Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Three Hundred and Fifty Thousand Stories

I'm tired.

I'm lucky.

I have survivors guilt.

I'm finding it difficult to think above subsistence level.

I hate it. I want to write. I really really want to write. I could say all sorts of selfish things about wanting my life to get back to normal - I was buying WINE last night for FSM's sake, when supermarkets are running out of water, milk and bread - but then I'd sound all whiny and ungrateful. And I'll feel selfish again, and down the spiral I go.

For all my protestations about wanting life to get back to normal, I'm frustrated and angry about having to go to work. In the middle of this disaster, the rest of the country still carries on! For the most part people have been incredibly compassionate, and I can understand the need for normality, but while historic buildings are collapsing a few blocks away from me, I'm sitting there writing copy that feels largely irrelevant and putting on a cheery voice.

I got told earlier today I'd "get over it". Really? And you're a judge of my mental state how? Oh, because I survived, I was lucky, I'm alive, I have nothing to be worried about.

I really don't have a sense of humour being told that the fear I feel lying in the dark as the world shakes around me and throws my life to the floor is "nothing" compared to other people's problems. Ah, dear slippery slope, how you create a culture of suppressed emotions.

I'm watching places I love vanish. I'm seeing beautiful old buildings fall down, or be irrevocably changed. I'm seeing thousands of people anguished, or homeless. I'm seeing roads - something so permanent, that should be unchanging, something you don't really see until they're gone - disintegrating. And I can't do a damn thing about it.

This is probably a paean to trauma that millions have written, thought, felt for time immemorial. My experience is unique, tragic, but nothing new. Saying that media coverage shows the scar on the soul and landscape of my community is not enough is really Not Enough. They have their own agenda, and to try to make politics out of human suffering is simply crass. All very nice and comfortable in the Ivory Tower.

One can't comprehend the sheer scale of hurt until one actually lives through it, and it's not an experience I recommend.

Not having a shower or having to boil all my water is simply an inconvenience. I understand that change happens. But when your mortality, resourcefulness and response to disaster has been challenged and found wanting, your faith in yourself is shaken.

And that is no pun.


  1. I can't really do anything helpful, but I will listen to whatever you have to say about the earthquake, and how it has affected you, and how you are feeling, for just as long as you want to say it.

  2. Thank you Deborah :)

    I heard a most eloquent description on National Radio a little while ago: a listener described the media and people outside ChCh quantifying the earthquake in facts and "what has happened". People in ChCh are still qualifying it in "what is yet to come" - disruption to life, changes, and the ongoing aftershocks. That is exactly how it feels. It certainly makes one very sympathetic to others who have gone through disaster like this.