Tropical storm Fay arrived in Florida on my birthday, which created some odd juxtapositions. Out of state friends and family called with happy birthday wishes tinged with anxiety because the storm was projected to roar through Sarasota. A dear friend who had planned a birthday dinner party for the night staunchly continued to prepare for 12 guests while her husband boarded up windows. Other friends loyally got out their high-riding trucks so they could clear flooded streets if necessary. Two of the couples live in a flood zone, so they planned to come to my house the next day and ride out the storm. One of the couples has 5 cats. The other couple said it would be a good thing to have 5 cats in the house during a hurricane — that way each of us could have our own cat. As it turned out, Fay didn’t follow the predicted path up Florida’s west coast at all, but has ambled around the east coast, zigzagging off and on to hit the state three times.
I’m having a peculiar mix of emotions over the whole thing. First, a profound gratitude for having friends not only willing to celebrate my birthday but willing to do it when they thought a hurricane was on the way. Then, a general gratitude for all the friends in my life who enrich and sweeten every experience. I always feel inadequate at expressing how much I value them, and I’m feeling even more inadequate now. And, living in Florida where the threat of hurricanes is an annual given, I’m also filled with gratitude that my particular area was spared Fay’s flooding and destruction. Mixed in with all that happy gratitude is the vague feeling of guilt, the irrational sense that my area’s good luck somehow comes at the expense of those unlucky ones who are today sharing space with alligators and snakes in the floodwaters.
I suppose that’s part of being human. At any given moment, some of us are celebrating our great fortune while others of us are grieving our losses. No matter how much we may empathize with the ones whose turn it is to grieve, we shouldn’t let our empathy dampen our happiness when it’s our turn to celebrate. So in spite of my compassion for my fellow Fay-blasted Floridians today, I’m quietly relishing my own happiness.