I wrote about our experience with Hurricane Matthew last week and the flooding of our home. As I write this, it’s been two weeks since the lake surrounded our house. My world looking from the outside in “appears” to be normal. We have lights on. The trash and debris is slowly disappearing from our front lawn. We drive back and forth to work. The water is potable so no more gallon-size containers of water. I’m at my computer writing and saving via Wifi. I made our usual Saturday breakfast: eggs and bacon on our stove with gas. I can recharge my cell phone, watch TV and take a hot shower. Everything is as it should be. But it’s not.
My husband and I have been riding the tumultuous waves of limbo land. The apex of this was when we found out that we had to move out. Two of our neighbors had moving trucks the day after the storm; carpet mounded on their front lawn and in debris bins. I thought to myself, Well, that won’t be us, we can soldier through. But after the contractor gutted the sodden insulation and ducts from under our house, I realized we couldn’t stay in our house anymore. There is no HVAC. There can’t be HVAC until all the sodden floors are taken out. The sodden floors can’t be taken out until someone, hopefully the insurance company or FEMA, sends us a check. Gulp. It was fine to live in a house without HVAC as long as it was sunny with a high of 80 degrees. It’s another story when the temperature dips into the 40’s. So, there it is. We have to move out.
So here is how I’ve been coping with the anxiety of living in limbo:
- Meditation. There were about 5 days post-Matthew that I wasn’t able to meditate. I have an app on my phone that needs Wifi and, without Wifi and/or power, I was unable to meditate. Meditation centers me. I feel more resilient. Sudden changes in plans; a zig instead of a zag; accepting disappointment and basic uncertainty are just easier to handle when I am practicing my regular meditation. After a decade-long meditation practice, I experience a huge shift internally when it’s not in my daily routine. I quickly get scattered and distracted. It’s as if the anxiety sucks me in. Being present and mindful for even 10 minutes a day makes a huge difference. Break out of limbo-land through meditation.
- Break it into pieces. Part of the issue with being in limbo is that it’s all so overwhelming. So if you don’t know if the project is going to get the go-ahead; if you don’t know if you should buy groceries for the week, or pack up the entire house…or maybe just the bathroom? Just break it up into manageable, informed pieces that you can deal with. Otherwise, it’s all so overwhelming. I’ve been frozen into inaction before because I didn’t know where to start. I’m in the middle of setting up a training for two weeks from now. I was struggling with getting started. Then I broke up the whole project into units and scheduled 90-minute sections for each unit. Finally, I have forward progress. So just call the insurance company. The next day, just call the bank. The next day, go on the FEMA website. Breaking it up makes it not as overwhelming and you finally get momentum and forward progress.
- Take time off. I know what you are thinking: But Cath, you need to get to work on that house. Pack up the bathroom closet at least. Nope. I serendipitously had a massage appointment the Wednesday after the storm. I went to the appointment. I think it saved my sanity. I needed an escape, and rather than constantly focusing on the house, I really needed to focus on myself. Yesterday, my husband and I golfed in a charity golf tournament. We needed a break from the grind of sodden cabinets and mud-coated tools. It was great to spend time connecting and not caring a whit about the score (or the house). We needed a break from the House Center Vortex of Anxiety. When you are living in limbo, take some time off to escape and bring some joy into your life. The mess, the challenge or project will still be there–you’ll be able to deal with it intelligently.
- Exercise. I had given up my morning walk. It was partially due to debris on the road but also because I thought, You don’t have time to take a walk! The trouble was that by day end, I was exhausted. I spent all day worrying about a laundry list of items, like when is the HVAC guy coming or where is the plumber and will I be able to be home when he gets there. More and more limbo creators. But taking a walk really reduced my stress and helped me center my head. It was also reassuring to see that other homes in the area were in similar stages of rehabilitation. Just getting back into my body and out of my head was restorative. Try and get some exercise to keep the limbo at bay.
- Acceptance. I’m learning to accept the good and the bad. I am not in control of whether the power comes back on. I am not in control of whether the cable starts working. I am not in control of whether the insurance check shows up today or not. So just accept it. I cannot tell you how many times I have said, This too shall pass. There will be HVAC someday, just not today. There will be an insurance check someday, just not today. There is a debris bin where there wasn’t one yesterday. It’s all good. It’s all as it should be. I remember a friend of mine said on Facebook that we were having a house cleanse. That’s a great way to reframe it. We are just in the middle of cleansing our house. Just accepting what is happening. It’s as it should be.
My husband and I are slowly getting out of the fog of limbo-land. We are starting to get better sleep, getting into a routine and focusing on what we can do instead of what we can’t. You can do it as well. Be positive and all will fall into place–as it should be.