I am embroiled in a conflict of my own. Selfish absorption and sincere empathy. I’m on the brink of losing my sanity. Not in any real terms…I haven’t been trapped in the superdome. I haven’t felt the ripple of waves created by a floating body washing by me. I know I am lucky – people tell me daily just how lucky I am. Trust me, I know that I am blessed to have the love of so many people who have come to my aid and supported me in ways I couldn’t have imagined for myself. To you all…I say a thank you that will never be adequate.

At the same time…I’m hurting in a way that I can’t quite put into words when asked how I’m doing.

Despite what answer I may give you, I’m not fine.

Every time I see a shot of my street – canal street – with boats floating by as if it was part of the bayou, my face scrunches up, my chest contracts and I fight to hold back sobs.


Like I said, I’m part of the lucky crew – those of us that got out with no horror story leaning on our backs. I drove out before the first rains hit the ground…but I feel it. It is how I imagine coming home to your home engulfed in flames must feel like. I don’t know if it is the same – but I imagine it to be close. A great sense of loss and helplessness. A wondering of what might have been different if…

When I was in africa I was in a car accident and my head went through the back window. I have a small scar on the side of my face and even when it was larger, rougher, uglier and more raw – people told me how lucky I was…every day. Every day I was reminded that I didn’t die, I wasn’t blind, I wasn’t completely incapacitated.

All I could do was agree that I was lucky. Blessed. Who could argue otherwise knowing that we found a hospital in mozambique and later Peace Corps flew me back to South Africa?

But I was sick as a dog from my medicine and I was having migraine strength headaches and dizzy spells and bouts of forgetfulness. I was in constant pain and wasn’t sleeping.

Lucky me.

For me, this hurricane is the same thing. I am blessed beyond words for the things I won’t have to experience. At the same time, I look at pictures of the car in africa that brought me so close to death/saved my life (someplace in my canal street apartment) and it catches my breath in my chest the same way that looking at canal street does. So close to destruction. So close to not being “lucky”…it hurts me.

I don’t know what the next few months will mean for me. I joke that it will be easier to pack…but it hurts me to know what packing I won’t be doing…30 years of my life, 15 countries of travel, a lifetime of friendship memorabilia, is probably washed away in great big rain and a raging levee. Even on the third floor I don’t know what’s left…

And even as I write this I am torn by how self-absorbed this is. Me, typing this from the comfort of my family’s house. Me, with only 30 years of life washed away – not a grandmother’s 75 years, not my friends’ actual home and marriage memorabilia.

I’m lucky…I’m lucky…damn I’m lucky.

It’s just a little hard for me to focus on that right now.


1 Comment on a selfish me

  1. T.Marie says:

    Baby, you have every right to be selfish and at a loss. You are lost, homeless. You'd built a life in New Orleans. It's obvious by the way you call that town home. In many ways that big gust of wind and water did more than make you homeless. It forced you to question yourself, your choices and, as evident by your writing, your heart. I'd say don't. But you should. Question your feelings, cuz that's you. But don't think that you are wrong for that. Because you realize your degree of loss verses others, you are more entitled to be angry, depressed, or whatever other feeling comes along. Your realization gives you that right. And I just have to say that you are damn eloquent. You may not feel it now. But when you read this blog years from now, you'll know. Whatever lump rests on your chest that you feel is blocking your writing, it's pilfering out. I've been touched by your blog entires. I even forwarded it to some co-workers to view. We cover this tragedy for the paper. And in doing so, we sometimes lose track of how personal this is. Your blog could serve as a reminder of the emotional toll this is taking. That can't be minimized.

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