In the Midst of Catastrophe and Crisis

You do what you need to do

When catastrophe hits and crises arise, it’s perfectly okay to Just Do You!

When catastrophe strikes and crises arise, caregivers and survivors often struggle with guilt and surreal feelings of isolation and wonder that life moves on around us.

Sometimes we are caught so deeply in our own battle that we forget others face different fights. But even harder –  we’re bewildered that some people obliviously go on as if nothing is wrong. That one is hard to take!

Hurricane Harvey blew into the world’s riveted attention in a catastrophic way.

We all watch and wonder at the overwhelming flooding – both literally with water, and figuratively with loss.  Many people are praying and thousands of people are helping.  Meanwhile the people in south Texas  are doing what survivor’s do: working together in amazing ways to get through this.

Friday, Kirsten Oliphant, a fellow blogger and a hurricane Harvey survivor from Katy, TX, posted this:

“It’s not that I don’t care what’s going on in the world. It’s not that I’m not happy for other people or sad for other sad events. It’s not that I don’t hope for some version of “normal” in my life.

BUT. If there were a Hide Everything But Posts about Helping People Affected by Harvey option, I’d turn it on.

I’m just not ready for the outside world yet. Not that people shouldn’t be living it. They should! I just kinda can’t handle it right now.”

This hit me right between the eyes and sank deep into my soul!

I remember those days – facing the same four hospital walls day after day while my four-year-old lay fought Leukemia for his life. My mind jumps to a visit from family that meant the world to me.  They dropped everything and came to visit. Andrew had received blood the night before and so was happy and communicative as the family sat around discussing their plans.  They’d driven down from a small town to the big city where the Children’s Hospital housed us.  They were chatting and I zoned out, clicking back into the conversation to hear them mentioning hitting stores for back-to-school shopping.

It startled me – this mundane thing that people out in the real world were doing.  Shopping, especially Back-to-school shopping.  How could that be?  We had life and death stuff going on right here and frankly, I couldn’t think of anything else.  I nodded while the talk flowed around me.  It made sense.  Of course people needed to get their kids back into school.  Why not combine a a hospital visit for a nephew with a shopping spree in the city.  My mind came to grips with this shopping expedition and tuned back into the conversation.

“…and then we’re going to go to the river with Jim and Sarah and go jet-skiing this afternoon!  It should be fun!”

Wait.  What did they say?

They’re going JET-SKIING?  Is this even a thing?  Suddenly I couldn’t breathe.  While I could come to grips with necessary shopping,  or playing with friends, doing things that weren’t just fun, but extra fun was to bizarre for my mind to even process.  I nodded and smiled (I hope) while my mind struggled with alternate reality.

I wasn’t ready to let the outside world in because this world – this moment, this fight – were all I could handle.

That felt weird.  And selfish.  And uncaring.  I didn’t want to hear about fun my family was having.  When my mom told me about someone else fighting cancer, I sympathized, but cringed.  It was SO HARD to handle.

Awful.  I felt like an awful person that underwent an overnight transformation from someone who always cared about others to someone who just focused on this moment, this medical procedure and this fight.

Kiki said it so well, it’s “not that people shouldn’t be living it.  They should!  I just can’t handle it.”

Well, here’s what my three-and-a-half year leukemia battle for my son’s life taught me.  It’s all right everyone.  Handle what you can handle and just let the rest go until God tells you to take it up again.  Don’t feel guilty because if you try to take on more, you might just fall apart.

In catastrophe and crisis, it's ok to handle what you can deal with and shut the rest out!… Click To Tweet

God made our amazing bodies and brains to shut down what’s not necessary in the fight-or-flight process and when we SHOULD handle more, we will.

Until that moment just relax and let God handle things for you.  No guilt – no shame – no apologies.

You just do you.

Just Do You #hurricaneharvey #caregiving Click To Tweet

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  • Oh, this is such an important point of view! I remember trying to direct the senior play during Pedro’s darkest hours as a cancer patient. It seemed so trivial, yet I knew it was so important to the seniors. The disconnect is real.

    • And then there’s the whole ‘trying to find balance” thing – but that’s another article!

  • So important and so well said. Thanks for this post at a time when so many are in crises of various kinds.

    • Too many crises. It seems to me we could use some good, easy days!

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  • You’ve expressed it perfectly. During crisis or survival mode, it’s normal to be consumed with what’s going on at hand. Like you and Kirsten said, it’s not that we think the world should stop, we’re fine with what they do, we just can’t relate at the moment. Thasnks for sharing these things so caregivers and those in crsis know what they’re feeling is normal.

    • Thank you Barbara! You said it well, we need to know we’re normal, even in the midst of totally not feeling normal! 🙂

  • I have a time in my life (several years really) when I don’t remember much about politics or what was going on in the culture around me. When people talk about that time, I feel like I had checked out. I love what you said about those times. It fits with 1 Cor. 10.13 and how God enables us to shut out those things that are more than we can handle.