This morning I woke up in my own bed, freshly made with clean sheets. I got up and took a hot shower. There was plenty of water and body wash and privacy. I slipped into clean yoga clothes, made a cup of coffee in my own well-appointed kitchen and I drank it before heading out on my walk on dry streets, with my content puppy, Walter, at my side.
Every step I took was one part gratefulness and one part guilt. I have been on the verge of or in tears since the first reports came in. I don't live in Houston. I live on the edge of devastation.
We live about 90 miles Northwest of the city on a massive lake. We were terribly lucky. The lake rose to a level the likes of which we had never seen. But then the dam was opened and despite the heavy rains, the lake remained at a steady level. Even the winds were nothing to write home about. A half-filled water bottle that we had mistakenly left sitting out on the grill when my fiancé was clearing off the deck and tying down the furniture was still standing right where we left it.
Phoot Courtesy of: Andrew and Christy Landgraf
We were prepared. Cars were filled with gas. Pantry stocked with water and food and necessities. Things brought in or tied down. Garage floor cleared of anything that might succumb to water. Furniture and accessories moved away from the sliding glass doors. But we aren't in a floodplain. We're safely situated high enough above sea level. My fiancé assured me we were in no danger. Still we prepared.
And yet we were so unprepared. How do you prepare to watch the destruction of lives and homes and families and a city that prides itself on its strength?
In many ways, this it too surreal to even wrap my head around. The stories coming out of Hurricane Harvey sound like the ones written for those ridiculous, over-the-top disaster movies. A toddler found in flood waters floating on her dead mother's back.
A man is the sole survivor when his van is overcome by rising waters and he listens as his parents and four children scream for help but he cannot save them. The family of a terminally ill child loses their home and all of its contents including life-saving medical equipment. An entire school system loses half of its buildings. Animals left chained or caged to drown. A nursing home of residents sitting in waist-high water.
Phoot Courtesy of: Andrew and Christy Landgraf
It's not just the losses that are so hard to take. It's also some of the responses. Joel Osteen, the minister of a 16,000-seat megachurch called Lakewood locks the doors and then days later opens them only after extreme public shaming and only to those who are members or who are willing to “donate," read pay. The “President" who commented first on the “turnout" which “he" received upon his arrival in Texas – not Houston - and who did not meet with even one victim of the flood.
I hate the word victim. It makes it seems like the disaster is the boss of things. I don't love survivor either. I prefer thriver. The people of Houston are thrivers. Those who suffered damage and injury and loss and those who volunteered to help.
The volunteerism. That has been miraculous. That has been the only saving grace, both literally and figuratively. When the massive losses began to seem unbearable to not only those suffering but also those whose hearts went out to them, there were all of these people. These incredible people doing the most incredible things.
Photo Courtesy of CNN
A man buys a boat just to perform rescues. The Cajun Army comes from Louisiana to save people. Shelters open. Churches open. Mosques open. A woman embroiders pillow cases so people have some tiny bit of comfort. Restaurants feed first responders. Reporters tirelessly reporting from the thick of it, even leading rescuers to those desperate to be taken to higher ground. People come from Mexico with supplies to give and hands to help.
And our beloved Jim McIngvale, aka Mattress Mack, opens the doors to his Gallery Furniture stores and tells evacuees to make themselves as at home as they can on the miles of brand new furniture.
The Godliest among us are so often not those who loudly proclaim themselves to be “men of God."
It's hope in the face of hopelessness. It's the brightness of humanity. No one is gay or straight. No one is black or brown or white or yellow or red. No one is a man or a woman. No one is young or old. No one is Jewish or Christian or Muslim. No one is rich or poor. No one is a citizen or not a citizen. There are no papers. There are no distinctions. There are no delineations. There are those who need help and those who are helping.
In the face of disaster, we see the true colors of humanity as a whole and of people as individuals. We find joy in knowing that most of us dwell in love.
I have been reminded every moment of how lucky I am every day and certainly this week. I am reminded of how grateful I must always remember to be. I am reminded that compassion fatigue is real. That there is no shame in being overwhelmed and sad. That it doesn't have to be your home or your family to feel sorrow. I am reminded that self-care is mandatory when there are so many people who need help from those of us not directly affected.
There is no shame in feeling. There is only shame in ignoring.
So, I take a break from the coverage and I seek ways I can make a direct impact no matter how small. And I remember that love is love is love is love. And I remember that we are more capable and wanting of good than of evil. And I remember that nothing is promised. Our health and safety and well-being is not promised. It is precious. And I remember that for but the grace of God go I.
