Sunday, November 14, 2010

Still Standing on Shaky Ground

I want to talk about earthquakes. Yeah, I know - so last month, or was it the month before?
Actually, in all truth, the last thing I want to talk about is earthquakes, because right now in this city it is a subject that pretty much comes up in every conversation you have with anyone no matter where you go. Everyone has been affected in one way or another & many continue to be so with every aftershock.

I don't want to sound as if I am droning on & complaining - I'm not.

Believe it or not I used to get a kick out of earthquakes. Christchurch has always felt  the effects of bigger quakes centred way down the bottom of the South Island. They'd probably register here at around a 3 magnitude & they never bothered me apart from giving me a bit of a thrill. 

But, as of 3 hours ago, we're at aftershock #2934 since September 4th &, although I haven't actually felt 2/3 of those, like many, many others I am over it. To be honest I don't know what I feel any more....apart from confused about how I feel ;)

What I do know though is that we have been so incredibly blessed on so very many levels & I will be eternally grateful for that. These pesky aftershocks aren't stopping me living as I normally would, I still go out & do the things I have always done, go into the same huge stores & old buildings I have always gone into without thought of what would happen if there were another big one & I'm not losing sleep at night from worrying about what might be.

I'm not living in fear of them & I'm certainly not waiting around for the 'next' aftershock to happen. As far as I'm concerned every one I feel is the last one. It doesn't even cross my mind that there will be another one.... until it happens. Then for a few seconds or sometimes a few minutes, depending on the circumstances, absolutely everything goes to!

The last one was a rather decent 4.9 magnitude, that once again had me grabbing my desk to hold on as the serious shaking started. As I did that I wondered why I was doing it. Was I afraid? No, not really. So why then?
I'm going to attempt to explain.

We often hear the aftershocks coming. A deep rumble or roar is quickly followed by a sharp whip like crack as the house starts to move. Then the rattling starts - doors, blinds & such. My mind deals with this in the "s**t another freakin aftershock" manner & if it's only been a smaller (as in short sharp type) aftershock I don't have much time to think more than that before it's over & everything can go back to it's regularly scheduled program.

It's when they go on for a bit longer than the split second it takes for you to realise one is happening & have the "s.a.f.a" reaction that things come unstuck. All of a sudden you realise that your body has tensed up in anticipation that this one might be building up into something big & your mind is quickly following suit. Grabbing onto something is the precursor to stabilising yourself in order to get up & head for the nearest door frame to take refuge under.

And then, just as you make that call to take cover, the shaking slows & you know it isn't going to be another big one.... even though your body feels as if the ground is still moving when you know it has stopped. It messes with your equilibrium & for some reason has the ability to spoil everything that has gone before. That few seconds can cruelly strip the shine off of the surface of an otherwise perfect day. 

Whatever you were focussed on those few seconds earlier is instantly forgotten,  as if someone has stirred up the silt on the bottom of a pond & what you know was there before isn't visible any more. You find yourself unable to settle & refocus, or only able to focus on things for a short time in between pacing up & down like a caged animal, in the hour or so afterwards.  It's annoying - annoying & unsettling.

When everyone is at home it isn't so bad. But when partners are at work or kids are at school or in daycare it adds the element of worry to pot. Are they safe? Is the building they are in ok? 
Even though you know that the buildings were all inspected & given clearance (or not) after the 'big one' there is no denying that these aftershocks have caused both fresh damage & further damage. Then there is the concern over family members still living in homes that have been damaged or on land that has subsided, while they wait to hear the verdict from EQC.  You don't rest easy until you have made contact & hear that everyone is safe.

Life in many ways is normal.... or rather the new normal.And in many ways it's not at all normal.
I'm not alone in the fact that I haven't picked up things that fell or moved during the first earthquake. Everything large & breakable is still sitting on the floor where they can't fall any further. Although I expect every aftershock to be the last aftershock right back at the beginning I decided that they wouldn't go back up until we'd had no more for at least a fortnight. I don't see the point in adding to the list of breakages if it can be avoided. Fortunately this isn't the 'new' normal,  it's just normal for now.

In the bigger scheme of things, city wide, it's not that normal either. But perhaps that is for another post. This one has already become  quite long & I still have things I want to say.

I completely understand what this is doing to people, what it does to ones psyche - I feel that too.  I don't want to trivialise feelings or what people are going through...yet on the other hand I want to say 'get over it & count your blessings, this is life - for now at least & aren't we so fortunate that it is this great?!"

With Haiti still as fresh as it ever was on my mind it would be difficult not to feel that way.... & Haiti is what I compare everything back to. Not only the incredible loss that people of Haiti suffered on January 12th, but what they continue to suffer with Cholera now taking it's toll amidst tropical storms & everything else that is still happening.... & much that hasn't happened that should have.

A word I used to describe what I was feeling in the week immediately after the earthquake was conflicted. I still feel that way. So if you see the occasional status update on FaceBook referring to an aftershock, please forgive me - it just means that an aftershock temporarily rattled my brain ;)

The image above? That was my shoe cabinet the morning of the earthquake. It still looks that way - only a few more have gone over. The other cabinet is the same. Yes, there are breakages - but I'm not concerned. They're just things after all :)


Patty said...

I feel for you, Deb! It's very stressful, and I'm guessing is probably similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (if not spot on that phenom). Not knowing when something like that is coming *again* can be very unsettling. I'm surprised that aftershocks of that magnitude are still coming, this long after the big event. Is this normal? Perhaps it's nature's way of extracting her dues for us living in such beautiful places. New Zealand is one of the most incredible places I have ever visited.

Stay safe!

rosebud101 said...

Deb, I'm sorry you continue to go through all of this chaos from Mother Nature. If it's any comfort, I love your shoes!

Sharon Driscoll said...

Oh Deb - Of course you are still in kind of a suspended animation of the next aftershock. Who wouldn't be! But, it is so good to hear your positive survivors attitude! I do the same thing here about things (but not quite as "shaky" as yours). When I am feeling that way I close my eyes and think of how some one might cope with that disability - or others - and I know they do. Then I thank my lucky stars and tell myself to "man up, and move on". Kuddos Deb for being brave, for pushing forward, for looking for the "new normal", and for letting us know what is going on so far away! Onward and Upward!