September 8th, 2005


Volunteer work, faith in God, and my own private, disastrous storm.

Is the nation my community?
A street person my responsibility?
If I have a care in the world, I have a gift to bring

- Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls)
"Hammer & A Nail"
I'm not going to write for a while about the failures within the system from the ground up that not only enabled but in many instances created the human suffering choking us all now. There will be much time for that later and anyone who knows me knows I will not only talk about it but blog it extensively at a more appropriate time. I'm far too involved right now in a focus on the living and the promise of rebirth. You could say that this is my own assemblance of faith in humanity, which has been in a serious drought lately. There's too much going on to give in to my anger right now, even when it feels natural and when I know I've earned it.

Yesterday was Nathan's birthday so we went as a family to eat sushi last night. It was very good but I cried myself to sleep about it because it felt very decadent and anything that isn't a necessity for me right now feels like a wholly inappropriate self indulgence. I'm acutely aware of just how much this current situation in the Gulf coast areas affected by hurricane Katrina has affected me. I'm constantly looking for ways I can get out of here and go to help in the cleanup and rebuild. Grandmommy can watch Avery and pick up Cole from school, and while I would miss my family and miss D beyond belief, there is little doubt in my mind that I wouldn't go if given the opportunity and the reassurances that it would be feasible. I have responsibilities to my family and these children and I am completely torn between how everyone (including myself) might be affected in my absence. There's more to it than simply a matter of the altruistic reasoning on my part. I could cope with missing out on things with the kids as long as I knew it was for a bigger purpose and that I was doing something they could be proud of me for when they are old enough to understand. I could handle being away from Maggie and Nathan, Christi, Tony, and Bay, Dad & Tina - even though under normal circumstances the void created in the absence of one another might wreck me, I would be far to busy and engrossed in working and helping to be consumed by it. I cannot imagine being separated from D for longer than a day or two, that part is just not setting in as a reality for me. I think of what I would miss and how it might affect me and my loved ones, and then I see news footage of Slidell and all I am capable of thinking is how one of the people I love most in the world has a home and a family there - it looks like Bosnia - and I'm being self indulgent in this air conditioned, beautiful home when I could be there doing something, anything, that would be doing my part in helping everyone recover. I think of a three minute ferry ride across the river to Jerry and Carolyn's house that looks down into Canal street in the French Quarter, and wonder what is left of this amazing house that is the first place where I'd ever heard the music of my beloved Jeff Buckley. Is it even there anymore? I remember the post I wrote about that experience and how detailed I was in describing being there, and how singular the experience was for me. In times of crisis and tragedy you have to find humor in life so that you can keep balance. Nathan said a great thing the other day, he said "We all have to go on with our lives or else the weather will think its won." Of course it made us all laugh, but you have to sometimes and times like these you take it where you can get it. You would cry your eyes out if you didn't, and I for one have cried e-goddamned-nough this Summer. In my constant search for balance I hope this means that I'm being prepared for much happier days ahead.

Which brings me to my next thought - on faith. Christi and I were driving back to the house on Monday evening and we were talking about the Katrina aftermath and the news coverage, specifically about the people we see who have had their faith reaffirmed or completely renewed and as athiests wondering how this is possible, how you could lose everything you spent a life building or saving, including family members and friends and in fact your entire community, and yet still believe that it's all part of a plan of a loving, merciful God's "plan". I was perplexed that even a vengeful God could be so completely cruel, forgetting the stories I have read much earlier in life about God's penchant for floods and plagues, fire and brimstone, and the murder of innocents including dashing the heads of infants on rocks. How is it possible that in the midst of all this devestating suffering equitable with that of third world countries and war zones that people are still praising God instead of renouncing even the vaguest of notions about divinity? How is this possible? And before it even really sank in for me, gravity took over and it was patently obvious. Of course I could ask such questions of people of faith, especially since I'm living in a gorgeous, big house and I don't want or need for anything at all. I answered myself in realizing that if you lost everything you could have had, faith might be all that was left. It is very easy for me to imagine believers having their faith renewed in times like these, and for as much as I do not (and never have) understood it, I'm grateful they have it as it might be the only thing that motivates them to go on living and pursuing a life in spite of everything that has happened. It serves an important and valid function, and that is good.

