(Featured image credit: Illustration by Christoph Niemann; Map by ZIGGYYMAJ /Getty)
This letter will be handled in two parts for two reasons:
1. The referenced article in the New Yorker made me climb under my bed yesterday and whimper for six hours; and
2. The issue presented is new to me, challenging, and demands solid research and thought.
In other words, unlike most of my advice this one cannot be winged. Wunged? Whatever.
It seems impossible to get away from the hysterical chatter about the terrifying and overdue, not to mention “cataclysmic” Cascadia earthquake. Being prone to paranoia and irrational fear, this anxiety has my head spinning, and I frequently awake at 4 am with brain-churn regarding our soon-to-occur destruction.
The recent New Yorker article (which I still refuse to read in full) had the unfortunate effect of scaring the living daylights out of most of the Pacific NW. A recent editorial in the local newspaper described my state of mind to a frightening degree, but also recommended basic preparedness procedures, all of which are daunting, difficult and expensive.
So, wise one, how can I stop spinning my proverbial wheels and move on to a more productive and enjoyable life? And as a p.s., if the quake is as horrendous as the infamous article described, what the hell is the point of having a disaster kit anyway?
Dear Portland Gal:
Thanks a lot.
When we originally chatted about this issue, I told you I had read the New Yorker article The Really Big One, or as I like to call it, “Fuck It, Why Bother with Anything Anymore?”
In truth, I had only read recaps in the media. I realized this when I sought the article online and experienced the work in its full glory.
After I crawled out from under my bed, I made the following notes:
- We’re dead.
- Even if we aren’t dead, we’re screwed.
- Pain, misery and death are inescapable, even (and it would seem especially) in our beautiful little part of the world.
- I shouldn’t worry about saving for retirement anymore.
- I’m glad I never bought a beach house.
- My family needs to prepare.
- Jake will attend college somewhere safe. The moon, perhaps?
I want to congratulate you, Portland Gal, because this is the first time I have received a letter that transmitted the writer’s problem onto me. That’s quite a feat you’ve pulled off there, young lady. You’ve infected me with Syfearlis!
Or is it Ghonorreada? Since you won’t read the article, perhaps Notghonorrereada?
As I tucked into my angst, some thoughts came into focus.
- Fear of death = fear of leaving my son.
- Fear of systemwide destruction of communication methods = fear of not being able to connect with my son and other loved ones.
- Fear of catastrophic road failures = fear of not being able to experience this with my son and family together in one place (preferably my house because I stock vodka in large amounts).
- Fear of economic collapse after earthquake = fear my family will be forced to relocate from the only home I’ve ever known to someplace terrible like Omaha. And last but not least:
- Fear that I will survive the earthquake but my son will not, or worse yet, I will never know what fate befell him = fear of living with the greatest loss imaginable.
That last one is a doozy and can create some challenging mindsets for those of us who are now obsessing over the Big One.
Again, thanks. Thanks a lot.
Two days ago my son was invited to the beach by a friend for the afternoon and I nearly told him “no.” I envisioned The Big One happening and the tsunami that would rain down upon the only person on this planet I would kill or die for if need be.
I let him go. And then I spent the entire day watching my dogs closely for any signs of distress. It’s the dogs who will tell us we are fucked – did you know that?
You would know that if you read the article. Which I now have.
And, like a photo I saw once of my favorite divorce lawyer in a bikini, the impression burned into my brain is both lasting and disturbing on so many levels they cannot be catalogued.
We will discuss what’s really going on and how you can battle your anxiety over the impending doom in the next blog. Until then, stay calm, buy some canned food and a flashlight, and stock up on cookies.