Life After An Unexpected Tragedy

Have you ever had a “fact of life” that you struggled helplessly against?

One that I feel strongly about is “life goes on”. Normally, this is a very good thing. I woke up this morning as opposed to not waking up this morning. In that sense, I’m happy life goes on. However, I struggle with this fact of life after a tragedy.

For the person who has just gone through an unexpected tragedy, life comes to a shattering halt for an undetermined amount of time. Yet for the rest of the world, life is momentarily interrupted but quickly resumes at full speed. Because life must go on.

This week Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge is buildings. What’s fun about tragedy? Or what do buildings have to do with tragedy? I can just hear your mind churning and trying to figure out where I’m going here.

Stay with me here.

I’m combining my love for photography and a look back at the Christchurch Earthquakes that began four years ago this month.

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I woke the morning of the earthquakes to a plethora of calls, emails, texts and Facebook messages, from the USA, asking if my family and I were alright. “What? Heck yeah, we’re great! Why?” The news that earthquakes had shaken Christchurch and caused severe damage was astonishing.

Several of us spent the day watching the news and hurting with fellow New Zealand residents. Rescue workers, city engineers and volunteers jumped into action looking for damage and people who might need help or rescue. Compassionate souls donated their resources and money. I sat in front of the TV whispering prayers. We were all in a flurry of activity, whether hands on or at a distance, for days maybe even weeks.

I live at the bottom of the South Island. I am distanced by hundreds of kilometres from where the devastation took place. What happens after a tragedy for those of us not directly effected is that we tend to forget, go back to our lives, and assume that everyone else did also. Even worse, we can make assumptions about people, their lives, recovery and their approach to the aftermath.

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I feel sad at the loss when I see photos of the city centre but I foolishly concluded that the primary effect was mainly aesthetic and inconvenient.

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I went to Christchurch and met a family that continued to the experience painful results two years after the quakes. It was the middle of winter and their fireplace was too damaged to provide the warmth they needed. In fact, many parts of their home was completely unusable. They lived in hotels for a while but eventually had to move back home because of the financial burden. They told us horrifying stories of friends and family who were still using homemade toilets and had no access to showering or bathing facilities. People were out of work and worrying about keeping the minimal life-sustaining needs met. Fear was consuming countless hearts. The fear factor was so great that many people had moved from their life long homes in Christchurch to other parts of the world.

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I was surprised at my own inability to bear burdens when they were not within my immediate view. I know the pain of unexpected tragedy but I was allowing my life to go on blindly. That fact was a struggle for my heart. How can I stay connected, compassionate, caring and supportive?

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I felt pretty small and insignificant in my capabilities and offerings. My life situation prevents opportunities I would desire to provide. All I could do is ask, “what could I do that would make a difference in your situation?” Without hesitation the woman said to me, “Don’t forget about us and if you pray, pray for us.”

It was not a response I expected. Clothes? Money? Hotel? Help with repairs while I’m here? Give me something tangible to “do”. But no. She answered from her need, unaware of my ability to provide that need. She wanted to know that while she was doing the “hands on stuff” that someone, somewhere had not forgotten her plight. Secondly, she wanted someone to prayerfully ask for help on her behalf: she needed courage, she needed hope, she needed strength, she needed her faith sustained and she needed solutions in the process that were out of her control.

I remembered that day that when unexpected tragedy touches a life, the most important thing I can do is remain aware of their situation and ask them periodically what they need from me.

Today, four years have passed since the first earthquake hit the beautiful city of Christchurch. Christchurch continues to rebuild, people continue in hardships and I continue to remember and pray. Four years passes quickly for me as my life goes speeding on. However, four years is an eternity when life is devastated and changed forever by unexpected tragedy.

May I never grow indifferent to the pain around me.

My goal is to-

Be mindful.

Be there.

Ask and not assume I know.

D

How to Deal with the “Something’s Missing” Feeling

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Do you ever get that “something’s missing” feeling? Or “I’m craving something” feeling but have no idea what it is you want?

