This blog post is a personal reflection on this past week. I needed to do it for my own mental health. It has absolutely nothing to do with retirement transition!
We knew when we moved to our new home in Florida that hurricane evacuation was a possibility. But we had owned property (second home) in the area for 10+ years and only had one evacuation situation. We were not in residence for that one and our property had no damage. I definitely downplayed the possibility of evacuation and a hurricane’s impact. This week it became not a possibility but a reality.
I realized there is a huge emotional impact difference between dealing with an incoming hurricane when dealing with a second (vacation) home versus a primary (and only) home. When you evacuate your only home with a hurricane coming, the anxiety is huge.
Hurricanes have predicted paths and all Floridians follow the paths as they form, knowing that it’s hard to know at first the direction a hurricane might take. But when they give the Mandatory Evacuation call for your area (with 17 hours to leave) and you live in a single story home on the water with 10+ foot storm surge predicted, you get out. Yes, in a hurricane, you run from water.
We spent those hours prepping the house to leave: lifting things up onto counters in case (hoping) it was lower surge and only minor house flooding; putting up flood barriers & sand bags on all doors; tying things down or bringing in anything that could become a missile in 100+mph winds. Yes, all my yard art and container pots needed to be moved. Boats and boards needed to fit back into a full garage. Then packing up the “critical stuff” and finding a hotel room on higher ground (one that takes pets!). My search for a hotel room was being done along with thousands of other people’s searches. I had 6 in process of booking when someone else beat me to them, finishing their booking first! We ended up with a room 80 miles away (in Orlando, right near Disney World) and that 80 miles took over 3 hours of driving as thousands of us went in the same direction.
But the emotional impact was horrendous. I still tear up thinking about it. I felt high anxiety that we would come back to complete destruction and nothing salvageable. Everyone says it’s about the people and not the stuff, and I agree. Until you think about having nothing but what you put in the car – one bag of clothes and a box of all the important papers.
The anxiety was combined with a disruption of routine. My normal morning activities, my regular exercise classes, and even my dates and appointments for the week were all gone. I’m a creature of routine/schedule and this disruption certainly did not help. Nor did lack of sleep because of flood anxiety! As I drove those 80 miles I worried about canceling appointments (would I get charged for late cancels) and about who I needed to let know that we evacuated so when/if they saw the news, they would not worry. I used Facebook and group texts and was grateful for how useful those tools can be.
And we were spared. The hurricane’s most predicted path was not taken. It shifted and the eye hit 100 miles south of us, creating catastrophic destruction for a different community. And then ironically, the eye went over our evacuation location. We lost power at the hotel, but stayed safe and mostly dry. (Dogs still need to be walked even if it’s pouring rain!)
While we had limited connectivity with the power outage, it was heart warming to get texts and emails from friends and family reaching out to know how we were. Those connections sustained me, as we didn’t know how bad our property hit was. Even 100 miles from the eye of the hurricane, there’s still a lot of wind and storm surge possible.
Coming home, I feel so much gratitude. But I also feel a huge side of guilt for feeling grateful, because there are thousands who lost everything. And unfortunately, the anxiety remains. Every time I look at the news and see what’s happening just 100 miles away, tears form and my tummy clenches, because that could have been us.
I know that this is now our reality. Climate change means more severe weather and even though our area has had very few hurricane hits in many, many years, that is not the expectation going forward. I will learn to let go of attachment to stuff. We know now how long it takes to prepare the house to leave. I will plan earlier to find high ground hotel space and update our pack list.
Intriguingly, I stumbled across a series of articles about dealing with anxiety and worry. I thought the concept of “worry rehab” was helpful:
- To stop fixating on what I cannot control, accepting that I have no power over the universe (and hurricanes).
- To proactively push aside the worry by simply directing my attention toward something else.
- To accept that things are as they are and work on returning to a normal state of balance and normal rhythm.
So, I will push aside the anxiety (deep breathing), stop looking at the news pictures, return to my normal routines ,and enjoy this space. Because when the anxiety of total destruction is not there, our place is really amazing.
Picture credit: Pixabay