Okay, now I’m angry

Before Monday, I was rallying. I was starting to get my mojo back, feeling much better about things. My strategy was to focus on small things that were happening so that I could see things moving forward. This helped to ease the general feeling of hopelessness that would creep in some days. So I noted the smoothed roads in my suburb, the fact that we finally had flush toilets, that we’d be moving into a new office soon.

Then Monday happened, a 5.7 and a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. More liquefaction, more flooding, more broken streets. Making a dash across town to gather my family at home. No power, water. And no flush toilet. It breaks my heart.

My first thought, when I stopped long enough to think about it, was that I’m angry. Thoroughly pissed off. Again?! We have to do all of this AGAIN?! Before Monday I was getting a level of acceptance of how my life has changed, now I’m just mad. At what? I don’t know. And that just makes it harder. Not nature. Not god. This is just a random event. There is nothing to get mad at. But I am anyway.

I know that underneath my anger is fear. The more of these destructive earthquakes we have, the less secure I feel. I lay in bed the other morning, woken by a strong jolt, thinking … “is there going to be another? Will this be ‘the one’? …”

Those thoughts don’t last long. I can’t live with them in my head for long. But I resent that they are there at all. I should be able to trust the ground underneath my feet. I should be able to take for granted my power, running water, flush toilets. I shouldn’t have to listen to children developing a new vocabulary that includes ‘liquefaction’, ‘magnitude’ and ‘munted’.

I know I’ll pick up and move on, but right now I’m just angry.

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It’s been ages

I haven’t blogged in a month, and it’s been such a busy month too. Nothing in particular has been going on, just work, family, house and social life. But I had the feeling of life passing me by without my having paused for reflection in a while, so it was time for some writing.

Life is slowly getting back to normal. In Christchurch we call it the ‘new normal’. It isn’t really normal at all. We have no city, literally. The city centre has been a no-go zone for three months now, and will continue to be so for at least the rest of this year. I miss it.

But I feel like I’m adjusting. Doing normal things again – going skating, to the movies, work, out for coffee. It’s lovely. The road outside our house has been fixed – no more bumps. That feels like a big step forward. Now all we need is a flush toilet and it really will feel normal.

The best news is that we have a new work location to move into. It’s not quite ready yet – needs fibre cables for high speed internet laid, and some renovation. But by the end of the month, we should be able to move in to a new place where we can all have a desk and a chair, and all be together again. I’m really looking forward to that!

The one where we move in

It’s been a long road, but here we are, finally in our lovely little nana house. We wanted this house as soon as we saw it. It has so much potential. It’s been well cared for, but needs an update – paint, carpets, light fittings, drapes, gardens. We have so many plans for the place I can hardly contain my excitement. I want to do everything right now, but I also want to take our time and savour the transformation at the same time.

The house isn’t without issues. There are cracks in the exterior brickwork that will require fairly major repair. The en suite bathroom has a broken waste-water pipe, making it unusable. There is a large crack in the concrete floor running the width of the house across the two main bedrooms. There are numerous hairline cracks in the concrete floor all over the house. There is no carpet, due to flooding from the broken waste pipe. And let’s not even talk about the fact that we found out today that our sewer system is not working, so we can’t flush. We’ve been given a chemical toilet, and there are portaloos in the street.

But these are all solvable problems, given enough time and energy and money – things we have in abundance. I feel very lucky to have my own little nest to share with my beloved Frompsons.

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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 tolerance, 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.

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