A bit about what I've been up to lately...
I've taken a sabbatical from social media, blogging and podcasting for the past month, or so, and am so grateful I gave myself this time to gain some much needed clarity.
Have you ever had your life turned upside down? In the blink of an eye everything you knew was gone, and you suddenly find yourself, bruised and shaking, standing on the edge of an abyss with one foot hovering above the chasm, and your body weight pulling you forward?
That's where I've been...
As many of you may know, I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Just a few weeks ago Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas experienced cataclysmic flooding. Not a once in a lifetime event, but a once in a millennium event.
Many people I know and love dearly lost everything. Literally EVERYTHING: homes, cars, trucks, RVs, furniture, appliances, BBQs, lawn furniture, clothes, TV's, phones, pictures, pets, pantries, food, and countless treasured mementos gathered over the course of a lifetime. All gone. Most of it piled up at the curb as garbage waiting for the trash-man to haul it away.
Myself? I am fortunate that I only lost my car. But Gracie wasn't just a "car". She was my means of livelihood. She was my protector. She was my freedom.
My home is on the west side of the Mississippi river, 20 miles away from the flooding, and was snug and dry, but the confluence of events that took me to Denham Springs on Friday, August 12th are nothing short of mind-blowing.
We went to bed in the midst of a full-blown thunderstorm. Thunder and lightening shook the earth, our house, with such violence that it made me feel like the sky might split in two. The kind of storm that let's you feel natures raw power, and puts you in your place as a mere mortal.
In the wee hours of the night the severe weather alert text messages started. It was so annoying that we turned the phone off so we could get some sleep. This is southern Louisiana, after all: it rains often.
I do not watch TV. If it weren't for my Love, I wouldn't have cable TV at all! So I had no idea what was brewing. About 30 minutes before I was scheduled to leave for work, my boss texted me that pick-up of the drugs was postponed until the weather was safe.
It was still raining, but there was no water standing in my yard, or the neighbors, so I assumed he meant that whenever the rain stopped. Which it eventually did.
Shortly before noon he called me and asked if I wanted to work. Of course, I said yes.
When I got to his office, he informed me that none of the men wanted to work, so I actually had two routes worth of work to do.
More money? Score!
I changed my route to go to Prairieville and Gonzales first before circling back into Livingston Parish, then East Baton Rouge Parish. If I hadn't, I would've known sooner the reality of the situation, but I had my favorite podcasts playing, and was completely oblivious of the sheer volume of flood water filling the Comite and Amite rivers heading toward East Baton Rouge and Livingston Parishes.
16 stops total, and I'd completed twelve of them without a hint of what I was driving toward.
Driving north on the two mile stretch of Pete's Highway in Denham Springs between I-12 and Florida Blvd, which was essentially dry. Sure there was water in the ditches from the rainfall, but nothing standing on the road, and certainly nothing that would set off alarm bells.
It wasn't a head-on collision with flood water that took my car out. More like being side-swiped by a tidal wave. The water came up super quick. The road was dry, and then it wasn't. Just like that!
This happened so fast that things transpired in fractions of seconds, but time felt much longer than it actually was. In reality, there was no time to "think", only to act. In less time than it takes to blink your eyes, water submerged my tailpipe. Gracie, my trusty Kia, started sputtering and coughing. and I was deathly afraid she would stall.
Trucks going in the opposite direction moved quickly to escape the rapidly rising water, causing waves in the water that swamped my trusty little Kia. The swirling current caused Gracie to sway unsteadily pushing me toward the ditch to my right, which, although it was full of water, I knew it was super deep and a very steep drop.
Then something strange caught my eye, and I glanced to the pasture at my left. The tall grass behaved strangely. It moved so fast that it looked like it was boiling, and strange debris - a green plastic lawn chair, beer bottle, a McDonald's cup, and other rubbish - jumped and bounded on top of it all, as it moved closer to me.
It was a one to two foot wall of flood water heading toward me carrying trash and debris and treasures along with it. I knew only one thing: if it reached me, I'd be swept away into the deep drop-off to my right.