There's something else I'm grappling with that I'm trying hard to get comfortable with despite how seemingly impossible a prospect that is. I'm mourning the death of a relationship that I gave my all to and nurtured as much as I could. It just doesn't feel like a death in the conventional sense, it's more like it's on life support and I'm the only one left of the two of us holding a vigil. I've tried to love her in spite of every person and force we know telling me how two-faced and unnervingly selfish she is and contrary to the evidence I have always had proving it. I've tried to be as supportive and encouraging as I knew how to be only to face the harsh reality that it's just never enough. But the worst has yet to come even though I am aware of it already, and for as exploitative as my metaphorics are going to sound, I am left with this strange series of ironies and/or coincidences.

I knew in tracking Katrina what a cat 5 storm meant long before it made landfall, but I had no way of knowing the real toll and how profoundly it would affect me. I also had a suspicion about how all the love I gave over these three years and change might actually end up being as disposable as I'd come to fear it was, and here I am.

This devestation left in the Gulf coast was unprecedented and had no real basis for comparison, we knew it would be beyond both comprehension and imagination, we simply didn't know that it was a bottomless depth. In my own private life storm, I had no idea of what getting renounced would mean towards the end's progression. Like an idiot and contrary to what logic dictated, I thought she loved me more than this, or at least equal to my love for her. I thought that if it were her telling me not to bother anymore instead of the other way around that I could put all that love to use in action and do what I had to do (including making a fool of myself) to let it be known that I didn't accept this and wouldn't stand for it. I mistakenly thought that if push came to shove, I'd have mattered at least enough to have a fight put up for me, that I was too valuable and important to lose.

In my lifetime I never would have thought that my country's leaders would have left ANY American citizen to die in squalor after the worst disaster imaginable. I also never thought that I would ever be confronted with rhetorical questions the ilk of "Why are you even here?" and statements like "You don't matter to me."

So it's not that I'm lamenting too much or even too less given the circumstances, and not that I'm having a pity party. I'm coming to terms with some rather unpleasant things that I have no choice but to accept and losses I might never recover from, and there is a lot for me to figure out. I barely believe in even the remote concept of forgiveness and I will generally hold a grudge until the day I die, but I always try to leave a door unlocked somewhere in spite of myself and my resolve. I'm just never sure when to leave things as they are or bolt that last door tightly, you know, when is enough evidence enough to make such a decision? How much indignation do I have to suffer before I no longer care what other casualties might result and what those repercussions might bring for me? Am I evolving in loving them more than I currently hate her, or am I trading everything I've placed value on in yielding and biting my tongue at every turn? I don't like things so important being unresolved, so these are the questions I ask myself, wondering where the answers I can live with are going to come from. For as much as I try to be optimistic in keeping that one door unlocked, my inner pragmatist will not leave it unlocked forever. There's a clock ticking, and I know the bigger hurt comes when the alarm sounds signaling time's up, and the harsh, biting reality I might have to face soon that amends might never be made and all my time spent hoping against hope for a best that never really existed in the first place was for nothing but a lesson learned. Not that the learning isn't worth it, just that at present I have no faith whatsoever that she will do right by anyone who deserves it, least of all me.

So. Here's the moral/quasi-analogy of this diatribe. Wear your heart on your sleeve long enough, you come to expect permament bloodstains on your cuff. But be careful with complaining about the stains, because at least you have enough heart in the first place when not everyone really does. It's not their fault, just their nature. It's not YOUR fault, just your problem, and just one more mess to clean. It comes down to being able to live with the mess, taking the initiative to clean up the mess, or holding accountable those responsible for cleaning up the mess and not giving in until they clean it up their goddamned selves. It might be enough initiative on their part to inspire or justify you getting in and helping out.