I felt inspired to share my personal quake story with you because my sense is that many fellow New Zealanders have similar feelings. I am navigating these waters with you and you with me.
The doorbell rings at home – it’s the courier dropping off a package. I’ve slept in, not the best start to a Monday morning.
Beginning my day later than usual, I’m still making my way to the office when one of Courage My Love‘s fabric suppliers rings with a typical phone greeting: “Hi Persephone, how are you?”
I return, with all the realness of the comment intended: “I’m tired!”
He pauses and apologises.
I then realise he feels awkward and continue: “Oh look, don’t take it personally, anyone who knows me, knows I’ll give an honest answer.”
Still, he politely and quickly finds a way to complete our call. The rest of the morning is a blur of work mixed with personal tasks. I can’t focus my usually razor sharp mind on anything at once so I put everything on hold to plan a very special hour at a local yoga studio, where I get to share what I know and love with a group of people – yoga.
That seems to ground me. In and around teaching that class, it is business as usual for me: errands, jobs and managing the team.
Again, I get hit with a massive cloud of fog in my head. Again, I put everything on hold and this time head up the hills with a bestie for fresh air and perspective and to allow myself to feel without distraction. What a gift.
After the walk, I finish the day in the office, make dinner while making notes and tending to emails on another job – assisting the management of 60 retail stall holders for an event on Saturday. At 7:00pm, my colleague on this project turns up to meet with me and overview the details. At 7:30pm we are sitting with the rest of the event team hashing out logistics.
I’m home and in bed asleep before midnight.
BUT WAIT!!! What also happened on Monday?
Just on the cusp of Sunday turning into to Monday, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake centred just north of Christchurch, NZ, changed the landscape of both the environment and many lives.
Like many other people across New Zealand, I was awoken by a severe earthquake. Shaking seemed to go on forever and my head filled with more thoughts than could be counted, all of them fearful. Once the initial shaking stopped I left my house to stand in the clearing of my back garden, wracked with fear, shaking and looking at the super moon in the sky. Stress hormone levels flooded my blood stream as I checked on friends and family via text messaging and Facebook. Being on my own, it was a relief to know others were ok, although frightened.
Sleep doesn’t come easily after such an event, but aftershocks do. The house kept shaking through the night and into the next day.
The tsunami sirens start and thousands packed families and pets into their cars to head for the hills (no pun intended). I think I only just fell into a deep sleep when the courier rang my bell at 7:00am.
Now, go ahead and re read the first part of this blog if you need to. Consider that everyone of us described in the Monday, business as usual story, spent our night inside of the same quake story. Last night I was looking around the events team and silently acknowledged our resilience. People’s words came out wrong a lot, we fumbled over information, lots of repetition and clarification. Yet, it was unnecessary to get frustrated with these details as underlying all the business we held a common understanding and compassion for everything we were collectively going through, but may not be talking about.
The show must go on…
This morning, after a good night’s rest, the earth is still shaking. Worst hit parts of the country are in dire straits, emergency action by the navy and civil defense is in full swing. Damage reports, images, videos, news of the event is flooding our ear and eye space… And I feel upset!
I feel upset at feeling upset too! I actually caught myself being hard and judgmental towards my feelings of sadness and vulnerability as though I have no reason to feel upset by this quake story. Being a yoga practitioner and a yoga teacher, I practice mindfulness, and this helps me uncover more of my present story.
Only 5.5 years ago, my life was severely affected by an earthquake which flattened Christchurch City. My then 4-yr old son was hospitalized, my house was never to be returned to, my business ended, my marriage ended – all following a major catastrophe that killed 285 people and dropped our city to its knees. Some residents were months (and even years) without basic necessities such as water, sewerage and shelter. Obviously, I am experiencing a form of traumatic stress from one event to another.
So why do I judge myself for feeling frazzled from experiencing yet another catastrophic event less than 36 hours ago?
Maybe it’s partly because we are all still functioning in our routines, doing our jobs, living our lives out as we planned to before bedtime on Sunday night. Maybe it’s because I am a part of that too, desperately wanting normal life to resume so that there isn’t any life or business interruption. Maybe it’s because Christchurch is actually physically ok and my stomach turns at the thought of what all the devastated communities north of us are experiencing right now – and for some years to come.
The thought of living through that kind of catastrophe again where everything gets shut down and life gets tipped upside down is a horrendous feeling. Watching others in neighbouring towns suffer the effects of the earthquake makes me feel physically ill, and for good reasons.
I realise the best way forward is to allow myself to feel the array of feelings that are rushing through me; helplessness, loneliness, fear, humility, connection, disconnection, love, sadness and on and on. It’s a colourful, beautiful mess inside people!
I will most likely make lots of mistakes while this is happening through me, and it’s highly probable that my productivity levels will be down, but one thing for sure is that I am and will continue to process this traumatic event by feeling the emotions, and not judging myself for that.
Whether it’s business as usual or the show must go on, we still need to show up for ourselves and our personal journey within the landscape of our lives. Take walks in nature, reduce the to do list and allow more time for what needs to be done, connect authentically with people – we are all in this together. Have compassion for yourself and others. Find safe and gentle ways to process your emotions. We got this!