When I feel shitty I write. It’s one of the only things that helps me feel better.
On my way to Kissimmee to runaway from Hurricane Irma, I read a call to action written by Matt Stone under a heading called “I Hate the World,” which- coming from this guy- is incredibly ironic since I believe he is actually very altruistic. I felt his sorrow as if it were my own. My body has many memories of feeling things like this even from a very young age- pain for strangers and people living in very distant places. I signed up for whatever it is that’s coming with his new project. His written words have kept replaying in my mind on a loop these last two weeks. I keep seeing the image he described of the older man he encountered on his travels rummaging through the trash over and over again in my mind’s eye.
We arrived in Kissimmee late Wednesday evening. My family and I were very fortunate to be received by my very kind and gracious aunt, uncle, and cousins. A couple of days later they received my mom and dad as well. We are very fortunate families to always have ample food, clean water, nice homes, and varying degrees of community and income. The morning after my parents arrived, my cousin mentioned wanting to go to Disney with her family so my mom gifted us with tickets to Magic Kingdom. At $100 a pop, my husband and I can’t even entertain the thought of Disney for our family (plus another $40 for parking and other inevitable expenses, read: toys). We packed our water, lunch, and snacks because Disney phude and were on our way. I was excited for my kids and a little excited myself too because I LOVE Disney World. Being there brings up memories of being a child and connecting with that side of myself always makes me happy.
The whole time I was there I was having two thoughts/emotions: JOY at seeing my kids having such a great time on rides and seeing colorful things of all sorts that made them happy and gratitude at how I was safe from harm from this oncoming storm. I thought how fortunate I was that if my home did flood and we lost everything we could live with my parents or SOMEONE and we probably wouldn’t ever starve to death or get a serious illness due to poor conditions after the storm. But I couldn’t get out of my head that natural disasters are happening all around the world all the time and not everyone has it so easy. Not by a longshot.
And speaking of easy, can we TALK about Disney world for a minute? Talk about easy. From the monorail system to the entrance to the Disney app to get fast passes to rides at your desired time… it is all so efficient and tidy. The gnarly side of it came when we had to purchase something- ponchos. Toward the late afternoon the skies began to darken and it began to rain and my kids were uncomfortable so we went to buy ponchos. I thought, “How great to be able to buy a poncho when it’s raining.” The damn ponchos were $10. $10 for a tissue-thin plastic poncho that although costing probably 30 cents to make, had inflated in price because there was a Mickey Mouse printed on it. My tiny one didn’t fit into the kid sized poncho so I picked a random hoodie out from the racks. A toddler-sized hoodie in Disney World is $49.50 folks. It was just a cotton hoodie with a zipper. We ended up just throwing a sweater we had over his head and putting him in his stroller.
And the toys. Plastic everywhere. Plastic that will all be trash one day. I was looking at Disney through Matt Stone lenses and everything about Disney was ugly now except for my sweet children having fun. My mom promised to buy them each one thing before we left the park and the price tag on each of their chosen toys was ASTRONOMICAL. Things that cost probably $3 to make in China. I was furious at all of it. And I kept thinking about how this storm was coming and some people were about to lose their homes, pets, lives. And I was here enjoying life with my family at Disney World. It felt so off and maddening and I felt privileged to the point of shame walking the Disney pavement.
I was aware of every bite of food and every gulp of clean, potable water- not just at Disney but at my aunt and uncle’s house. I just felt so fortunate to have a family to share meals with and share conversation; to have shelter; to have a washer and dryer to clean and dry my clothes; to just reach into the pantry for food; to just pour myself a glass of clean water when I was thirsty.
Watching footage of the Florida Keys getting smashed and of parts of Miami turned into white water rivers, I couldn’t get the sense of fear to subside. Not for me… that is, not ONLY for me, but fear for all of us. As in for THE WHOLE WORLD. Before I left to Kissimmee, I went to Costco to gather some food and supplies and it was a madhouse. Some lady LOST HER MIND when she thought I was trying to cut in front of her in line when I was just trying to pass to the other side of an aisle. While in line, I was looking around and thinking, “I would really NOT like to be in congested Miami in a crisis situation.” And I also just could not get over the amount of food and stuff in Costco. You want some tuna? Here's 10 lbs of wild caught tuna. Want a flat screen tv? Here's an 84 inch, curved screen, monster HDTV. Want diapers? Here's a box of 10,00 diapers! All you have to do is grab it off the shelf and pay for it. So simple. I thanked the great spirit so much that I was in this fortunate situation- healthy body, abundance, love from family and friends. And we’re not financially wealthy by any means but I sure do feel wealthy in many other ways. This Costco experience really put me in the right head space to receive Matt Stone’s message and to see the full picture of places like Disney world and to be able to feel so fortunate and grateful in the bubble of our safety.
