Breathing Through Irma 3


I wake to the sound of thunder, and search for my phone. As I open the NOAA radar app, I see Irma has moved further west.

The house was still quiet when I woke this morning. I was relieved to see that the eye of Irma was no longer targeting Miami. Although I felt relief, it’s impossible to feel happy. The shift simply means that the threat is bearing down on someone else. As I write this post, Irma is hugging the coast of Cuba and predicted to swing up towards Tampa. At the moment, Irma has been downgraded to a Cat 3. I feel like I just dodged a bullet.

This week has been an emotional roller coaster ride. Last weekend, my daughter and I were dreaming about owning our own condo and how we would decorate it; days later we were worried about what would be left after “the monster storm.” I have distracted myself with Netflix, and occasionally wrapped myself in heavy blankets to counter the stress. I’ll be glad when this storm has passed and we can focus on clean up and recovery. I can’t wait until I can enjoy my simple dreams of home ownership again.

Breathing Through Irma 2


Today is another beautiful pre-Irma day. The only indication that a devastating storm is on the way is the thick blanket of humidity that tries to suffocate you the minute you walk out the door. I went out to take pictures of my car and decided to take a walk around the block. I might as well get some fresh air and exercise while I can. I also needed to step away from the social media that was starting to enrage me.

As I was watching live meteorological reports on Facebook, I happened to notice the live stream of comments. People were fighting over whether or not prayer was helpful, if Irma was the wrath of God, and individuals well beyond the reach of Irma where condemning the “denial” of those still in Florida. To be honest, I wanted to poke a few people right in the eye.

I admit, my first response was to write a scathing response to these comments. I have faced a lot of stress over the past three days as I have prepared for the Cat 5 force winds of a storm three times the size of Andrew, but nothing has come close to the stress inflicted by my fellow humans. In the era of narcissism, has empathy become such a rare commodity? Or do we only feel it for those we know?

I let my self-righteous rage flow from my finger tips as I hammered away at the keyboard. My rage sprawled across the page as I responded to a few ignorant comments. Then I walked away and let the toxic words sit there on my screen for a while. Gradually, the anger subsided.

I read the words again. They felt as true after my temper had cooled as they did in the heat of my anger, but now my rational brain was kicking in. Would posting my scathing response help the situation in anyway? Not really. Would my intended audience suddenly see the error of their ways? I doubt it.

I am fortunate, that many people who I know have expressed their concern and sympathy and extended offers of assistance pre- and post-Irma. Those are the people I will focus on. So, I revised this post.

President Truman once popularized the phrase “The Buck Stops Here” to indicate the acceptance of responsibility. It is the acceptance of responsibility for problems that may never have been ours to begin with. When it comes to social media, sometimes you have to decide “The Toxicity Stops Here.” I cannot advise others to model the values they espouse, without doing it myself.

My anxiety levels are still a little high because of the storm, but at least I am not letting other people control my emotions.

Breathing Through Irma


OK, so here is the real test of my new found composure. Hurricane Irma. I, and millions of other Floridians, are directly in its path. As a resident of Miami, I briefly considered driving out of the state on Wednesday, but many service stations were already running out of gas, and those that remained had lines for blocks. Getting stuck without gas somewhere around Orlando was a real possibility. Instead, we have made all possible preparations, and we are simply waiting it out.

By we, I mean myself and my roommates. Because my roommate owns a home that survived Andrew, some of her adult children will be staying here as well. The house is boarded up. We have food, water, and gas in our vehicles for when the storm is over. We’ve taken pictures of the property, inside and out, incase any insurance claims need to be made. I have even disseminated my “please contact” numbers, should the need to contact them on my behalf occur. Thanks to my usual low doses of medication, I am able to due all of this without being overwhelmed by anxiety or becoming paralyzed by panic attacks.

I am also attempting to take the advice I gave my own students: “Focus on what you can control instead of worry about what you can’t control.” Today, I have done some basic cleaning. Tomorrow, I will go through my neglected file cabinet and purge outdated information. Finally, if I can force myself to concentrate, I have a presentation synopsis to write and an academic article to revise. It might sound like an ambitious list of tasks during a state of emergency, but it’s only Thursday and Irma is not projected to make landfall until Sunday. That’s a lot of time to overthink if I don’t stay preoccupied.

Of course, there are also movies (while I have electricity), and books (which can be read by my Coleman battery powered lantern, if necessary). Then there’s blogging. As long as I have power, I will try to post. Right now, I don’t have much to report except for the calm before the storm. This morning a beautiful full moon hung in the early, pastel colored sky. As the morning grew into day, the harsh sun beat down on exhausted locals. I hope everyone is able to get a good night’s sleep before tropical winds start to kick in. We all deserve it.