Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Flood


Things aren’t great here in Southeastern Wisconsin. We’ve been inundated with torrential rains. Our rivers are swollen beyond capacity and have overflowed their banks. In Racine, Waukesha, and South Milwaukee, cars float in the streets and people have been evacuated from their homes. West of us in Lake Delton (a popular tourist area), the lake swelled over its earthen dam to come home to the Wisconsin River. I saw the video and it scared the heck out of me, how fast our world can slip away. In moments, the lake drained and roads and homes (whole homes!) were suddenly, irrevocably lost.

Here at home, we’ve had our own weather disasters, but nothing on the same scale. We were away for the worst of the storms here, enjoying a quiet weekend camping on Lake Michigan. It poured the last night and morning of our trip. My daughter and I sat in the car while I watched my poor husband take down the sopping wet camper. Halfway home, I called our house and my friend Pam told me the sewer had backed up in our basement. My heart sank at the news. My husband had spent three years remodeling down there. The carpet, installed in January, was the capstone on a beautifully executed project. I still remember how proud and pleased he was as he showed off his handiwork at Easter. Now everything was saturated with yucky black sewer sludge. We rode home quiet, lost in our own sense of helplessness.

Since I got home, I’ve longed for the sense of normalcy, the routine that keeps my days sane. We live and die by routine around here. Husband to work, then breakfast. Walk, play/errand/library/park time, lunch, TV, read, then down for a nap. Most days, I’m ready for a nap myself by then, but I can’t bear to give up my precious Mommy time. The afternoons are when I write.

With all the chaos, we’re completely off-kilter. My husband stayed home from work to mop up the sludge. I’ve been wringing out the dripping camping gear. It needs to be done, but it’s created a hole in my life and it happened in it’s own kind of flood. A few changes led to a shift in the sense of balance. A camping trip, a husband home from work. Before I knew it, order was swept away.

For me, not writing creates its own flood. A day or two off and I start to get antsy. As the days slip away, a backlog of thoughts clogs my brain. Before long, I start to turn, sniping at my daughter, bitchily ragging at my husband. But mainly, I turn on myself. I’m a waste of space. I need to get my act together. How do I ever expect to make it if I don’t write? Pretty soon everything feels off, like my body chemistry’s out of whack or my planets have spun out of alignment. My sense of self and purpose crumbles and washes away. I lose myself, one facet at a time.

I’m on day six here. Last Thursday morning before we hooked up the camper, I did a little scribbling as ideas for a revised start to Nick’s story came. I meant to get to them while we were gone, but the days slid away over the bump in our routine. Then the mess at home consumed my energy. At this point, I just hope I can find my crumpled page of scribbles. I’m fidgety and nervous. My list is too long. Without the routine to structure and the writing to provide an outlet, I’m caught up in a weird kind of flood. The chaos without mirrors the chaos within. I need a dam and I need it damn quick.

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