I had a hard week. One of those unfortunate series of events where it feels like the universe just keeps pouring buckets of obstacles and tasks and emotions on your head the same way the rain has barely stopped here in Atlanta last couple of weeks.
In a respite between drizzles and gullywashers, when everything was quiet and the sky actually showed patches of blue, a branch from my neighbors’ yard fell across my driveway. I just happened to be sitting on my couch with full view of the front window and looked out as the sound began.
It was like a slow violence.
At first I thought a whole tree from my yard had fallen, so large was the branch. But, no. It had partially broken, laid over from the neighbor’s yard, across my driveway, and bent my tree low. After going to the window to assess the situation, I sat back down to take in what had just gone down.
When I say “this was a hard week”, it’s sometimes off-putting to make those words have perspective. I’ve certainly had more difficult challenges. Way more things to face all at one time. Still…
…A friend had a stroke, and I wound up spending the night with her in ICU at Grady.
…I went from there to coach teenage girls who’ve been sexually trafficked.
…A couple other friends also had health problem that had me worried about them.
…I came out of a four-hour long meeting about a theatre project I will be involved with on a university campus next year to find out that yet another school shooting had happened while we were meeting.
…I’d been on an interview where the story and interview itself had turned out to be very upsetting; I was struggling to find my way into the story and how I was going to tell it.
Like I said, one thing after another kept coming, but I kept going. All the while, I was remarking to myself, in that way we have of maintaining internal conversations, how strong I was. How brave. How good I was at keeping it all together.
Then the tree fell.
After I’d finished the chapter in my book and had a little snack, I finally went over to my neighbors’ house and told them about the tree. They were amazingly sweet and kind about it. Despite the fact that this happened at 6p, they had a crew there to cut the limb and clean it up before darkness fell.
My neighbor, Lynn, stood with me in her yard as we watched the incredibly beautiful dance as it happened. One man, fit and graceful, climbed the tree with chainsaw, already purring like an angry feline, dangling from a rope a few feet below him. A Bobcat and other men with chainsaws and rakes stalked below.
As Lynn and I stood, waiting for the magic to happen, she asked, “And there was no wind when it fell?”
“No,” I said. “It was remarkably still. I guess it was just from all this rain we’ve been having the last few days.”
“Well, that’s how it happens sometimes,” she replied. “Sometimes they fall…after the storm.”
Right then, the chainsaw went from low rumble to full roar, the limb gave over to gravity with a deadening thud, the Bobcat and other crew members descended upon it like hyenas waiting to feast upon their prey. The whole thing was over in less than 2 minutes.
As I stood there amazed, I was not only mesmerized by the process, but Lynn’s words were echoing through my head. Sometimes they fall after the storm.
All my life, I’ve been so very, very good at being a johnny-on-the-spot in a crisis. While the stuff is going down, I can be right there with first aid, a listening ear, resource manual, play Communications Director. After the storm, though, the compression valve gets released.
I remember when I was in college, my uncle died right at the beginning of a semester. I missed the first couple weeks of school. I worked really hard to make up for the lost time and just to work through the grief. I got straight As that semester. I nearly dropped out of school the next, though, because that’s when it all caught up with me.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I know this pattern. I recognize what it feels like when the storm clouds are retreating toward the horizon. I guess that’s true for many of us. I’m learning to give myself a little grace. Drink plenty of water. Go for walks. Take naps. See a movie. Call a friend. Get a pedicure. Take more naps. Store up my energy so I can be fully resourced for the great. big. next.
And maybe, just like with the limb, the situation won’t be as dire as it seems. Maybe my car won’t be trapped for days. Maybe it’ll all get cleaned up more quickly than I thought.
It might also take a lot longer to get through than I thought. If so, at least I know I was prepared.