happening in the future? How much more could we accomplish if we weren't paralyzed by the fear of the what ifs down the road? How often are we focussing on mitigating disaster rather than optimizing the gift of the present moment? I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't prepare for the storms. We should. But once we have done all that we can do, we should put it out of our minds, turning our focus back to what is good and right at this moment, refusing to allow the disaster management mentality to rule our lives, robbing us of peace and joy. It is a choice that we have to make. Do I focus on the bad thing that is/might be coming down the road? Or do I focus on today and what is happening right now in this moment? I start by turning off the tv and being thankful for the peaceful quiet of the now. I turn on my computer and place my fingers on the keyboard, a thought for a blogpost beginning to form in my mind.