I do.

Today I started craving something to eat. Since I have been a bit indulgent lately I thought I would make some kale chips. My daughter put a bunch of kale in my shopping cart the other day and suggested I try to make a healthy snack. Eww! Yuck! I was not craving kale chips!

Over the next several hours I frantically went from one thing to the next attempting to satisfy my insatiable hunger. Nothing was bringing satisfaction to my longing. Exasperated I finally grabbed a glass of water and sat down. I took a sip. Yum! It felt refreshing. I wanted more. I drank it down and wanted even more. So, I refilled the glass and guzzled it down. Each gulp tasted sweet and satisfying. I wasn’t hungry. I was thirsty. My body needed water.

I was content. I was no longer frantically searching for what I was missing.

I find that whole process exhausting! Lol I reach a point where I just want to know – What is it?

I used to be that way with shopping, too. I would feel that needy feeling, hit the shops, spend far too much money and find I still was not satisfied. Then six months down the road I found myself completely frustrated with things I hated, cluttering my space and overwhelmed that I had spent money on things I no longer wanted. Exasperating.

I learned that the reason for the empty feeling was lack of personal value. Money can’t buy that. Accepting myself for the valuable person I am was like my thirsty body drinking in that glass of water today -refreshing and satisfying.

It’s easy to loose our sense of contentment and set out on a frantic treasure hunt. The problem is that we can search for answers in all the wrong places. We search for love with the wrong people. We beg people for answers to our problems. We panic and search and search and search.

Nothing satisfies.

Elizabeth Gilbert explains that the best, most effective way to find or restore contentment is to stop, sit, and be still.

Quietly.

Calmly.

Prayerfully.

Get still.

In the stillness comes the ability to hear more clearly. In the stillness comes the ability to assess what is real or perceived need. In the stillness comes creativity. In the stillness, contentment and appreciation and gratitude can flood your soul.

And contentment, when it comes, causes that needy, lost feeling to pass.

We are all living in a frantic world. However, it is important to take quiet, still moments in our day to remind ourselves that we already are enough, have enough and have learned enough for this part of the journey.

Do you need to sit and be still? Go ahead…take all the time you need.

D

(I would like to welcome my friend, Samantha Pearson, and thank her for her photo contribution. I look forward to working with her more in the future.)

Sunshine and Smiles

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There are days when I am too shy to speak to strangers but those are days that I just walk down the street smiling at everyone I pass by.

I have found an amazing truth in this exercise: the person I smile at smiles back.

Every time.

It makes me wonder if there is an involuntary response that emerges from deep in our souls.

What do you think?

Have you noticed how people respond when you smile at them?

Give it try.

See how many people you smile at smile back. Then let me know if it’s just me or if I’m right…

people always smile back.

Just wondering…😀
D

5 Effective Ways To Help You Stop “Seeing Red” and Arguing

What comes to mind when you hear the word “carmine”? Immediately, I thought of a passionate, latin woman dressed in vibrant red.

Red is a powerful color. Our One Word Photo Challenge host, Nichole, rightly pointed this out to us. I agree completely. It is a color that produces vivid emotional images: the passion of love or the fury of anger. There is no middle ground with carmine; strong, hot, intense.

deeclarknz.comYesterday, I received a cry for relationship help. An “I can’t take it anymore” plea filled with disappointment, discouragement and anger.

Do you and your partner, spouse or significant other struggle with an underlying flow of anger, frustration, and irritation? Do you argue often? Just how often “do you see red” in your relationship?

Do you think arguing is a healthy part of relationships?

How do you feel in the middle of an argument? Do you feel peace? Do you feel appreciated? Do you feel secure? Do you feel respected? Do you feel loved?

From personal experiences, I have felt none of those things during past arguments. In fact, I was left feeling the exact opposite. For that reason, I don’t argue or make every effort not to argue. I feel angry sometimes. I get snippy and frustrated. Those emotions are valuable if we don’t misuse them.

deeclarknz.comWhy do we argue?

