I grew up a Midwestern girl. For a long time, I lived in the Northeast and have only lived in the South for the past five years. Long enough to get through Hurricane Matthew last year, and to reflect on Irma today. This is what I'm learning: 

1) Find the most trustworthy news outlet you can and severely limit time on social media that ramps up the rumor mill for disasters. 

2) Up north, no one told me to fill bathtubs to be able to flush toilets. Or that gas shortages could be a big deal because no one evacuates in a blinding blizzard. Or that Home Depot will sell out of plastic tarps. You do as much as you can, and then you let go of expectations. You begin to recite a mantra in your head of "people over stuff." And you hope. 

3) If you're a coffee lover like I am, make a full pot to drink cold if the power goes out the next day. 

4) Have work set aside that doesn't require power and that serves as a distraction. Have some fun set aside too! 

5) Get work done during and after it to the extent you can. And if your house isn't damaged, there is time for that. 

6) Have a supply of sandbags for future use since the stores run out right away. 

7) Buy healthy snacks such as fruits and veggies since there's a lot of junk food eating (just like with snow days), and keep with yoga and stretching! For an easy fix, put your legs up the wall to discover a sense of relaxed energy. 

8) If schools and work are not reopened and you have not sustained damages, indulge in some of the vacation aspects of the newly found time, like watching movies and reading books. Also remember that attending to #4 and #5 will make things less overwhelming later. 

9) Natural disasters are more nerve-racking and frightening at a tense sociopolitical time like we're in now. The fact that this has been happening on and around 9/11 has made it much more trying. Our experience of the physical landscape is affected and shaped by our relationships, and how we relate to each other affects our land. 

10) Snow days are more fun and cozy, and anticipating hurricanes is emotionally exhausting. The combination of getting your home secured and working to get yourself out, if needed, is extremely chaotic. Extreme weather patterns across the United States should make us understand how much science matters, and how crucial it is to have people in politics who truly get that. 

11) The preparation and aftermath of hurricanes both have devastating economic impact. Supplies are costly. Evacuation can obliterate one's savings if one has any. The poorest among us are the most vulnerable. Post-hurricane conditions reveal an awful lot about pre-hurricane conditions. 

12) Anxiety and calm will always ebb and flow; it's part of being human. My calm is not necessarily better than my anxiety. They each get their turn and they can each help me and serve me. The kinder I am to my anxiety, the calmer I usually become. The kinder others are to my anxiety, the calmer I become as well. The same is true for how we treat others. 

13) Friendships can be made when neighbors show up to move hundreds of pounds of sandbags, or when strangers reassure each other at grocery stores and try to be helpful. Consider offering help when and where you can, from the place in you that has the most strength and stamina to truly assist----perhaps that means schlepping tree limbs or grocery shopping for someone or offering a workshop on managing stress

14) There is just so, so much we cannot control. 

15) People can tell you to just breathe or just relax and it will come off as annoying, but that when you can finally internalize it, something happens and it works. 

16) One is not graded on how well they prepare for a hurricane so it's a good moment to abandon perfection and practice being good enough. 

Perhaps most importantly, I've learned today that dancing trees are frighteningly beautiful. As I watched them do what seemed like acrobatics, I tried to marvel at their flexible strength rather than focus on how they might fall on my house. As I was looking out at this, an egret waltzed over under the shaking trees. It looked curious, poking around and splashing near the water from the pond that was merging with the land. It didn't try to fly away. It was just standing around with all that was in that moment. And, as the wind ripped and howled and the trees shook, the egret stood confidently on what seemed like quicksand. And then it dawned on me. Be like the egret. 

Alfred Leung/ Unsplash
Source: Alfred Leung/ Unsplash

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