By Elizabeth White-Olsen, Executive Director of Writespace
Writespace takes a vacation in July, and so do I. This year, instead of leaving town, my husband and I decided to spend our vacation catching up on projects related to our relocation due to Hurricane Harvey. During our “staycation,” I’ve also been writing about Harvey. As much as I’d like to report that the writing is going along swimmingly, I’ve found it hard to write about the hurricane. It hurts so much to step once again into the brown floodwaters and into the canoe that took us from our home, but I feel I must to rescue myself in a larger way one year later.
Until Wednesday, August 30, 2017, the day we were evacuated, my husband and I lived on the third floor of Lakeside Place Apartments in west Houston. Though we were forced to move when the apartments below us flooded, we didn’t lose all our possessions, as did most Houstonians affected by Harvey. Still, I’ve never lost as much in one week. The things I lost in Harvey were intangible, such as my sense of safety. My pride. My belief that I am in control of my life.
Certainly some of the things I lost--like my pride--were things I needed to lose. Still, Harvey damaged me, and I definitely haven’t healed all the way. It was all so unfair, at the root of everything. Up until Harvey,I operated under the naive assumption that life could be a little unfair sometimes, but that it wouldn’t ever be hugely unfair. I do now feel greater compassion for those who suffer injustice, and I’m grateful for this. Still, there are aspects of my experience that just don’t make sense, and they may never make sense until the day I die. But I am a writer: My job is to try to make sense of life.
To heal, I have to step back into the terror of Harvey with words and just keep wading forward without drowning. Along with the pain of remembering, though, nasty voices park illegally in my head and try to keep me from my work. They growl,
I’m sure that some of you are quite familiar with these evil voices that try to keep us from writing. The only thing to do is let them keep yacking and write anyway, so this is what I do. I counter these voices with my good reasons to keep writing:
If you lived in Texas one year ago and either were affected by Harvey or know someone who was, please come to my workshop on August 25 or to Leslie Contreras Schwartz’s workshop on September 8 (psst, it’s only $5, or you can come for free). I know it’s not easy to write about Harvey, but, together, we can do it. We will be better through doing so, and we’ll be helping our city move forward. Even if you can’t attend a Processing Harvey workshop, I’d love to hear your Harvey story: please let us know if you were affected or if you helped someone who was. Workshop participants will be invited to submit their writings to the Houston Flood Museum, a project devoted to gathering stories and media about Harvey in order to help Houston remember and to inspire city leaders to do everything possible to keep an event like Harvey from happening again.