I'm great in the clutch. When shit goes down, my mind smooths right out and runs super efficiently. Oh, I fall apart later, and I certainly did, but in that moment my instincts took over, and saved my life like they do every time I listen and follow instructions.
I hit the accelerator of my trusty four-cylinder Kia, Gracie, who was already sputtering under the onslaught of water she fought against, and she shot forward as if she were a monster Hemi! Wahoo!!!
Beautiful Gracie carried me to safety, then sputtered and died. My instincts told me to get out and push her to higher ground because the water was still coming, and it was relentless! So I did.
I pushed her about a quarter of a mile, but not all by myself. Two different men jumped out of their trucks and helped me push her to safety.
My Love actually owns a four-wheel drive Hemi, and he came to get me. My grouchy knight in shining armor! He was annoyed, but in his defense, he had no clue what was happening. Hindsight is always 20/20 because prior to an experience, you have no frame of reference to call upon to understand the magnitude of destruction.
Anyway, he came and got me, and we completed my route too! Hospice patients still needed their medication, after all.
It was in the process of delivering the medication that we got a hint of the magnitude of what was happening. At every turn the roads were flooded, and we had to find alternate ways to get my patients their medication.
It was...an adventure!
You don't live through something like that, and come out the other side unscathed. I stood at the edge of an abyss, and realized there were things I was doing with my life that I simply can no longer do:
- I cannot go backward, I can only go forward
- I cannot drive 300 - 400 miles a day to earn a living anymore
- I cannot help someone remove the splinter from their eye when I've got a fucking tree stuck in mine
- I cannot be a self-help guru
- I cannot waste anymore of my life trying to figure out what I want to do with it
There is a line in Season 5 of the Showtime series Dexter that really nails this: "Some events are so big they change your DNA."
It certainly did mine. I'm truly grateful because, while this flood destroyed homes and property and lives, it also washed away much internal garbage that was clouding my vision, and brought our community together in a way nothing else could have.
For years people have told me, "you're so inspiring." And I thought that meant that I was supposed to teach people how to be...well...I was never really sure.
I have tried so many different ways live up to other people's expectation of me to BE inspiring, and failed at each and every one. Not just failed, but felt deeply inauthentic, and unfulfilled while trying to "help people".
Perhaps I've just gone through an existential crisis brought about by facing my own mortality, but I'm good with it because I've come out the other side with an amazing sense of clarity!
- I do not want to "help you" because you are fully capable of governing your own life, and don't really need me to guide you anywhere.
- You're not broken, and neither am I, so neither one of us need to be fixed, or healed, or cleansed because we're not broken, diseased, or dirty.
- I love sharing my experience of life, and have ultimately come to realize that me being authentic, and honest, and...well...fiercely ME is what folks find inspiring.
- I have nothing to teach, and only myself, and my experience of life, to give, and that is enough.
Marie Forleo said, "Clarity come through engagement." and she is absolutely correct.
Releasing this weird need to be looked up to, or needed by others is so freeing I almost don't know where to begin. It wasn't ME who needed those things to feel loved, admired, worthy, or to belong, my Ego did.
What's Next for me?
I have no desire to be a self-help guru. The very thought feels pretentious and arrogant.
Instead, I'm re-branding myself. I've had to figure out what I love, what I want, and how to get congruence between my thoughts, words and actions. I love to travel, write, podcast, give speeches, meet new people, explore new places, and I want to learn how to take awesome photographs.
I'm a writer and it is ridiculous that I do not make a living at it, so that is going to change too.
Today, I put a stake in the ground: I am a Freelance Writer, Blogger, Podcaster & Photographer in search of Congruence! From this point forward, I'll use my blog to share my adventures in making that into a reality, and use my home page as a portfolio for my articles.
I may have to get a "real day job" to support myself while building my portfolio, and I'm okay with that.
For those of you looking for an inspiring, quote meme-ing self-help guru wannabe? That ain't me.
For those of you interested in learning something new, sharing adventure in far-off places, and meeting interesting people in a variety of ways while spreading sunshine? Buckle up!