As the one year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey approaches, I think back and can still vividly recall the days of rain that led to our evacuation and eventually a change in perspective.
As I watched the river behind us and the lake across the street slowly turn to one and rise, my heart raced and anxiety overwhelmed my body and mind. I watched as our belongings floated out of our yard and into the lake. As the sun set, I could no longer see what loomed in the darkness, but could hear the sloshing water under our house. I knew an evacuation was inevitable, as we no longer felt safe in our own home. It was a sleepless night. As the sun rose, our mailbox and fences were no longer visible and the water was making its way up the steps. My husband had me throw what I could into a plastic bag while he swam across the street to capture a small sit-on-top kayak so we could make our way down the street and up the hill to safety.
As I held on to my 5 year old son and my 1 bag of belongings (which I had to downsize several times because it was too heavy), we balanced, literally shifting our weight from side to side to keep from tipping over. My husband pulled us over a mile through knee-deep water, to waist deep water and at one point, chest-high water with currents. We did not know what condition our home would be in when we returned but it didn’t seem to matter. At that moment, I wasn’t thinking about what I left behind, only that right then, I had EVERYTHING I needed. I knew as long as we had each other we would be ok and a sense of peace washed over me.
My senses were overwhelmed upon our return. Monstrous piles of furniture and other belongings littered yards. A layer of silt and mud covered everything and an indescribable smell lingered in the air for weeks as did the nightmares of rising water. The once peaceful sound of rain ignited anxiety and I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that we had been violated by an unwelcome intruder.
After nearly a year of putting our home back together, things are mostly back to normal but the whole experience made me think about how precious my family is to me and also made me question what I really need to be content and happy. I think it comes down to what we did in that kayak to keep from falling into the water….BALANCE.
Things seem to work better when they are balanced…..your budget, your meals, your tires. When elements in my life have been effectively (not necessarily evenly) proportioned everything seems more stable and more joyful. I want to achieve more balance in my life so that I might be able to be more stable and more joyful when the unexpected happens.
This means balancing:
Work and play.
Laundry and dishes have to get done and meals have to be prepared but I can balance that with watching a movie or playing with my son outside. Happiness researcher Robert Biswas-Diener is quoted in Time magazine as saying, “Don’t fit joyful activities into your days – fit your days around them.
Noise and quiet.
Being the mom of a 6 year old boy means lots of noise. Sometimes we turn up the music and play guitars and sometimes we read books on the couch.
Bringing stuff in and letting stuff go.
When I bring in a new treasure for my home I make sure to let go of the items that no longer bring me joy or no longer serve a purpose.
Busyness with rest.
It feels good to cross off items on my “to do” list but if I take a little nap or just a break to let my brain and body rest, I will feel completely recharged.
Purpose and presence.
For several months, I have been writing in a gratitude journal and reading a short devotional each morning as I drank my coffee. However, lately what felt good and relaxing, was feeling like a chore. I felt like I needed to get it done before I could do anything else so I recently began waking up earlier just to sit on my porch and watch the sunrise and listen to the birds. There I sit quietly and think about the things I am grateful for and breathe and simply be.
Changing my perspective on what is important and putting into action a plan to achieve balance in my life is making a difference. It’s not always easy but I am finding that I am more joyful and I am certainly more thankful for what I have because you never know when it can all be washed away.