Planting & Watering Against Storm Anxiety

If you’ve ever read a word on this blog, I’m sure you already know that I struggle with depression and anxiety. Most of the time, that anxiety is generalized. In my definition, that means, my brain encounters nearly all stimuli from a position of anxiousness first. I’ve developed some adaptations to curb anxiety related to planning and obtaining food. The tool I want to show you today is a storm reserve inventory.

Living in Oklahoma, I am no stranger to severe weather. But it was my stint in Florida that organized my storm reserve. We moved to Florida in June of 2017. That October, a hurricane decided to head our way. We had lots of time to prepare and worry about its direction. My sister took me to Firehouse Subs and bought two pickle buckets, thus the storm reserve was born.

Back in Oklahoma, we don’t have a storm shelter or cellar. We have an interior closet. On the long outside wall of the closet stand four large and full bookcases. On the door side, we have a hall where we shut all the doors and sweat out storm threats.

The storm reserve is a tool that helps me know I’m mostly prepared for a summer or winter storm. Ice here is nearly as dangerous as tornadoes. I approach storms in phases.

Phase 1: Storms will come eventually.

I set up my inventory and buy what I can by sneaking items into the normal grocery budget. These items are set aside in two pickle buckets and a plastic tub in our storm closet. Throughout the year, I aim to rotate out expiring things into the normal course of the house. My food reserve is based on feeding five people for three days without power or water.

2019 Storm Reserve.20190528.jpg

The items in yellow are missing from the inventory. They are aspirational, in the case of a camp stove or camp plates, and logistical in the case of food. The inventory is the ideal. Items in pink are things 1) we have in somewhere in the house but not in the storm closet, or 2) we need to track carefully.

Also during this phase, I sort our safe to ensure that documents and items of personal value are in plastic bags and organized.

Phase 2: Storm is likely today.

On days when a storm is really likely, I perform a few tasks that make me feel like we could get on with things after a damaging but not deadly storm. First, I backup my hard drives, the kids’ devices, and my phone. Second, lock the safe and any medication cabinets. Third, I try to fill out our deep freezer in an effort to save the food in case of power outage. Fourth, I gather the pink-shaded items from the inventory list. Fifth, I pack a go-bag. Here’s what I put inside:

  • all keys relevant to my life
  • wallet
  • small survival kit
  • laptop
  • kids’ devices
  • cords
  • the notebook that orders my life day-to-day
  • copy of most vital documents

Every item goes into plastic storage bags. Two-gallon Zip-locs are a personal favorite, comfortably fitting my laptop in its sleeve.

Sixth, I have the kids place a long-sleeved shirt, pair of long pants, and rain jacket in the storm closet. I also have them line up socks and a pair of tie-up shoes outside the closet if they are off for the day.

Phase 3: Storm is imminent.

We put on long clothes, if we have time. Then we get in the closet and wait.

I am under no delusions that this plan can prevent a tornado or keep one from turning my home into matchsticks. But it does help me do something. That tiny handful of control in the middle of so much uncertainty is an important aspect to managing my storm anxiety.

As I’ve written this entry, a funnel has tried to form north and west of our home. We are not in the direct path. We are watching and taking precautions and living life.

Planting & Watering: What Revision Taught Me

Things revision has taught me:

  • to be flexible
  • to do hard things at my own behest
  • to take care with art and audience after the art is made and before it is launched
  • that exceedingly little in life or a book is sacred and untouchable
  • that I am stronger than I fear I am
  • that my moods affect the distance between me and the story
  • how to begin to separate myself as a maker from the thing I make

First drafts are first only in two things: chronology and importance. Without a first draft, there can be no revision. [Write it!] But the main job of a writer: revise until a fully fledged story is carved from blank space.

I am wrapping up a year in the query trenches for a book of my heart. In that year, I’ve earned 40 form rejections and had about 20 non-responses. No personalized rejections. No stray comments about seeing other projects or toying with this project, as had been my experience querying in the past. Sixty noes.

What to do when a query letter and a handful of pages muster no interest? I could give up, either bitter or defeated. I could keep sending it out as it is. I could make cosmetic changes and keep querying. Or I could go back to the now-carved space, sand it smooth, and carve anew. Revision.

I still believe in this story. I still fall into it whenever I read it. I still believe that if only I could carve the true form of the story, it might have a chance to find an audience.

This particular book has undergone three major revisions, not counting all the in-between edits. Now, as I face a fourth major revision, I find that I am not as reticent as times past. Revision is a chance to carve a better story. It’s a do-over. More than that, revision is the process, and it’s process I have to love to stick with an art-making sort of life.

For a long while, I didn’t realize how much revision could teach me about other areas of my life. In my art-making life, I keep moving forward because of revision. Querying a different book I have since polished, I move forward. When I cook a meal that flops or I volunteer for something bigger than expected, I remember that not everything requires a do-over, that some things can simply be. When my kids are inflexible, I teach them from my own experiences.

Most of life is not given to revisions. No do-overs. Life is not carved from blank space; it is lived and breathed and fundamentally experienced. Because there is no sanding away the mistakes or wrong turns, life requires more intentional care than art. Art can be messy and spontaneous and whatever else it needs to be. And then, for me, revisions require that intentional care be given to the art and its audience.