Valentines Day quake a bumpy reminder of what really matters
Valentines Day and I'm hunched in a doorway, face to jowl with my elderly cat as the house sways from side-to-side like an insignificant dinghy on rough seas.
The cat burps in my face and lies down, curling herself into a ball as the house shudders uncontrollably around us. Her indifference to danger is somehow comforting.
For some reason this big 5.7 magnitude earthquake isn't a surprise. Perhaps it's because we are so close to the 5th anniversary of the February 22, 2011 earthquake, that I feel like I've been holding my breath, waiting for another one to happen.
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Often there's a fear beneath the surface of every morning. Will it happen today?
It subsided for a while. Gradually I stopped scrutinising the earthquake drums on the Geonet website, I walked through an underground car park, heart hammering. Wherever I go I still plan where I'd take cover should 'it' happen.
Some of these imagined scenarios would require me to do manoeuvres my middle aged girth is totally incapable of in a Briscoes aisle but having some sort of plan helps make me feel better. For the same reason my phone is always charged.
Are you ok? #eqnz That's what we message each other on Facebook after every quake.
Maybe it's just me but whenever there's a quake, I'm jolted with five years of memories and moments. Shadows of people and their quake experiences overlap one another.
For a long time I've tried to be OK. But I'm not strong, I'm not resilient. I'm anxious, scared, financially drained and exhausted from putting on a brave face. I'm sick of thinking about it and worrying about it. But, somewhat perversely, I worry that if I don't worry about it somehow I'm tempting fate.
I'm still anxious about everything from multi-level buildings to shops with high aisles full of dinnerware. (Watch me walk rapidly past the Jamie Oliver range, inhaling like an asthmatic).
Sometimes I like to picture the earthquakes as a Vaudevillian-style villain, twirling its moustache, snapping its cape and breaking in to our lives to tip our lives up onto the floor. Alone I greet the villain in the door frame and say "aha, you have returned my old foe". Humour helps.
Five years ago on this day I interviewed a woman from Samoa about her experiences in the tsunami. She and her family had moved to Christchurch after their terrifying experiences only to find themselves living in a garage after the September 2010 quake.
She had told me about finding a dead baby relative on a beach after the tsunami. We had cried together. Her hands shook as she told me about her post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Because of what happend a week later, I never got to tell her story yet I often think of her around the time of the anniversary of that day.I didn't know much about PTSD then. But that was a different city. We were all different then. I really hope she reads this and gets in touch.
When she told me that she couldn't get her head around not being able to trust the very ground beneath her feet, and how it frightened her right down to her marrow, I thought I understood her but I didn't really get it then.
Now I stand in a doorway on Valentines Day, confronting the anxiety that rampages through my mind, upending everything, and I understand her words all too well.
Are we OK? I think so.
Perhaps the Valentines Day quake serves as yet another reminder that broken stuff is just broken stuff and nothing really matters, but the people you love and the people and burping cats who love you.
- The Press