I regularly take "breaks" from blogging. Usually the time between posts is consumed with living: momming three of my favorite humans, exploring our temporary home in Budapest, grocery shopping in Hungarian, and drinking more coffee than ever before. I try to balance being with the ones who are here and sharing our experiences with friends and family, but if I'm going to fall behind on one of those tasks, I think it should be the latter.
This time, the break from blogging was different. I literally had dozens of posts swirling in my brain, just waiting to be shared, but this time, I couldn't. The "new post" button at the top of my page could not be pushed. Or would not.
Because I had Hurricane Harvey survivor guilt, and I refused to go on sharing joyful living while my friends and family were in the midst of a mess.
Can you even be called a survivor if you are not present to survive a storm? I'm not sure. Though we were not physically there, I know of few other times that my heart has been so far away from my present location. Clark and I truly felt we had a better understanding of the idea of "mourning with those who mourn", but mourn was all it felt like we could do. I could not open up my home to make guest beds and pallets for those whose homes were not dry. I could not cook warm meals for the masses. I could not even send needed supplies due to inaccessible roads. I could watch, hear stories, and hurt deeply.
Hurricane Harvey hit shortly after we returned from a vacation to Norway. I had a million pictures to post and planned captions to share, blogs planned about vacationing to Bergen with children, but my Grandma Jane's birthday party got cancelled. And school start dates got pushed back. And then my friends had water in their houses.
My children began school, and routine life went on for us, which all felt very wrong. Emma would hear her classmates discussing the storm, and she would listen as they discussed the devastation to our home. I told her often that though our friends and family were effected by the storm, they were safe, and they were working to get things back to normal. A few weeks into school, I passed by Emma's class to say hi before she headed to Girl Scouts. She was having an argument of sorts with her teacher, and she was actually being, in my opinion, rather disrespectful. The teacher saw me, and, looking as confused as I felt, he asked if I could please talk to Emma about the project they were working on. She had basically refused to do it. The assignment was to interview a family member about their culture. I couldn't understand why she was being obstinate about something like that. I looked into her eyes and saw she was about to cry, so she and I headed to the parking lot to chat in private. When we got in the car, she fell apart. When she could calm down enough to verbalize her feelings, she said, "But Momma, interviewing over the phone is not the same. I miss them so much."
Harvey hit us in a different way than it hit Southeast Texas. Harvey hit with a gust of homesickness and grief that neither Emma nor I had felt in our 14 months abroad. Hurricane Harvey brought me to the realization that I need to share my hurts with my daughter so that she doesn't think she has to be tough all the time. It also reminded me to bloom where God has planted me. For whatever reason, God thought it best that Clark and I were here, a million miles away, during hurricane season 2017. Who here needs a hot meal? Who here needs a helping hand? Who here just needs a friend? Because I have been prepared and trained, and I am here.
After my cry with Emma, I also realized I need to be thankful for the joys that we are getting to experience here. I never want to belittle my friends' hurt or struggles, and I don't want to pretend that we are unaffected by the goings on where you are, but I need to see our blessings as blessings, not curses. Though I may never go back and post pictures from our trip to Norway, I think I need to press the "New Post" button more often.
If you know of people who are still in need of help in their Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, please let me know. There are a bunch of expats over here who have not forgotten them and who want to help.
You are loved.