This week, with the second anniversary of the devastating 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake yesterday, I’ll be blogging about several issues relevant to our situation here in Christchurch and natural disasters in general.
Yesterday was a mixed-bag of emotions for me.
Work was proving to be a bit difficult to concentrate on, and, while I did do a bit of it, right after the clock hit 12:51 PM, I decided I needed to do a few things for me.
I texted Noel to tell him I love him.
I responded to a wonderful e-mail I received from my good friend John Sill, in response to an email I sent him about my life over the last few years. That’s when you can tell a person’s true colours; when you open your heart and your darkest problems, and they come back with, “I’m always here for you. We’ll get through this together.”
(Anne DiCosola sent me an email too. I will respond!)
A quick message to Izaac, who had emailed me about the dream catchers he’d created and posted pictures of on Facebook. I’d left a reply about how much I loved dream catchers after Anne gave me one when I was still living in the States. Like several precious things, we’d lost that and a painting Izaac made for us in the quakes.
Back to the e-mail I sent John and the mixed-bag of emotions I felt on the second anniversary of the 22 February 2011 quake:
Sorrow. I am still upset about what happened to us, this wonderful city, and the people in it. My sorrow for those who lost loved ones or who can no longer face being here or who are still terrorized by a sudden noise or slight shudder from a truck driving past is profound. Losing Jenah in this same period, knowing the end part of her life was filled with such scary events for her rather simple (but extremely compassionate) mind, kills me inside.
Acceptance. I accept it happened to us. For a while, I’d wake up in the night, fresh from a dream about Amuri Park (where our work used to be) or the Hotel Grand Chancellor (where our graduation used to be) or someplace else in the city now gone, as if they were still there and tangible things, to gradually realise they were ghosts, resigned to being a footnote in history. For a while, it was hard to comprehend not being able to walk into Unit 7, Amuri Park. We hadn’t moved; it was no longer there, merely a bare patch of crushed-up rubble no bigger than stones, mixed with dirt and memories. But I now accept that as being reality. Time has helped me accept that as the new normal.
Scared. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat, really upset, heart racing. My hand grabs Noel’s hand, and my body scooches a little closer to his, to even feel his presence near me, to reassure me I’m not alone. If I’m not careful and my mind drifts, I hear the noises the quake made, or see snippets of the events, or feel the fear rising in me that I felt during the quake. And the future… who knows what it will hold. Did we survive that all only to have things slowly crumble and fall through Government bureaucracy and departmental incompetence?
Coping. I do still have my moments where a sudden noise will scare the daylights out of me, but I’ve always been like that. To be honest, I probably was a bit too jittery for my own good. There’s only so much adrenaline the human body can take being released at any given time, and it’s not really all that good for us unless we’re in a fight-or-flight situation. To have that rush every five minutes, every day, for weeks, is not good for you. Somehow, right towards the end of the quake, I felt an amazing calm and had an amazing sense of clarity. So I have tried to find an inner calm to cope with situations like that now, and accept that there are things I cannot change. If things crumble and fall, there are other things to move on to, maybe even better things, and I still have my talents, my intelligence, my health, and my life; thus goes life.
Guilt. Why did I survive? What would have happened to my family, to Noel, to our fur children, to our friends, if I hadn’t survived?
Providence. I survived for a reason. God still has something for me to do. It’s no use dwelling on “what-ifs”. What matters now is I’ve been given a chance at life, and I should live it.
Remembrance. Friday morning, I felt I needed to remember those who passed and those they left behind, those who were injured, those who couldn’t cope and left, those of us who stayed, and those of us who still face the horror or some reminder of it every day. It seemed only right to be solemn on the anniversary of Christchurch’s darkest day.
Optimism. We can’t wallow in the past. We have to move on, if not for ourselves or our community, then for those who died or who were injured in the quake. Build stronger, learn from the event, help restore normalcy to the community, one street at a time, if need be. Make sure if there is another disaster that others do not lose their lives or livelihoods in the same way. Out of every disaster or bad situation comes an opportunity; seize it. Seize it and run with it.
I said to Jacqui, at lunch yesterday: “You know, this morning I started with a sense of dread, mixed with fear and uneasiness. Now? Now, I feel like I’m over it. I want to move on.”
To survive such a horrific ordeal has taught me this:
There’s no time like the present.
Move on from the past.
Live life to the fullest.