Dealing with the overwhelm: What choice do we have?

I spent the day yesterday in an all-day training for our newly adopted curriculum and my brain is still tired.  I don’t think it’s from the training (which is huge and overwhelming and exciting all at once).  I think it’s just more of a world that’s gotten so small that everything lands at my back door.  In the world we live in these days, with omnipresent technology, what we only used to see via the news and newspapers — or from post cards and letters — is there, staring up at us, with big sad eyes or boastful joy, asking to come in and have a seat.

And it stresses me out.  I’m clearly not doing enough. Whether it’s the horrible news out of Houston, TX — or the epic flooding in countries around the world . . . or women’s issues being sent hurling back to the 1950’s by an administration determined to only serve rich, white men . . . or issues around race and privilege . . . the message is clear.  Do more.

Facebook and Instagram (my social media vices of choice — I still cannot figure out Snapchat) show me the beautiful and the ugly.  I get to keep in touch with family and friends, but I also get thrown into the middle of their adventures (and they, in mine). Right now, all at once, I want to be at the Great Barrier Reef and on a road trip north into the wilderness of Oregon.  I want to remodel my bathroom — and move into a cozier space.  As I peek into those perfect worlds, I decide I’m clearly not doing enough. The world is perfect . . . my personal one? Not so much.

But there is the other side as well . . . the devastation and horror that is Houston is at once shocking and heartbreaking.  I pray.  I donate.  I pray some more.  But when my husband, last night, mentioned a 3-year old girl, whose dead mother was used as a raft with which to get the babygirl to safety, I lost it.  My first thought was to adopt her (that thought lasted about a second until I realized how pie-in-the-sky an idea it was). My next thought was to pray for those who rescued her and that someone steps up with love. Finally, I wondered if I’d have the strength and courage to deal with the human cost as so many are stepping up to do minute by minute in the wake of Harvey. Would I have what it takes?

The answer, I realize, is probably yes.  I’ve been in the center of a variety of storms before — some very personal and some more global (like the ’89 earthquake in SF). We find strength and courage because, usually, we have no other choice. We do what it takes. We take the next step, and then the next, and then the next — until we have walked across disaster into something resembling normalcy.  That’s as true of natural disasters as it is of grief.

I wonder if the hardest to get through are those times that are of our own making? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. When we create our own equivalent to Hurricane Harvey in our personal lives, I think it’s harder to maneuver through the pain and destruction. We have only ourselves to blame — and often, taking that kind of responsibility is difficult at best. Looking in the mirror is hard stuff. It’s always easier to place the blame elsewhere. And then, we don’t have to do a thing to change the circumstance. Really, that’s not such a great game plan.

And so with Harvey, we have to look in the mirror.  We must finally look at climate change — and lack of regulations — and how those two phenomenons, together, created an epic disaster. It’s all so overwhelming, I know. But what other choice do we have? How many Harveys can we withstand?

The West is blazing with unprecedented heat right now.  San Francisco hit 100 degrees — and a few of us thought we’d escape to the mountains for cooler temps.  The joke was on us, though, as we climbed Route 88, the smoke from fires burning our eyes and the temps here also hitting the 100 degree mark. The heat is oppressive — and ripe for fire. Pines all around us are dead from bark beetles that feasted on the weakest trees made vulnerable from years of drought. On our tiny property alone, we’ve had to take down about 30 trees — and there are more that need to come down.

As I said earlier, so many things seem to be landing at my back door — usually via the internet.  But climate change? It’s come knocking, literally and loudly, on every trunk and stump in my yard. It went knocking in Houston, knocking it to the ground. The devastation in its wake is real. It’s time we finally answered the door. It’s time to do something, one step at a time. How do we start?

Maybe it’s time to demand more of our elected officials? Maybe it’s time for each of us to knock on their doors, as loudly as climate change is knocking on ours.



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