Each day a new beginning

Every morning before I leave the house, I take a few minutes to read something from my little green bedside book. It contains words of wisdom and thoughts for the day. Each day I read, and then I contemplate. It sets me up, helps me to stay focused and calm.

This morning I picked up my little book for the first time in over a month. The page marker was stuck on February 22nd. The mediation for that day was about toleration, patience and love. Just the usual. I haven’t been able to pick the book up since that day. The first few days after the quake I was just too busy and shellshocked – out of my normal routine. Then I was too mad. I didn’t want to meditate. Then I started to miss it.

So today I picked up my little green book again and opened it to March 28th. I read this:

“Is there ever any particular spot where one can put one’s finger and say ‘it all began on that day, at such a time and such a place, with such an incident?’ … We can reflect on a particular experience and tag it a turning point…”

It made me cry, which I’ve mostly managed to avoid the last couple of weeks. February 22 was a defining moment in our lives. My little world has changed so much since then. For weeks after, nothing seemed familiar. It is very disorienting. After more than a month, my world is coming back into alignment. It’s all still new, but it’s starting to feel right again. Just in small bursts so far, but life is slowly getting back to some kind of normal.

And like everyone else in Christchurch, I just keep moving forward, making the most of what I have. I can’t put it behind me yet because I’m still living in it, but I can think about what I can learn from it, what I can gain. The reading finished in this way:

“…it’s the many parts of our lives, past and present, that guarantee us the turning points that nudge us further up the mountain. We will see the summit and we will understand how, each time we stumbled, new strength was gained.”

It comforted me to think about it in this way.

Gratitude

I have three main strategies for coping with stressful situations. First, I identify the problem or issue and turn it over in my mind – examine it. How do I feel about it? What’s going on for me? I try and make sense of the situation and my reactions to it. That’s what yesterday’s blog post was about.

Another strategy I like to use is to think forward to a time when my current situation is a past event. I focus on a time in the future (maybe one month or one year from now) and am comforted by the knowledge that, no matter how hard things are right now, they will be behind me in that future. Every painful, difficult, sad event I’ve ever experienced ended and I was able to move on from it. I have utter faith in the idea that everything works out somehow. And while I don’t always get what I thought I wanted, I always get what I need.

And then finally, so that I make sure I don’t lose sight of the good stuff right now, I think about what I am grateful for in my day. So here is my gratitude list for today:

  • I am grateful for my loving husband, who is trying so hard to make our world the place we want it to be.
  • I am grateful for my amazing friends and family. We are all going through our own loss and grief and struggles, but they have been there for me today, and that means so very much to me.
  • I am grateful that, in amongst the uncertainty, I have a fantastic job that I really love, workmates who really care about each other, and a boss who genuinely wants to support us.
  • I am grateful I have a car and a driver’s license. I’ve driven round and round and round the city in the past two weeks, slowly. Sitting in traffic today, I was able to reflect on how much easier my life has become with a car.
  • I am grateful that I have an outlet. I can write it all out, and I can put it out there and feel less overwhelmed. I’m grateful for my iPhone, my iPad, my WordPress site, and my internet connection.

Just keep breathing

I had a bit of a crash yesterday, and am feeling sad today. It all just became a bit much. The city I grew up in it such a wreck. We are all doing so well, but tempers are frayed and everyone is on edge. Getting anywhere is a mission, and I keep driving past buildings I loved that have been reduced to rubble. It’s disheartening. I can’t even think about Japan. It sounds self-centered, but it is just too big.

Personally, I’m reeling a bit. Too much change all at once. Getting married was a big deal. I changed my name. That in itself is a lot of change for me. But now my workplace is gone, and I’m leaving my home in two weeks, with no idea what will happen next. Nothing is stable, everything is different and it feels like too much at the moment. I need some familiarity.

Instead, I’ll just wait it out. Time always works these things out. What seems unfamiliar and scary now will be my new familiarity, given enough time. And in the meantime I’ll just keep breathing, and say a little prayer each night for our lost souls.

Two weeks on

So, where are things at, two weeks on?

My Dad got ‘evacuated’ (evicted?) from his Council flat in Sumner and is staying with us. He’s hopeful that he’ll be allowed to go back soon. He’s doing really well after having rocks fall all around him during the quake, followed by a heart attack soon after. He’s trying to keep busy but I can see he’s getting a little stir-crazy with nothing to do but sit and watch TV all day. Any suggestions on how to entertain a recuperating 68-year-old?

I think that next on my list is to call the Council and see what I can get done about either moving him back in his house, or re-housing him. My Dad has lived in Sumner all his life, and it’s unthinkable to him that he might live somewhere else.

He can’t live with us for much longer, because we have to be out of our place on March 30th. Our landlord is also homeless and needs to live here. If we can’t secure the house we’ve been trying to buy, we will camp out somewhere and decide what to do next (thank you Mum, that sleepout is looking pretty cosy right now!). Everything is so uncertain in this city right now.

But we are much better off than a lot of folk – who are homeless, or power-less, or water-less, or jobless. The company I work for has relocated and we are all able to keep working. Psychologically it’s been really important to be able to get back to work. It feels somewhat normal, even if it is in a 3-person portacom in a carpark of a large-scale plant nursery. We have a great team at Synapsys, and staying connected has been really important to my sanity.

And I think Stephen and I are just lucky that we have resources to keep us going amongst all the uncertainty. Not just money, although that really helps, but support from a wide family circle that we can depend on for showers and food, somewhere to chill, and of course somewhere to live in the not-too-distant-future!

Being normal

I had a lovely day today. I’ve finally started relaxing after leaving the stress of Christchurch behind me on Wednesday.

We had a lovely lie-in this morning, and then went to Arrowtown to see my dear friend Lois for lunch. It’s such a beautiful location it’s hard to be stressed there.