Photo Courtesy of David and Brad Odom-Harris
For those of you feeling helpless and lost, whether Harvey's toll on you was direct or indirect, breathe, eat, drink, sleep, ask for help, accept assistance, take care of yourself, take care of others, forgive yourself for whatever feelings you are having. And sally forth. That is what we are here to do. Care for one another and sally forth.
We are one. This too will pass. And we will rise.
Houston will rise.
Note: If you're looking for a simple, direct way to help, tampons and diapers are very much needed for evacuees. I have created a Target wish list where you can buy product or gift cards. Everything purchased will be distributed to shelters and agencies as needed.
Just click here to donate - tgt.gifts/WeWillThrive
Why don't women support each other? A question that I often ask myself, and is not easily answered. I keep reading articles about why women should support one another; and I'm sure many do, but more than likely, not enough. I have typically not had that experience, I wish I did more, because I enjoy the banter between women; I have a lot of female friends, and four sisters. I relish in supporting other women; I have mentored teen girls, and loved doing it; to the point where some of the teens I have mentored, to this day, still keep in touch with me. It makes me feel really good, and this is why it is so vital to everyone concerned.
A few women bosses I have had in the past, seemed to have their own agenda. I had seen, of course, bullying. And other behaviors such as being set up to fail, and as in my previous article; being followed to the bathroom, constant monitoring, given unreasonable expectations, belittled, and treated as a subservient. One former boss even suggested I take former convicts in my car, to help me move boxes; was that for real? These behaviors have lasting effects on a person's psyche; not at all fun! Why do other women want you to feel inadequate and incapable? It makes me sad when I think about these things. It's really a win-win situation to support one another. Working as a team promotes healthy work relationships and is conducive to work being accomplished in the workplace.
I may come across as biased, but it seems to me in my experience that is is easier to work for a male. Just about every single male boss I have had, was upfront, approachable, and did not have a hidden agenda. I tend to think with a man, "what you see, is what you get" (but as with everything else, not 100% of the time; because I was told by someone close to me that her boss ( a man was "the devil"). However, I can honestly say, that I did have the pleasure of working for some wonderful female bosses who possessed the same qualities. But in considering the length of my career, not too many. When I think back, I only have fond memories of these women.
I enjoy it when friends, acquaintances, or one of my sister's tells me that she has a good woman boss; it am so happy to hear this. I say to myself that they are fortunate and to embrace it. Today's women have so many expectations on them, and working a full time job as a boss, can be intimidating I guess in several ways. They feel they have to work harder, longer, and have more to prove; they want to look good for their boss, and the company they work for. I have felt that as well.
As I feel as with bullying, employees who bully (in general; or in the workplace), must not feel very good about themselves. I feel secure enough in myself, (I genuinely like myself as a person), so I would not engage in these tactics. I have seen so much "nonsense", as I call it in my working career thus far. Game playing, you name it. It really makes me wonder what is going on? One former boss in particular, would weasel their way out of doing just about anything. They were paid enormously well, knew just how to manipulate people working them to somehow do their job, and make themselves look good in the process. They took pleasure in holding you back; not letting you ever get ahead. Gave their staff a hard time when it came to time off, but they would take a month off to travel overseas.
As I said before, there was an agenda. They were all about themselves. But the good news is, that after they left the company, all was discovered, along with many other infractions, and they would not be allowed to return to the company. I have said this before, and truly, truly, believe it, "what goes around, comes around", This person was very much disliked and consistently used big words to make everyone around them, seem as if they were stupid; and they were superior - please! What a way to go through life!.
When I had a 'not so nice' boss (in general), I actually felt like I didn't want to do my work, and well while I had to, didn't care because I wasn't being supported or heard. Which is not good for the company you work for, or for yourself especially if you are one who takes pride in their work. You often end up leaving your position (transferring to another department), getting another job, etc...what a hassle. When I've had bosses who actually listened, cared, and supported me I did better work and in general felt good about myself and the work I was doing. Makes sense, right? I wish more women would think about the way they act and treat others. It would be so much easier, and more pleasant. Working is hard in itself, and to go to work everyday, and not be listened to or supported really stinks. So, after all is said and done, it really is better to be kind, understanding, and actually listen to your co-workers. So much good and so much more can come of it. I know when I was in charge of being the boss of other women, I always paid attention, cared for them, and was understanding and never set them up for failure. I hope again in the future, I do have a women boss, and I hope she will show me the same respect as I would show her.