Athens, Greece, site of the first earthquake I experienced, photo taken from the Akropolis
Living in an area of the world where the ground shakes and heaves occasionally, it makes it easy to both empathise and also breathe a sigh of relief when a bad quake hits somewhere else in the world. In my house we almost always ask each other: is our emergency box still stocked? And usually the answer is “no”. We ate the soup on those days that the fridge was empty and we didn’t feel like going out or shopping; the water was consumed slowly over the last however many months since the last earthquake that happened somewhere else in the world; the protein bars were consumed by the mountain bike rider in the family; and we lent the camp stove to a friend, and now can’t remember which friend.
After a big quake, the local news is full of words like Preparedness, and Safety. Words that breed a bit of fear, and the need to feel prepared. For anything. The Earthquake store downtown actually has a small line for the cash register, and they have been bustling since the quake in New Zealand last week. So, out to the garage to look at our emergency box. Sure enough there is one bottle of water, 2 cans of soup and one or two pouches of dried something or other. Oh, and there is a flashlight, with no batteries in it.
Being prepared. It sounds so Scout-worthy, so much like any one of the interchangeable mothers in a 1960s era sitcom, so steady and earnest, and sure. Being prepared for anything. In the larger picture of life, are we ever prepared for tragedy and destruction and mayhem, or do we improvise and do the best we can with what we have? I think it’s the latter.
I’ve lived in several places that are on fault lines (and still do live in one), and have experienced 2 semi-large earthquakes and any number of small ones, and in each, it was neighbors, and strangers and friends who were the truest emergency kits. We all say it, and it’s all true: people come together in community over a tragedy and then they come back apart after the work and the aid giving and the comfort is no longer needed. Everyone goes back to their lives as they were, the best they can.
So what does all this have to do with preparedness, or being a Gypsy Girl, or anything else that is important to your life? Life during an emergency is all about connection, and honesty of experience and being stripped down to the very essence of who you are when something incredibly scary or life threatening has happened. Would that we could live our lives that openly everyday—open and caring and willing to share and help— but we don’t and in some ways we can’t (our adrenals would probably completely dry up) but we can vow to remain open, and we can always do a better job of remaining connected.
So along with water, and soup and more pouches of dried stuff, some batteries for the flashlight, and some lighting cups for the camp stove we got back, I will be adding some other things: reminders that life is a constant attempt to balance what we are prepared for and what we must leave to chance; as well as what we are able to prepare for and what we never could have imagined.
Some Notes on Being Prepared for Life:
- Give of yourself with honesty and joy.
- Connect to who you truly are underneath the patina of worldliness and “I’ve got it all together” that we all wear on the outside of our skin.
- Open up to people that you might not have first thought of as friends, but on second glance, recognise a “kindred spirit” under the skin.
- Show everyone you love that they are loved.
- Open to the real-ness and perhaps even the rawness of an experience. Feel it with honesty.
- Open to the unexpected, no matter what it looks like—blessings and miracles are not always dressed in beautiful colours.
- Open to rearranging what was planned in order to fit in something that was unexpected.
- Tell everyone you love that they are loved.
- Connect to the world in a meaningful and joyful way—whatever that is for you and you alone.
- Reach out a hand to someone who looks like they might need a bit of help. Reach out before the hand is asked for.
- Listen with your heart—sometimes we hear only what we expect to hear, and are surprised when out heart hears it differently.
- Open yourself up to the ones you love.
Liz Kalloch is a regular contributor to Gypsy Girl’s Guide.