This is the sky we’re all looking forward to, physically and metaphorically
Here in Queensland, we’re in the middle of an ongoing flood crisis. Most of the state is under water, many cities and towns are seriously affected and the damage will continue to affect us for months and, in some cases, years to come.
A number of people, including children, have drowned, many more are still missing, and the death toll is expected to rise significantly as emergency services workers, police and the military search for survivors and check abandoned cars and homes.
In Brisbane, the river hasn’t yet peaked, but is expected to exceed the levels that devastated the city in 1974. The extent of the situation is overwhelming, and I can’t begin to imagine the grief of those who’ve lost their loved ones, and in such cruel circumstances.
There are many confronting and unforgettable images and stories emerging from the affected areas. In my lifetime, and like so many others, I’m sure, I’ve never seen or experienced anything like the scale and intensity of this ongoing event.
I was born and raised in a river city prone to flooding, and I now live in a river city prone to flooding, and perhaps because of both those facts, I live in a suburb beyond the reach of the immediate flood zone and I’m extremely grateful that I do.
But it wasn’t always so, and I noted in today’s paper a list of streets as long as your arm likely to be affected by the flooding in the days ahead as the river rises. Three of them were streets where I’ve lived previously, and I have friends who live in others. And in my old hometown, where they’re waiting patiently for the river level to drop, it seems like everyone is snorkelling.
The street list reminded me of the unpredictable nature of our existence in this dimension and the concept of chance. If this flood had happened some years ago, I’d be in the firing line along with thousands of others around town. I wondered how I’d react.
A reporter speaking with a woman whose 76th birthday is just around the corner, asked her how she was feeling. She looked around the wrecked kitchen of her wrecked home, and said that after living for so long, she now had nothing to show for it.
In another affected town, a woman helping her mother, who has dementia, move to higher ground, was asked by the interviewer how she was able to cope with the stress of the floods and her mother’s condition and the move, and she replied, “You just have to get on with it.”
I’d like to give both these women a big hug, and I’d like to say to the first that she has so much to show for her nearly 76 years. She has her physical self and her resilience, for a start. And she has so many memories and experiences, and skills she may not even realise she possesses. She has her heart and soul, her love for others and their love for her. (Her children, grandchildren and friends were helping her clean up).
But it’s hard to remember these things when devastation is all around you. Like the second woman, stoic and determined, all anyone can do is try and get on with it.
It’s hard, yes, but is isn’t impossible.
Two comments keep coming into my mind: “This, too, shall pass,” and Robert Frost’s succinct truth, “Life goes on.”
They may seem trite – and I’m the first to pull Pollyanna’s pulsating plaits – but try them out as affirmations when you’re feeling low. I know, from experience, that they work, and they work best if you focus on each word, ingesting its meaning like a sustaining, present-moment protein.
It may just take a few hundred repetitions in the early days before their power begins to show. But it will. Trust me, grasshoppers, I’m a flood kid, born and bred.