There is a strange sense of liberation when you lose everything. There is a sense of freedom not being attached to anything other than what matters. Routines are uprooted and there is nothing to manage except what lies directly in front of you.
Somehow, my husband and I feel the same way about this major event in our lives. If we didn’t or if one of us allowed ourselves to be drowned by the effects of the flood, I am not sure how we would cope as a couple. Talking about the flood and how it has changed us this past weekend on our 10 year anniversary/his birthday celebration date, we both said, “liberation” at the same time. But when my husband mentioned this idea to someone recently, the person looked dumbfounded and said, “But you lost your stuff!” Yes, we lost almost all of our stuff but we gained much more.
I will never say that I am grateful that this event took place. No matter where we end up, I will never think it was good that we were flooded out of our home and our lives were flipped over. However, since it did happen, we are going to acknowledge the lessons available. We both feel ourselves taking on a new lease on life. We are at square one, a clean slate, the starting point and can choose to do things a bit different this time around, maybe a bit better.
I have always been very organized, somewhat controlling with my life and my things. I like order and routine. My husband and I had purchased our home in 2009, gutted and renovated it to our personal tastes. Everything in it reflected our personalities and was a part of us. We were making a home that was “perfect”, a place where our children would want to be, so that when they are older, they will hopefully want to be home rather than out running streets. We were home-bodies, we liked our sanctuary and protected it. And then, flood waters came overnight and washed it all away.
No longer do I thrive on strict routines, because I can’t and I now see the flaw in that way of being. Life happens and the best things don’t always happen at the times you allot for. Our idea that the home was our sanctuary is nice and we will likely love whatever home we end up in next, but we will not build a life solely around that home again. As our older child grows up, she wants to be at friend’s houses not because she doesn’t like our home but because she is curious and wants to explore her world. The toys I painstakingly tried to clean out leaving many behind because I couldn’t separate with them last Christmas still never got played with and are now gone but I have no intention on replacing them. Maybe our kids will be better off not having so much stuff.
This time, I now know that things are truly just things and hold no permanence. I knew that logically before but I think my heart felt something different which is why it was so painful to see it all in a heap at the front of our home. Finally that mountainous heap was picked up and taken away no longer taunting me. It is gone along with my attachment to it.
We will not be replacing everything we lost. We will be taking a minimalistic approach to our things and a simplified way of living. We will not try to create a perfect home with the intent on staying in it all of the time but rather remember that our home is in our family no matter where we are. The stuff inside our home brings us only temporary happiness and we enjoy our things but not as much as being out in life making memories.
This past weekend we spent an entire Saturday at the beach. I hadn’t done that since college and it was fantastic. In the past, my husband would want to do yard work; I would want to do chores and run errands so we would do a couple hours at the beach and then spend the rest of the day perfecting our home. I would want to be home in time for my son to nap in his bed and we would go about our cookie cutter lives. That was lovely in its own right and many aspects of that may come back to us when we get a home again but not to the extreme it had become.
I started a book called Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World written by Tsh of The Art of Simple blogbefore the flood and at the time had no idea how this book would impact me in the weeks to come. As soon as we evacuated to my mom’s house on that fateful Wednesday morning, I was eager to “get back to normal”. I naively thought the water would recede by the end of the day and we would begin drying out and cleaning up. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I knew that what we had held onto so dearly for so long was gone and I had to learn to let go. Notes from the Blue Bike highlights the ways in which I want to live from now on. Tsh lives intentionally and simply and I like how she highlights the ways in which she does so.
In particular, I like that she says you have to set your intention, maybe even write it down, for how you want your life to be. If you don’t, you can easily fall into pitfalls of easy behavior and old habits. Living in an 80/20 way (80% intentional living, 20% flexibility) offers a life that you decide upon with room for going off the path. Her book is helping me make specific intentions for the way I want our lives to take shape as we get closer to a normal life which as of right now, we are far from yet our intentional living can begin now. We are making decisions to live life and have fun, to need and want less stuff and more time, to put down our phones and pay attention, to teach our children what truly matters as they struggle with our displacement.
“People are willing to be brave when they admit their smallness within the enormity of the world, and the best way to understand our smallness is to leave our comfort zones and start exploring”
~Tsh, Notes from the Blue Bike
People have told my husband and me that we are inspirational which is a very kind thing to hear. It lifts us up. However, we don’t feel that we had any choice in the matter. Life happens and you have to go on, you cannot hold onto what was when it no longer exists. I love the above quote because it is right on target, when the world takes away from you everything that you thought you needed, you realize your smallness and that you never really needed those things in the first place.
I will never be happy the flood happened. But I will take its offerings of personal growth and an intentional life that truly is what we need.