The thing about life is at some point no matter who you are, it’s going to throw you a curve ball. It is going to come out of nowhere, when you’re coasting along and you least expect it and shock the hell out of you. Life isn’t carefree no matter how simply you choose to live it. We all face obstacles at some point on our journey.
I used to love a show called Ally McBeal that aired in the late nineties and starred Calista Flockhart. Ally McBeal, the main character, is a single young lawyer looking for love and fulfillment in life. She works for a Boston Law firm with her ex-lover and his wife, a money loving boss and an annoying receptionist. With all that is going on she must contend with her feelings and her over active imagination. The show had some great lines, but there’s one I remember in particular that’s come across my mind a few times this past week. The scene takes place between Ally and Georgia (her ex-lover’s wife who is also employed at the firm) in the law firm’s co-ed bathroom where Georgia confronts the constantly insecure, narcissistically obsessed but at the same time never really happy Ally, with the question “What makes your problems bigger than everyone else’s?” To which Ally simply replies, “They’re mine.”
I was born and raised in Hudson County, New Jersey, and have been glued to the news since before Hurricane Sandy, SuperStorm Sandy, Frankenstorm, or whatever you want to call it became news. I have seen reports of people having lost their homes, having lost electricity, having lost family members, having lost all the food in their fridge, having lost their cars, having lost their businesses. The stories are endless. On certain social media sites, the initial posts revolved around prayers for safety for all in the storm’s path. In the wake of the storm, the posts became more about immense gratitude that they had survived the storm and friends and family were also okay. One particular post read, “Sandy thank you for opening my eyes and making me a more humble human being…” As more days have passed, the initial shock of Sandy’s destruction is beginning to wear off, and folks are trying to get back to their normal lives, the tone of the posts have changed. You see, those who didn’t lose their homes or their cars and still have to get to work, are now faced with lines for gasoline that last for miles. The wait is sometimes hours for a ration of gasoline, often not enough to get them to their destination. Those who lost their cars are trying to rent one, but are running into the minor detail that while there are still a few cars to be rented they require gasoline. Some people are running out of food, and if they are lucky enough to make it to the grocery store, they find shelves aren’t being restocked. After days without electricity, a gasoline shortage, and possibly a food and water shortage, people are starting to lose patience. The posts are not as warm and fuzzy, not as many of the peace on earth and goodwill to others kind . They are more along the lines of “we still have no power!” and “when will the electric company make it to our neighborhood?” Since schools are closed until further notice, parents are posting more along the lines of “my kids are climbing the walls” and “we are running out ways to keep the kids entertained.”
At first glance, I admit my immediate reaction was one of disappointment. Sandy destroyed homes, entire towns, and lives. How can no electricity be your number one concern when there are people who can’t even hold a proper funeral for their loved ones, and others who still haven’t found the missing? And that Ally McBeal line came flooding in and wouldn’t leave me. As human beings, we are creatures of habit. Not matter how much we simplify our lives, we find comfort and safety in the world we have created for ourselves. When something storms in and changes that, no matter how minor the change it affects us individually as only it can. We can feel sympathy for others…believe me. I’ve had a heavy heart for ALL those who have been affected by Sandy. However, we are only human and when faced with imminent danger, our survival instincts kick in and we protect ourselves and our loved ones first. In real life, it isn’t human nature to place the oxygen mask on the passenger to your left before placing it on yourself. We all have problems, and while some would fall at the top of the charts if there existed some life rating, those problems directly affecting us will still seem bigger to us. Why? Because they’re ours.