I was returning from a trip to San Diego where I had gone to comfort my dear Aunt Letha. My mother’s recent death had left her devastated. I chose to fly down south without Joey because his condition was deteriorating rapidly. With a labored bearing I slowly ascended the terrazzo stairs that wound their way to the entrance of our inner-city, San Francisco, dwelling. A shadowy cloud surrounded me and the house we lived in, as I made my way to the front door. With each step I ached with fear, for I had the feeling of impending doom.
This ominous ambiance was precipitated by a week long struggle with Joey and his paranoid, psychotic behavior. All week, almost hourly, while I was visiting my aunt, Joey would call on the telephone convinced he was God, Jesus, the Messiah, Buddha, and a plethora of saints. Vehemently he ranted into the telephone, expressing deep seated anger with me. He was especially upset that I didn’t invite him to go along. I hadn’t dared to take him because the last trip he had disappeared with my mother’s legal papers when we arrived at the airport and was gone for over a week. At this point in our life together we had struggled with alcoholism and codependency for ten years. Unfortunately, because I had kept our insidious illnesses secret, my aunt had no idea what was happening to Joey. As she wrung her hands she kept repeating, “What is wrong with him; why is he doing this?” Needless to say the week was difficult and I knew coming back to San Francisco would be complicated. What I didn’t know was the severity of this home coming and what it would mean for my future.
As I reached the front door, and put my sweaty palm on the knob, I was frozen with trepidation. I just knew this was the beginning of the end. I slowly turned the key in the lock pushing on the door at the same time. It wouldn’t budge. I pressed harder only to have my efforts blocked by an incredible force. Finally I used my whole body to wedge myself between the door jamb and the hallway. With tremendous energy I was able to shift the sofa that had been turned on its side to prevent me from entering. I squeezed through the narrow opening and was horrified at what I saw.
The floor was knee deep in debris. As I looked more closely I saw that all the books, furniture, photo albums, bills, letters, writing materials, kitchen goods, clothing, food, antiques, paint brushes, cosmetic and bathroom items, cooking utensils, framed photos, pillows, blankets, tools, and basically all that we possessed, was strewn all over the house. What formerly had filled the bedroom was now displaced and sprayed with flour from the kitchen. The furniture was shredded and their innards erupting. Canvases were on the floor destroyed with sticky goop. There was vomit everywhere and cat poop hidden under the rubble. A man-made hurricane had descended upon my home.
Where were my cats? As I made my way through the destruction, all I could think of were my precious felines. I found them alive, but very hungry, frightened, and cowering in a closet. This is what it had come to! After years of hiding, lying, chaos, confusion, drunkenness, fear, pain, suffering, neuroses, neediness, anger and denial, I was at the bottom. I couldn’t live the nightmare any longer.
I searched the house for a way to kill myself. We didn’t have any guns and strangely all the knives were missing in the clutter. I went to the medicine cabinet, which was hanging off its hinges, and found only empty bottles. I remember clearly that my body felt like steel and it was on fire. The pain of blocked tears pulsated in my head which felt like it was about to explode. My limbs were lifeless; I was a living corpse.
Somehow I was guided to the telephone. I dialed the operator and she connected me with the Suicide Prevention line. Once I heard a man’s voice I began to cry, and cry, and cry. I don’t even know what he said to me, all I knew is that he stayed on the line and comforted me for over an hour. I was so wet from weeping I could have wrung out my blouse. Water was purifying my soul. When I finally stopped crying I felt a tremendous sense of cleansing, as if toxins were being released from my body. I knew at that moment there was hope.
Would you stop and reflect right now, as agonizing as it might be, what your bottom felt like. Each of us has had a different kind of experience. Take your time; see all the details, live it again. Horrible isn’t it. Now multiply that times 500,000 and you can imagine what these poor souls, victims of Hurricane Katrina, are going through right now. Only their bottom is bottomless. The pain is beyond thinkable.
Thousands of these people lived in poverty before the devastation. For many, the average wage for a family of four was $12,000 per year. If we were birds looking down on the U.S. we would see the imbalance clearly. Rapidly our middle class is eroding. We have the extremely wealthy on one side and a profusion of poor folks on the other. Poverty breeds poverty. It is toxic and it is just plain wrong. No one wants to be poor. I see this horrible catastrophe, first the hurricane and then the flooding, as a chance for souls to stop denying, face the truth, and begin to heal the inequities of our world.
I believe the abundance of water that washed up on our soil, are the tears of God, within, without, and all about. We are destroying ourselves and our planet. Right now, we have the opportunity to give, share, and love our sisters and brothers of Hurricane Katrina. Collectively, let’s continue to give money, housing, therapy, and most of all hope. Visualize each and every soul surrounded by the white light of protection. Everyday, say a prayer and hold them in your heart. We can’t stop until we are satisfied that all of these fine people have started a new and better life. Please go deep into your soul and you will feel the benevolence of humanity. Not the color of our skin, not the flavors of our food, need to divide us. We are all one, the children of God.
As a nation, and a world we are donating millions of dollars to help these people have a decent life. I am going to visualize that it is spread fairly. This will begin to ease their suffering and hopefully allow them to rise from the unending pit as you and I have. I shall continue to pray for them to have courage, be safe and most of all accept the love of God. What about you?