I don’t feel shame for what my husband and I do have. We don’t have much but whatever is ours, is ours and is not off anyone else's back. My husband works with integrity and soul. While I’ve been raising my kids as a stay-at-home, my mom has helped us out a ton financially and otherwise and we make all attempts possible to return the kindness- meals, odd jobs, etc. All of this surge of emotion is not because we've done horrible things and suddenly I’m having a huge bout of remorse because I’m swimming in what should be other people’s money. We have little and struggle to keep it but are certainly happy to have it. But our very little is someone else’s absolute wealth and amazing good fortune. And I don’t want to turn a blind eye to that anymore. I know it’s really easy to lose sight of how fortunate a lot of us are; a lot of ways to numb ourselves to what's really going on out there. There are our laptops, tablets, phones, video games, and Netflix to shut it all out but there’s only so much turning away you can do. Something will creep in- on the news, on the web, or from a friend. The world is in disarray. A lot of people are without food and water and a lot of people are enormously wealthy and sometimes just amassing more wealth with no intentions of even trying to put a dent in anywhere’s socioeconomic conditions. Is it their right to do whatever they want with their money? Yes. But you don’t make billions off the sweat of your own brow only.
I remember one time an old boyfriend invited me to L.A. to stay in the honeymoon suite of the Raffles in Beverly Hills. We dined next to celebrities, we went shopping at Century City, we enjoyed two front row tickets to my favorite artist at Dodger Stadium. One Sunday morning his brother and date joined us for breakfast at a ritzy cafe (so ritzy in fact that we were sitting next to one of the lead actors on Grey's Anatomy) when a homeless guy pops up tells us he's hungry and asks us for money. I gave him a five from my wallet. The very rich brothers at the table stared him down with contempt and told him to give me my money back- which I insisted he keep. They reprimanded me as the man walked away and asked me, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? HE DOESN'T NEED THAT?!? He's just going to buy drugs or alcohol." I knew in my heart that no matter WHAT he was going to buy that his life was vastly different than any of ours and probably often awful so some money given at his request was the least I could do. And I also knew I had to break up with that guy immediately.
After Hurricane Irma hit Kissimmee, we left back home and were fortunate to find our home intact. The door of our front gate had fallen and our huge mango tree lost half its limbs but it’s still standing. We even had electricity and walked into a cool home. After a good night’s sleep in our own bed, we woke up to clean the debris from our yard and the restlessness of knowing the people of the world need more connection to each other and more help and love from one another led me to our friends' home to help with their yard. They lost a LOT of trees on their sizable property and had a lot of work to do. We were so happy to help and they were so kind to give us some food in return to put in our fridge that was about to spoil since they didn’t have electricity. These exchanges touch my heart and keep me feeling useful in the world when I am so currently aware of others’ suffering and struggle, not only in the U.S. but beyond. We have so much and others having nothing. Not even clothes on their back. My world consists of sharing whatever I can; now, my partner too. There is a lot of need. Now that we're on the topic, you could help here.
Or do a google search and find out where Hurricane Irma relief effort donations are being collected. Right now I only now about local grassroots efforts.
I’ll be posting relief efforts of all kinds on social media- whatever comes my way. And you can judge me on perceived misplaced levity and fluff for reposting the picture of the hot Gainesville cops on their way to their hurricane relief night shift that went viral, but I believe that if I am lucky enough to be in a situation where I CAN break up the gargantuan stress and seriousness of the state of today’s world and take a moment away from focusing on the juggernaut we have to take down to make this world truly livable and thrive again, then I am going to take that moment of pleasure and run with it for as far as it will go. Life should not be all hardship and suffering. Unfortunately, it is for some. But life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, y’all.
Than you for the inspiration Matt Stone. <3