We drove through Queenstown too, but didn’t stop. It’s a bit of a soulless place…

Tomorrow we return home. I’m eager to get back because we have a lot we need to sort out, but apprehensive as well. Being away for a few days has made me realise just how stressed the city feels. It almost feels like the whole city is grieving and it’s palatable.

We all need to figure out how to balance the stress and the sadness with happy moments and hope.

Why I write

2 AM and I’m still awake, writing a song

If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me,

Threatening the life it belongs to

And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd

Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud

And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to

But you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable,

And life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table

No one can find the rewind button now

Sing it if you understand.

And breathe, just breathe.

 

— Breathe (2AM),¬†Anna Nalick

The house

We were due to confirm the purchase of our new house yesterday. The inspections had all been completed and all that remained was to meet with our bank manager and work out the details. All that’s changed now.

The house has been reinspected and revalued. Structurally, it’s still sound. There is some damage to the back of the house where an addition was built some years ago, and it has slumped a little. But it’s fixable and covered by an EQC claim.

More problematic is the valuation of the property. The valuer no longer believes the house is worth what we offered for it, because of the liquefaction on the property and surrounding streets and suburbs. He has revalued the place significantly lower than our original offer. So now we are in a difficult position of not being able to get finance for the amount we offered to pay for the house.

Luckily we are not bound to our offer – it was subject to valuation and the value has changed. We can offer the vendor a lower price, and we probably will. Whether they accept this lower offer is beyond our control.

If the sale falls through, we are homeless at the end of the month. We are just so very lucky that we can rely on the kindness and support of family to house us until we can figure out what to do next.

Keep your fingers crossed for us. We fell in love with our cute nana house and we really want to start our married life together in it. But what will be, will be.

The wedding

So I got married the other day. March 1st to be exact. It’s the day Stephen and I met, two years ago. It was a blind date, we went to see Man on Wire. And held hands. It was lovely. He was lovely. He proposed to me on March 1st last year, on our first anniversary. I’ve been planning this wedding for a year.

On our long walk home through the sludge and water on earthquake day, Phil and I talked about the wedding. Should Stephen and I still go ahead with it? Could we still do it, logistically? I wasn’t sure, but I knew that I had to give it a try. It wasn’t any random date, it was our day.

One of the first things I said to Stephen when we finally made it home was, “I still want to try and get married next week”. He wholeheartedly agreed. So we waited for the dust to settle, then we started the call-around. Some of the event team contacted us. They were just as concerned as we were that things go to plan. It added some normalcy to my everyday in a difficult time. Eventually everyone checked in and we were good to go.

In the end, our wedding wasn’t exactly as I planned it. Small details were forgotten, but it doesn’t matter. It was an amazing day for me. It made me cry to look out into the faces of my favourite people, smiling happily for me and Stephen. And to be able to see everyone, give them a hug, that was priceless.

Mr and Mrs Frayle

The earthquake

Kim and I were sitting at our purple lunch table. George, one of Synapsys’ contractors, wandered over and sat down with us. We hadn’t seen him for a while, so we were catching up. The room started to rattle, but it took us a moment to react – we’ve had so many aftershocks now they don’t really bother me. This one was different.

As the intensity increased, Kim and George slid under the table and I jumped up and braced myself in a nearby doorframe. I could see James skating around the kitchen, he was shouting something but I couldn’t hear him over the noise.

I could hear Phil shouting too, but didn’t know what he was saying either. I kept my head down, feet firmly planted and held on. It was over in about 20 seconds, and I can quite honestly say that it was the slowest 20 seconds of my life. As the shaking stopped, Phil’s shouting became comprehensible:
“GET OUT NOW” … “GET AWAY FROM THE WALL” … “DON’T STOP TO GET ANYTHING JUST GET OUT”.

I ignored him for a moment to make my way over to Kirsty’s desk. I couldn’t see her and I didn’t know she had gone out for lunch a few minutes earlier. Once I could see she wasn’t there, I grabbed my phone and ran. We got out and down and away. Phil was last out, checking that everyone exited safely. We stood together in a huddle in the middle of the street, with all the other people who streamed out.

The image I come back to in my mind over and over is looking up and around and seeing the fallen buildings. It was hard to comprehend. There were people in those buildings. What happened to them? Did they get out? Kirsty did. She picked her way through the rubble to join us.

Then my thoughts turned to making contact. I called Stephen and got through after several tries. “Hallo, that was a big one!” he said. Bit of an understatement I thought. But I knew at least that it was centred in town – it hadn’t resonated from out his way. I could tick off Grace, Arlia, Antony and Wyatt as safe then. My next thought was Megan. She could be anywhere. And yet, just as I considered this, she walked out of the rubble towards me. She had been waiting for a bus in the centre of the city. I’ve never been so happy to see her.

There is more, but I won’t write about it now – getting out of the city, the long walk home, the aftermath. Maybe later.

The one where we take a breath

It’s 4:30am and I can’t sleep. I’m in Tekapo. I’m awake because my brain is worried about my family back in Christchurch and must have decided to wake me up so I can keep it company. On September 4th last year, I was woken up at 4:35am by a slow rolling earthquake. I was in Tekapo then too, and assumed it was the result of some movement in the Alpine Fault. It didn’t feel like much, so I went back to sleep.

Last Tuesday it really felt like we were getting back on track from that earthquake. We had a staff meeting in the morning where we talk positively about new projects and moving forward after some hard months. I mentioned that I might be a bit more stressed than usual with the wedding coming up the following Tuesday. I’d love to go back to the purple lunch table and be that stressed again.

I’m going to recount the past week’s activities in bits. There is the bit about the earthquake, the bit about the wedding, and the bit about the house. Stay tuned.