Shortest story: I’m back home, with my savings and my fridge contents a lot lighter.
This hurricane season is not over, and there are lessons in it for all of us — no matter where we live.
The thing about hurricane season is every storm is completely different, but all you can do is use what you know about every other storm to get through this one.
Hurricane Ida was not another Katrina — but that’s because the devastation of Katrina on New Orleans was about human failure (the levee system breach), and not the wrath of Mother Nature.
The wrath of Ida on South Louisiana — from the River Parishes to Down the Bayou — is huge. And devastating. And I will keep talking about that.
But In 2020, five named storms hit the coast of Louisiana. The last one hit on October 28. So this may only be the beginning of the 2021 season.
Storms are getting stronger, and more frequent.
This, my beloveds, may be our new normal.
If you are from New Orleans, the first part of this note is for you.
If you are not from New Orleans, the second part is for you.
You can read both, of course.
There’s an extra bit at the end for all of us. Because we all have a part to play.
In our constantly changing, shifting world: Your personal boundaries are more important than ever before.
And here’s a (maybe) unpopular opinion: you are the same person at home and work. If you struggle to say no to your family or your friends or your spouse, you’ll also struggle to say no to your Board president, your VP, or your colleagues.
And your work needs you to have better boundaries.
I was cleaning up old files the other day, and I came across this file name: ‘college essay.’
It was in such an old word format, I had to open it as a text file.
I have no idea what the question was, but I was clearly trying to persuade the folks in admissions that I was worthy of entry to their elite school.
I was trying to impress them and be humble at the same time.
I was trying to demonstrate my worthiness without being “too much.”
I was seventeen when I wrote this. I was a baby when I went to college.
I’ll be honest: It’s hard not to eye roll at my 17-year old self.
After the whirlwind of 2020 — including a Saturn-Pluto conjunction, Pluto-Jupiter conjunctions, and rounding our with a Saturn-Jupiter conjunction — we could all maybe use a break.
I cannot, and won’t, promise that 2021 will be smooth sailing — but it definitely won’t be like last year.
August 2018 to February 2019 will go down in history as the worst six months of my life.
Cliff’s Notes: Dog Died, Mom Got Cancer, Relationship Ended, Dad Died.
It was a lot.
I’ve read and studied so much about grief in the past few years — at the time, I thought it was to help my clients. Because grief is part of any major life change.
Little did I know, I was preparing to survive the worst year ever.
In some ways, I was prepared. And in other ways: it is impossible to prepare.
These are a handful of tools that helped me survive the worst year of my life.
Hopefully, they will help you in your hour of deepest need.
Just like anything, practice makes better. (I don’t believe in perfect anymore.) After each loss, I got better at each of these. I am so grateful I had many of them in place before my dog Bodhi died — because without them, I would likely be in corner somewhere, drinking cheap box wine and eating ice cream straight from the container.
Without further ado:
How to survive the worst year of your life, in advance:
I come from a family of artists.
My grandmother was a poet. My (other) grandfather was a vaudeville performer and the he wrote scripts and produced in Hollywood.
Mom and Dad met working at Arena Stage in the 1970s — at the height of American Regional Theatre. He was a producer and designer, and she was a stage manager.
He gave Raul Julia his first professional acting job, and she toured to Broadway with Raisin — the musical version of Raisin in the Sun — among other things, before they found their way to New Orleans. (It’s a long story for another day.)
My mother’s sisters are both artists — one was a dancer and actress on Broadway, and the other was a visual artist.
We’re creative people. I come by it honestly. We sing in four part harmony when we have family reunions. It’s like that.
Many of us have a kinda weird relationship with money. Me too.
I’ve ranged from penny pincher — clipping coupons, checking my budget multiple times a day — to completely reckless — not looking at my balances for months on end. Hoping if I ignore it, maybe it would just go away. (Newsflash: it did. But not the way I’d hoped.)
Sometimes my behavior was related to how much money I was making, and sometimes it wasn’t.
In 2018, I promised myself I would take the bull by the horns and do whatever it took to heal this relationship. My theme for 2018 would be “Easy Money.”
Because until now, Money had been anything but easy.
Boundaries are everywhere lately.
From yoga class dharma talks to dating articles. “Just set a boundary,” seems to be the pat answer everyone gives to challenges from overbearing mother-in-laws to trauma recovery. And let’s be honest: that’s a wide range.
The new hip accessory for self-aware people seems to be “Boundary setting.”
But I’ve also noticed folks bemoaning “I am so bad at setting boundaries.” or “He totally did not respect my boundary.” (We’ll always find a way to criticize ourselves, won’t we?)
I think many people don’t actually understand what boundaries are, based on these conversations. And I hear some common misunderstandings over and over.