Life often gives us rock and roll. It could be a cancer diagnosis or it could be earthquakes. This week, many in New Zealand have been to hell and back. First, was a giant 7.8 two-minute earthquake just after midnight on Monday morning.
I woke just before the quake and jumped to the floor by my bed. On my hands and knees, I held on the floor as my house lurched around me. It felt like the house would come down and my fight or flight responses went into overdrive.
My electricity went out and as I sat on the couch in the dark with my laptop, portable Wi-Fi and cell phone, I had to decide what to do next. After-shocks followed and I went out and met some of my neighbours, all in pyjamas and slippers. We all bonded together and knew we were a community. I definitely was rattled.
I decided to go back to bed and try and sleep. Shortly after, my friend rang me. Petone, my suburb, was being evacuated due to tsunami risk. One of the benefits of living close to the beach is also a detriment in beach laden New Zealand. Almost all of us live on or close to fault lines or in tsunami zones.
I knew I needed to leave but wasn’t sure where to go. My neighbour said up the valley and when I drove 10 minutes away, I stopped and texted my sister and sister in law. Go to my sister in law, Nicky’s, was the answer and off I drove to a hot drink and comfortable bed. There I patted a lovely dog and got into bed with a hot wheat bag. I was freezing after all the shocks and panic.
At 7am I woke to find that unfortunately there had been two deaths due to the quakes and the large earthquake had been focused at the top of the South Island near Kaikoura. As well as feeling for the affected communities, we were all full of shock and lack of sleep.
Now the practical decisions had to be made. It was a work day and what was I meant to do? Now that it was daylight, I needed to see what damage had been done to my house. And thirdly, I was meant to do a speech to a local Rotary group that evening. I needed to find out if it was on and what I would do.
Most of all, I was so tired and just wanted to go home and sleep. When I got home, nothing was damaged. Miraculously things had fallen over but nothing was broken.
I found that my electricity was out and was so for 12 hours. I had no snack food in my house (it all required cooking), I was cold and I didn’t even have a radio. I went to the local supermarket and bought some food and water. We couldn’t drink the tap water due to the quake.
I waited for the power to come on and read that no one from Wellington should go into the city for work. I went to sleep and on waking realised, that I was too exhausted to do a speech so sent my apologies to the Rotary group.
What more is next?
On the Tuesday, on returning to work, we couldn’t go into our work place as it was damaged. We are in the process of moving to a new building so we went to work at the new building. However I hadn’t had a chance to pack before we moved buildings. In addition, we are going through a restructure and this week, my group manager left and we have new teams. We also have moved to hot desking with lockers and no personal desks.
That same day, Wellington experienced a storm and my suburb Petone flooded. I managed to get home in time before the trains and buses stopped due to flooding and aftershocks. It was just one thing after another.
We then had another storm on Wednesday/Thursday which had locals saying “we are waiting for locusts”. What more could happen? Of course, I didn’t have enough safety gear. On Wednesday, I headed out and bought a portable gas stove, more torches, battery packs for my cell phone and a radio. I am set if further quakes occur.
Despite being on my own during all the quakes and flooding, I did okay. I felt vulnerable at times having to make decisions on my own, often in the dark. I did get quite a few texts and calls which really helped.
I surprised myself too. All I wanted was to get back into the office and get back to normal. It reminded me of my cancer diagnoses as I wanted to get back into the office and create normality. I love working in an office and it feels quite safe and secure for me. When life outside work is shattered, I liked sitting at my desk.
There were over 2000 aftershocks in the 48 hours after the big earthquake. After going through a week of quakes, evacuation, flooding, storms, moving buildings/restructure at work, and more, routine and normal are very important.
19 things to give peace and comfort after earthquakes
These are the things that gave me safety, peace and warmth in the upheaval.
- Routine. I went back into the office straight away as I wanted to get there, set up my desk, and start normalising things. It gave me a sense of control when life is uncontrolled.
- Ritual. It’s important to keep up with daily rituals and practices eg meditation, spiritual practice, yoga etc.
- Get prepared. I bought some new torches, a radio, a gas cooker, and a cell phone charger that doesn’t require electricity etc. I took extra clothes to work just in case. Now I’ve done all that I can to prepare.
- Reach out to you neighbours. My neighbours have connected to look at community responses to the quakes.
Healing the trauma
- Acupuncture. I find weekly acupuncture reduces stressors and imbalance in the body so the body can head towards equilibrium.
- Releasing shock and trauma. Do whatever works for you to heal any trauma in the body eg EFT, bach flowers, meditation etc.
Nourishing the mind, body and spirit
- Eating very well. I aimed to eat exactly how I normally would so that my body and immune system could stay healthy and strong.
- Looking after me. Yesterday, I booked a massage and facial and had some relaxing time with my parents. This weekend I’ve done things to nourish myself.
- Yoga. I noticed that my body and muscles became tight and sore. I went back to my yoga routines one day later and feel much better.
- Talking to good friends and family. It’s really important to connect and talk through the practical and emotional components of a trauma and the realities of the quakes.
- Walking and cycling. I have done lots of walking and a bit of cycling, getting out into nature, and having a bit of time in the sun. It has been nourishing.
- Time in nature. I have walked by the beach, patted dogs, seen a lovely rainbow and spent time in my garden. It is grounding and feels good.
- Doing things that make me feel good. Talking to friends and family, cooking healthy food, watching Suits on Netflix, and writing this blog.
Being present and accepting what is
- Make peace with now. This was not how life was meant to be but I keep learning that this is exactly how it is all meant to be.
- Realising stability is within me, not external. During the week, I realised that life will offer roller coasters but my job is to stay as peaceful and joyful as possible. It is not always easy but the world can be unstable. Throughout all of that, I can be stable and grounded.
- Staying still, not rushing around. I resisted the temptation to go away but instead stayed with my home and making peace with all that has unfolded.
- Reclaiming power. I found it good to make decisions that pushed me out of my comfort zone rather than staying in fear. I went and had a good look at the beach after it was safe to return post-tsunami warning.
- Love the ones you’re with. In an emergency, it is the people around you in this moment who will help. It is confronting to face disasters on your own or without loved ones. It’s important to look to the help of the ones with you right now. I had plans that I would connect with family but mostly, that wasn’t practical right in an emergency. Today we have a residents ‘meeting to talk about how we can prepare and support each other more.
Wishing everyone peace on their journey.