Recovery is like cleaning out a house that’s been through a hurricane. There’s mud a foot thick on the floors; some of the windows are cracked; there’s leaves stuck in cracks you didn’t know existed.
So unlike in the movies, there are no “breakthrough moments”, where you suddenly realize one thing and the whole house is clean. Oh there may be important turning points – moments when you realize that those aren’t frosted windows, that’s dirt, and you need to clean it off, and that’s why it’s so fugging dark in here. And that is an important breakthrough, in the sense that without it you would not succeed in cleaning the house, but then you still have to clean the windows.
Therapy is just someone who’s had experience with post-hurricane cleanup, Consulting over the phone, recommending tools and giving you advice. “Start with the floor,” they say, when you’re too overwhelmed to even begin, and they tell you what shovel to buy. So you start shoveling, and it’s HARD, and you’re exhausted all the time, and you’ve only shoveled out the front hallway, and it feels like it’s never going to really get better.
But you do get good at shoveling, and slowly you build up your strength, and after a few months you can shovel as much as you need to, but there’s still a LOT of mud here, so it takes a year to get that shoveled out, and your house is still muddy and the windows are cracked (and frosted), and there’s still debris everywhere, and every time you walk around you’re stepping an a quarter-inch of mud, but you CAN walk around, you can get anywhere you need to go, and the house is still a fucking mess, you’re a fucking mess, a disaster not fit for human habitation, but on the other hand you can no longer convince yourself that “nothing’s ever going to work”. It can get better. You can point at things that used to be super-fucked-up and now are only moderately-fucked-up. Progress is possible.
But then again, you’re not making any progress anymore. You thought you had the hang of it, but now the shovel isn’t working, and every time you shovel mud out of one place it slides into another and you’re not making any headway and you can barely pick up any mud with your shovel anyway and so maybe that was it – you had a nice run, but this is as good as it’s ever gonna get, you’re still gonna be fucked up forever, and you finally bring it up to your therapist, and they nod, and tell you to buy a hose.
So now you’re hosing down the floors, and that’s a new skill set to learn, and it splashes everywhere, and now you’ve got mud on your walls, but it does get the floor clear. But you hosed out the front hallway, and then realized that to clear out the living room you’re gonna have to hose it out into the front hallway, which means the hallway’s just gonna get messy again, so then you have to redo the front hallway, but you start planning out which rooms to do in which order, so it goes pretty smoothly after that, until the day when you’ve got all the big mud puddles gone, but there’s still mud on the walls, and stuck in corners, and no matter how hard you spray you still end up with this thin coating of mud-dirt-dust on the floor after it dries, and honestly you’re making more of a mess than you are cleaning up a mess at this point. And you express your frustration, and the therapist tells you where to find, and how to use, a mop.
So you mop all the floors, and it’s actually looking pretty good, and you remembered to start mopping from the inside out, so that’s not a big deal, until you open a door and realize you forgot to shovel out the pantry. You didn’t think it could get into the pantry, with the door shut, but there it is, mud 3 inches thick, and the only way to get it out is to shovel it, and you’ll have to take it through the kitchen, so you have to shovel out the pantry, and then hose down the pantry, and then re-hose the kitchen, and then mop the pantry, and then re-mop the kitchen, and EUUURGHHHJHH.
But you’re really good at it, at this point, so it’s not like it’s a big deal. It’s irritating af, and you’re sick to death of doing this, but it’s not scary, or overwhelming, or horrifying. It’s just really, really annoying.
And the fact is, you will never be done cleaning. Even if there’s never another hurricane, there’s dishes, and dust settling on counters, and spills, and mud tracked in after snowstorms, and laundry. There’s not some magical moment when you’re “done”, and you can stop working forever (except possibly, depending on who’s right about the afterlife, after you die). But you do reach a point where you it transitions from “impossible” to “meh, just a thing”
You do reach a point where you look around, and you’re kinda proud of what you’ve done
You do reach a point where you recognize that your current tools aren’t doing the job you need, and you research and find and learn how to use a tool all on your own.
You do reach a point where, when you see a storm coming, you know how to prepare for it, and you purchase and lay out all the supplies you need, and when the storm finishes, you can get your house back up and ready in practically no time at all.
You do reach a point where storms aren’t so scary, because you know how to weather them and you know for a fact that you can recover from them.
You do reach a point where friends ask you for tips on how to clean their houses
You do reach a point where, every time you need a tool, it’s one you already posses.
You do reach a point where you’ve replaced all the windows and sealed up all the cracks and replaced the insulation, and for the first time, you’re comfortable all the way through a winter.
You do reach a point where someone compliments you on how clean and comfortable your house is.
You do reach a point where you’ve done all the remediation, and you can start remodeling the house to fit your needs.
So yeah, it’s a lot of hard work that’ll never be done. But it’s also so, so worth it.
This is it. This is the thing.
This is really good!
#that one post with the thing #(I dunno how *relevant* this is to me but the metaphor sure is memorable) #this probably deserves some warning tag but I am not sure what