a small flood-inspired gratitude list (and how to help people who are still struggling)
1. Weekly date nights. Since the flood, every Sunday night, Marcus and I have been walking to a nearby bar/restaurant for an early dinner, and we make a to-do list for the things we need to tackle in the upcoming week, as part of our rebuilding. We go over what still needs to be taken care of (providing more information to the bank, making plans for the demolition of our ruined house, that sort of thing), and we talk about what we need to do to move forward, by looking at the previous week's list, checking off what we managed to accomplish, and updating the list for the week forward. The entire process only takes about 20 minutes, and then we spend the rest of our meal enjoying each other. It is entirely possible we have stumbled on a new little ritual, one that will continue even after we have found our permanent home.
2. Purging everything. I mean, don't get me wrong -- it's pretty heartbreaking to walk into your house and find everything ruined, especially by sewage-contaminated water. But if I'm completely honest, there were tons of things in our house that we should've gotten rid of years ago. For example, while we were cleaning out the house, Marcus and I found Alex's baby stroller -- and Alex is 13 years old. The truth is that our house needed a good clearing out -- it took a natural disaster to push us to do it.
3. The beauty of the capsule wardrobe. The other morning as I was getting out of the shower, it suddenly dawned on me that my entire wardrobe could easily fit into a carry-on roll-aboard suitcase -- and I'm okay with that. We lost all of our clothing in the flood, but since I work from home, all of our clothing budget has gone to low-cost stores for Marcus and Alex, who both have to leave the house every day for work and school. I've bought very little (other than underwear -- side note: when evacuating your home, don't forget underwear). But suddenly, I'm realizing that I had way more clothes than I ever needed, and I hesitate to buy any clothes for myself anymore. I'm remixing what I have in different ways, for different occasions, and I like the creative challenge of having to do so.
4. The marvel of the kitchen table. My father believed that academics were everything, and so he ensured that both my sister and I had suitable desks and workspaces in our bedrooms to do our homework. Because of this, as a parent, I felt the same way: Alex had a desk in her bedroom really early on, as a preschooler. And so many evenings after dinner, Alex would retire to her bedroom to do her homework. While she did, I'd return to my office to continue my work, while Marcus generally worked on his laptop in our family room. And we never thought anything of it.
But now that we're in a tiny 2-bedroom-1-bath rental apartment, we find ourselves congregating around the only table in the space after we've cleared the dinner dishes -- Alex does her homework, and Marcus and I continue our work, all at the same table. And even though we're each concentrating on doing something different, it feels ... connected. Every once in a while, one of us will make a comment that we'll all react to, or someone will decide to put the kettle on for a cup of tea, and make three cups at the same time. I've realized how much we've missed by having separate spaces to retreat to after dinner -- and I'm strongly considering not replacing Alex's ruined desk, so we can recreate this connection in our permanent home.
Which is related to my final gratitude point:
5. The way small spaces breed intimacy. Our house was a very modest size (especially by Houston, Texas standards), but still: it was much bigger than the garage apartment we're staying in now. If you'd asked me before the floods if staying in a smaller space would affect our already-close familial relationship, my guess would've been that there wouldn't have been much of a change; but the truth is, that there has been a change ... for the better. After having been through the trauma of evacuation, in the last month, being close to each other has helped us process everything, together. Even the dog seems to be more loving and connected to each of us. I hope we're able to maintain this as we create our new home.
I share the list above as a gratitude practice, because I am keenly aware that despite everything, we are supremely lucky -- we remain healthy, we are still employed and have the capacity to earn a living, and we still have each other, even after all the challenges that Hurricane Harvey threw our way. And yet over the past month, there have been several natural disasters in the western hemisphere that have rendered thousands of people completely incapacitated -- earthquakes in Mexico, and multiple hurricanes that have affected several islands in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico is deservedly getting a lot of press here on the US mainland, but the truth is that many other Caribbean islands have been devastated, including the US Virgin Islands, Dominica, and even our beloved Saint-Martin). So if you are so moved, here are a few organizations that are helping these ravaged regions -- please give what you are able:
• The World Food Program, which is providing food, logistics and telecommunications to the hurricane-ravaged island of Dominica
• Oxfam, which is collecting donations for many of the other islands in the Caribbean who have been affected by the hurricanes.
And finally, for today's soundtrack: Mi gente, by J. Balvin and Willy William, featuring Beyoncé -- who is donating her share of the proceeds from the sale of this song to hurricane and earthquake relief charities aiding Puerto Rico, Mexico, and other affected Caribbean nations. Click here or the image below to listen, and buy your copy here.
Have a great week, friends.