We want peace, our rights, to be valued, to be loved, to be accepted and respected yet we end up feeling worse off than when we began the argument and accomplished quite the opposite.

I read this quote sometime back and I think it hits the nail on the head as a reason for why we argue. “How do conflicts, quarrels and fighting originate?…your desires go unfulfilled…” –James

I want something you don’t want or you want something I don’t want; therefore, we clash and end up devastating one another.

Our world is full of fighting and warring with one another yet we declare we want a world filled with peace and happy co-existence.

deeclarknz.comIn my 54 years of life, I have learned that we are not always going to agree. Put two or more people in a room and there will be a wide array of emotions, beliefs, goals and opinions. We are all different. We won’t always agree.

We find differences within cultures, communities, social groups, and genders. A relationship will house all of those differences and they will irritate us at some point. We are not going to agree 100% of the time. And we shouldn’t have to agree. But can we live together in a healthy, peaceful way?

How do we repair a relationship that has become a constant confrontation?

Here are 5 effective ways to help you stop “seeing red” and arguing. These will help you work toward healthy resolutions to your disagreements.

  1. Give respect. We all know how painful being disrespected feels. In fact, think of times that you have been disrespected and check your pulse? What are you feeling about that memory? I would guess you are not feeling very pleasant. No one enjoys a situation where they walk away feeling a lack of respect. (We might agree on this point.) The key, then, is to look within your heart and dig up your disrespectful attitudes, words and behaviours to aid in repairing communication.
  1. Deal with Fear. We are afraid that we will become a doormat. We fear our rights will be taken from us. We fear that we won’t be loved. We fear that we will be required to be the only one who is the “bigger person”. Eradicating these fears from our heart is not an easy task. Unresolved fear prevents us from communicating our desires effectively. Unpack the baggage, as “they” say.
  1. Communicate. Communicate. I rarely “get it” or understand a point right away. Neither does my dear husband. “How many times do I have to tell you?” Frustration shades our perspective. Maybe I didn’t get this point, but consider that I did finally understand on other issues. This means I am capable of working with you and not against you. Also, we must be willing to communicate honestly what we really feel about the situation. Attempting to show patience, kindness or an attitude of peace by not speaking up will only lead to a volcanic emotional eruption. Those out-bursts are usually more devastating than healing.
  1. Know when to stop. I don’t mean quit the relationship. I mean don’t carry on a conversation that is turning volatile until you say or do something you will regret. We have all been guilty of saying wrong or hurtful words when a conversation turns too difficult. We also hear of fatal or violent endings once enough buttons have been pushed. No matter how hard you try, you cannot go back and undo damage like I have just described. The consequences of careless words and actions can be far reaching. Learn when to stop. Come back to the conversation when the environment is not as charged -if the issue is important enough to try again. It’s also important to know what and when to let go- not all issues are that important.
  1. Find a third party. If you cannot be open enough with the person you are in a relationship with, ask for help. Might I just add, find appropriate help. Friends, family, children and whoever-just-happens-be-there-at the time are not examples of appropriate help. What usually happens when your issues spill out on the-people-around-you is that you provide them with an opportunity to pick up your offense. When this happens and the two of you work things out, the third party is left with no way to resolve what they are feeling. Be wise. Find a third party with experience in mediation to help you both learn to communicate as effectively as possible.

deeclarknz.comFinally, ask yourself: Is what you disagree about more important that the relationship?

A difference in opinion is healthy. But remember, love the person and show them respect. Love yourself by being open and honest. You and your significant other are valuable.

My hope is that if you are in a constant state of “seeing red”, that these tips will help you cultivate a more open, healthy way of dealing with disagreements.

Thank you for spending some time with me today.

D

Humanity, We Belong To Each Other

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“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” -Desmond Tutu.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” -The Art of Happiness

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” -Mother Teresa

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity