Essay: A Hurricane Harvey Story
Saturday, August 26, 2017. Houston, TX. Just before Hurricane Harvey hit.
My partner and I had the windows open all day enjoying the first cool breeze of summer, we watched fluffy white clouds laze through a baby-blue sky wondering if the hurricane warnings were a false alarm. As evening drew near, my partner got ready to go watch the Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor fight at a nearby bar that we frequented. Instead of going with, I decided to go to a friend’s house for advice and discussion on a personal matter. I had to get out of my own head, plus it was one of the steps outlined in You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero, which made it a win-win situation for me. I monitored the flooding zones in case the storm hit while I was driving, and set out at 7:35p to see my friend for a couple hours.
I drove through a golden, apricot and salmon sunset. A minor drizzle from steely clouds in the deepening ultramarine sky above, but no hurricane. I arrived at 8p relieved to see my friend. We snuggled under the bed covers and opened up like best friends do. In response to my distress, my friend was very thoughtful, loving and supportive. About the time we were wrapping up our conversation I noticed flashes through the bedroom blinds, and heard the white noise of rain swathe the house. It was 9:45pm, time to leave or get stuck.
I probably shouldn’t have driven home. At first it was just a bit rainy — by Houston standards — and because I’d already checked, I knew not to get off of I69 because the feeder roads might flood. I distinctly thought, I’ve driven through worse during that tornado warning in Grand Rapids, MI.
The rain picked up and I slowed from 65 to 50 mph. I turned up Sirius XM Turbo, and jammed out inside my head. The weather worsened, now it was as bad as that tornado warning in MI. I’d make a great leader, look how calmly I navigate this storm. I imagined a movie scene inside my head with several people in the back seat acting overly melodramatic, and me heroically reassuring them we could make it to safety. I nearly giggled.
That’s when the surly sky turned sour.
I’m talking, rain so hard everything was a smothering slate. Had to blast cold air to prevent the windshield from fogging over. Only the marigold halo of high-pressure sodium lamps and scarlet tail-lights could be seen every so often. My windshield wipers couldn’t keep up.
Heart pounding, I pulled over.
A shaky hand turned on my flashers.
A whole clump of vehicles drove by with their amber hazard lights on, followed by a couple of box-trucks. I knew if I stayed, I wouldn’t have made it home at all. I had no idea when, or if the storm would let up. Turning around would have meant driving down a feeder.
Out of nowhere I heard a voice in my head, you must do the things you think you cannot do.
I cranked up the music, something like Metallica or Stone Sour came on. I chanted in a loud, calm voice: “I can do this. I am safe. I will make it home safe.”
I refused to accept any alternatives.
I gripped my leather steering wheel. Sat on the edge of my seat to see the road better. Gulped in a deep, cool breath, and followed the band of vehicles. I knew they’d push water for me if I followed them.
It was now or never.
It had only been raining for 20 minutes. I69 was elevated. I hoped it wouldn’t flood too fast.
I could only inhabit the moment. The past few seconds had no bearing on the next. Anxiety was my friend. Every fiber of my being was on high alert.
I repeated my mantra over and over. Kept following the blinking amber ahead of me. Was just able to make out the white reflectors to stay in my lane. My eyes flicked to my speedometer. Stay close to 40 mph, lest you hydroplane and lose control needlessly. The comforting music, and my mantra calmed me.
In the midst of the torrent, I had a revelation. There I was inside my car, inside my flesh, inside that moment, feeling fear, but I was also deeper and far removed from that fear. I was in a deep river of inner peace. My eyes took in every piece of information around me, my back taught and upright, my every nerve focused on the task at hand, but terror didn’t cloud my mind. From this place came the revelation: This is what my life is right now trying to reach my goal of paying off all our debt by December 31 (only four months away!).
I’d never manifested, or deigned to manifest, so much money in my life, let alone in such a short time with little idea of how to pull it off. My goal to get home no matter what, was my goal to manifest the money to become debt free. The blizzard of rain blocking my view, paralleled my inability to see the future. My will to get home, was my drive to do whatever it took to be debt free. Following those cars who were literally paving a clear path for me, equated to my following in the footsteps of successful people who’d gone before me. And the fear… Well, I was grateful for my increased adrenaline and heightened senses.
I desperately wanted to, but couldn’t look at my phone to see if my partner had gotten home. Although I could have pivoted my goal to go find him, I remembered that I hadn’t looked up flooding for that area of town. Plus I had no clue if my partner was still there. So, I let the thought go and continued my mantra.
One by one the cars and trucks turned off. Blackness engulfed me. I was alone for the last leg of the journey.
My limbs were tense. Kept drying my palms on the air vents. I could barely hear the music. Could barely feel the icy A/C on my skin. Kept looking for the road reflectors. Had to stay in my own lane.
Watch for your exit.
I saw the junction of I610 coming up.
I finally arrived in the area of town I frequently travelled. I was somewhat comforted by familiarity, but I wasn’t out of the storm yet. Even familiarity can swallow you alive in the right circumstances.
I chanted a little louder: “I can do this. I am safe. I will make it home safe.”
My exit was a mile away. The rain abated slightly. I could see a little farther.
Not far enough.
Would there be water flooding my exit? How long would this rain last? Would I get stuck blocks away from home?
“I can do this. I am safe. I will make it home safe.”
Lo and behold, my exit was not flooded, and a moment later the rain lessened to a desperate drizzle. Glowing marigold lit up every corner and I could clearly see the path I needed to take. My fear lessened, however I could not let the lull of the past few moments lure me into a false sense of security. I wasn’t home yet.
“I can do this. I am safe. I will make it home safe.”
Shaking, I pulled into my complex at 10:45p and found my parking spot was still there. As I clambered out of my vehicle, the inky sky opened up again and I splashed inside, into safety, inner peace and into the sincerest gratitude. Twenty minutes later my partner came home, safe and sound. Awash with relief, we sat down with two white, steaming mugs of tea and listened to each others stories. My partner had run into severe flooding close to home, and employed different techniques to get home without freaking out. It made me realize, even through uncontrollable circumstances, inner peace and the right frame of mind can get us anywhere.
Photo courtesy of: S. G. Studio Art