Fight or Flight – Escaping Hurricane Irma

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Hurricane Irma:  Fight or Flight?


One week ago today, the news warned of the power and potency of Hurricane Irma, named after a German War Goddess. I was in Indian Harbour Beach FL, a coastal barrier island near Melbourne FL. As Hurricane Irma marched through the Caribbean, I faced the ultimate decision: Fight or Flight.

I could stay, barricade the house, stock supplies, and pray with all the Faith and Trust I had that the newly constructed home with hurricane windows would withstand the what was forecasted to be the biggest and worst storm in recorded history.

I could pack my Prius and navigate Florida highways and heavy traffic with millions of other evacuees escaping Hurricane Irma, to the promised land of Georgia.

Mind you, I was in this beautiful coastal beach town because I was house/kid/bird sitting for a dear friend while she was in Italy with her boyfriend for a wedding. Being in charge of a teenager, two beloved parrots, and a dozen newly planted lemon tree seedlings, my choice would dramatically impact others.

Escaping Hurricane Irma, I chose FLIGHT.

FLIGHT won out over FIGHT inside the wrestling ring of my mind when I asked myself one simple question: which of the two options would I be more likely to keep my calm? Being a seasoned road-tripper from the Midwest who has never ever experienced a hurricane before, I knew I could stay chill in heavy traffic far better than I could hiding in the laundry room of a strange home with my thunder anxious dog and two squawking parrots during a hurricane.

I am only as strong as I can remain calm.

As a gypsy road warrior yogi traveller, I have learned the law of non-attachment to material things, as well as the art of packing what is only absolutely necessary. The whole concept of “if you had to leave your house forever and could only pack what fits in your car, what would you bring” is my lifestyle, not an in-case-of-emergency rhetorical question. My yogi-traveling ways served me exceptionally well on this evacuation turned road trip adventure.

Remaining calm means dealing with only what is smack in front of me.

As a yogi, I have practiced and taught the concept of living in the present moment, freeing oneself from the worries of the future or angsts of the past. In extreme traffic where other drivers are very stressed out, the taillights in front of me is the thing right smack in front of me. In thinking bout the future of when we might get there, or the woulda coulda shouldas harping on me for not leaving earlier or waiting until later, I got anxious and nervous and upset. But, when I simply watched and responded to the taillights in front of me, slowing and stopping and accelerating, I found a simple surrender to traffic gods.

Looking at the gas gauge, which was right in front of me, would launch me into the future, and anxieties of how many more miles and gas stations without fuel I might pass. While skipping my eyes from the gas gauge to the odometer counting down the miles before needing fuel, my hands somehow increased their grip on the steering wheel. For years, I have been teased as a stereo-typical hippie-yogi-Prius-driver. Realizing that my little silver Prius named Alice had gone over 12 hours on one tank of gas, I found relief in the present moment gas gauge reading just over a third tank remaining. Passing another gas station that turned out it lights with several vehicles in line, I was really really really happy I drive a Prius.

Bad puns and absurd humor are magic medicine for staying calm.

When the gas gauge hit the ¼ tank mark, I forgot my skills of staying present. My yoga deep breathing decided to hitchhike on the back of the pick up truck in the next lane. Feeling like E.T. trying to get home from a strange land, I phoned home. My boyfriend Neil answered. Saying it without saying it, he told me that I have been through much worse, and I have got this handled. He reminded me that I am somewhat super-human in my ability to handle difficult circumstances (he calls me a 12-foot Amazonian Tree Dweller). Then he launched into bad pun absurdist humor that made both me and my 14-year-old companion giggle uncontrollably. The laughter lifted the heavy worries that had pressurized my chest and replaced it with a few bubble pops and effervescent tingles behind my heart. This is true love. At the same time, he set himself to work showing me I am not alone by googling and calling gas stations in my area and texting me the locations of the ones.

Prayer Works! 11:11 is proof.

At precisely 11:11pm, shortly after celebrating the crossing of the Florida-Georgia state line, we found a quiet and still functioning gas station. I felt the answers to my prayers and the prayers of many across the country. It was as if the angels opened the sky and plopped this quiet little gem of a gas station in our path like a pot of gold at the end of the instantly materializing rainbow.

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