Our part of Long Beach was one of the worst-flooded areas during last week’s storm. We live down the street from a major storm drain and pumping station, and when the pump shorted out during our lunch hour (and coincidentally the time of hardest downpour), Tim and I came home to this… (click below to play)
The muffled voice in the background is mine, and it steadily grew more panic-filled the more I tried to steer our dinky Honda Accord through a foot and a half of water. All around us were people pushing their cars through the lake, their engines waterlogged and useless. Only the dudes with the jacked-up pick-up trucks flourished, and they gleefully roared passed us, gifting us with 10-foot sprays of Long Beach’s best water-soluble street grime.
The only thing worse than driving through the flood was stopping. Because then we were able to hear the water lap against the side and bottom of our car, and we started bobbing up and down in our non-amphibious vehicle.
When we were stopped, I saw a single shoe float by us and I immediately thought of Katrina. Although the rational side of my brain knew it wasn’t nearly as bad as that, that shoe began this terrible anxiety growing like a tumor in my chest, and it overtook me. The anxiety was why I was glued to weather websites all day, why I picked my kids up from school at absurdly early hours every day that week, why I could only go to sleep with some pharmaceutical help, along with a flashlight and a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese by my bed, just in case.
Funnily enough, that particular flood cleared out within half an hour of restarting the pump. But my worrying about it lasted much longer.
Later in the week, the winds started to pick up and brought us all sorts of surprises, like pieces of our roof, other people’s flower pots, and hail. But no flooding. I looked outside the window during an especially harsh spell and saw the telephone pole stationed in our backyard sway alarmingly. I tried not to imagine what kind of damage that would bring to our house and our bodies if it fell on us, but I did.
Why was my mind in such a strange space, I wondered. Was I depressed? I felt my brain, like that pumping station, was just filled to the brim with everyday mommy-stuff and Julie-stuff and work-stuff and wife-stuff and hobby-stuff and future-stuff and friend-stuff, that once a little rain started falling, I immediately flooded. It was time for a time-out.
So I decided to meditate. I thought of all those tall palm trees that dot the LA landscape. They have survived decades of harsh weather, and still they stand, some more than 100 feet high. They move with the wind, they let it push them over a little, but they stay rooted. I called upon the immutability of those palms, standing like hundreds of middle fingers shoved into the faces of the gods, and I willed my anxious mind to stand with them.