All planners are closet control freaks. We make a plan, we think of every possible worst case scenario and then, how to avoid it or fix it without anyone the wiser. But as a plumber recently quoted to me, “Man plans and God laughs“. It’s been a long 4 weeks since Hurricane Sandy. Some people I know never even lost power. We weren’t so lucky. My house is still without heat or hot water, but it’s standing, and everyone I know is alive. Much to be grateful for around our Thanksgiving table this year.
And from every challenge, there are lessons. Here’s what I learned from Sandy.
1. Anything that can be replaced with a check isn’t important. Most of what I lost in the flood (and raw sewage – yuck) was clothing, furniture and toys. I won’t miss those things….well, maybe I’ll replace some of it. But what really tugs at my heart are the things I can’t replace, like the box of old “pre-digital” photos; Molly’s pre-school, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade projects; love letters from old boyfriends; letters from camp; my middle school yearbooks; college essays I wanted to share with Molly when she got older; old work projects from my years at Men’s Health and Marie Claire. Those are the things I yearn to see again.ABOVE: Back basement door burst open by the water pressure, which also cracked our foundation. The high mark on the wall is the water, the low mark is the raw sewage that came after we pumped the water out. As my daughter, Molly, put it, “The sand bags were no match for Sandy”.
2. Ask for help when you need it, give it when you can. Friends and family tried to reach us by phone and text. “What can I do to help?” was a question I heard again and again. Asking for and accepting help does not come naturally for me. I’m usually the problem solver. But then I had a small epiphany. People volunteer and donate because it makes them feel better too. Allowing others to help is a gift. So thank you to all who offered, all who helped, and all who allowed me to help. I am so grateful.
3. As Winston Churchill said “If you’re going through hell, keep going”. This one is tough. In the face of adversity, it’s easy to let the dark clouds swirl above your head. There are so many obstacles to overcome in a scenario like this one, and so many frustrations and set backs. I must admit that there have been a few times over the past few weeks where I’ve felt like giving up. (How do those insurance adjusters and politicians sleep at night?) But each day brings a small bit of progress (like internet access today!) and that’s what keeps me going. The light at the end of the tunnel is being back in my warm home, sleeping in my own bed. And since so many people lost everything, including their lives, I count myself lucky.
4. Technology is not reliable. Before the storm, I backed up all my files in a cloud, and saved current work projects on a memory stick in case I didn’t have internet access. That was possibly the smartest thing I did before leaving the house. After going through two weeks of spotty service after Sandy, I am seriously considering short wave radios or CB’s for my friends, family and vendors as Christmas presents. Maybe just memory sticks.
5. We can’t control the wind, but we can always adjust the sails. This has always been my stock response to clients when planning an outdoor celebration. Now, it reminds me that I need a good “plan B”. They say Sandy was a ‘super storm’, the likes of which we will probably not see again anytime soon. Well, I recall they said that about Irene, and about that Nor Easter in March of 2010. Each one gets worse. I’m now a firm believer in climate change. How can our planet not change with everything we’re doing to it? So I’m making a plan that goes beyond “back to normal”. No, I’m not becoming a survivalist. Instead, I’ve hired a dream team of engineers, architects and contractors to help me mitigate future flooding. Much in the same way I gather a team of vendors together for one of my clients, I’m planning this home improvement project for an event that may never happen. But better safe than sorry!
6. This too shall pass. For so many people, life has returned to normal. Sandy is a distant memory, with an occassional reminder on the evening news. It’s no longer a headline, but there are still many like us who are without heat or hot water. We work, our children go to school, we shop at stores, we pay our bills. Life goes on, and I will seize every moment to enjoy it. A few nights ago, over Chinese food and a board game, I asked Rob and Molly what they wanted to replace first of all the items they lost. Molly asked for Snow Boots and a new sled in time for the first snow. We picked out snow boots yesterday. Rob asked for tree reference books to replace those he lost in his basement office. Easy for under the tree. I’m asking Santa for a new pair of fuzzy slippers and a solar-powered cel phone charger. Another lesson learned!
May these life lessons help you in times of need.