Sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself. Imagine walking away from everyone you know and love, forsaking the comforts and warmth of hearth and home to make your bed on a narrow green 6 foot folding Army cot. An uncomfortable, uncompromising, miserable little bed nestled amongst a sea of strangers also sharing ad hoc, borrowed floor space in an effort to staff and keep operational an emergency staging area.
Picture this: You only get to take two small carry-on bags and a mini blue, very thin insulated sleeping bag. You have exactly 1 pair of running shoes, 3 pairs of socks, 5 shirts and 3 pairs of pants. You leave your fave Nikon home because, well, parts of California are burning.
Am I geeky enough to risk my own butt but not the serious electronics? Um... yes, yes I am... seriously. FYI: That statement alone will inspire my therapist gal pals to text and call me (silly grin) but I digress...
The picture continues... You are going to reside in a chilly shelter tent next to a small casino you will be relying on for food and access to free guest wifi. Without their technological generosity (and drool worthy menu) you would be completely lost and out of touch due to the lack of required cell phone towers.
Did I mention I'm in California up on a mountain with outside portable showers and port-potties near land that is burning? Yeah... I know... most people come for the beaches and vinyards. Hoping to get those in eventually. Things to be added when the disaster work is done, then crossed off my Wordy C bucket list... (sigh).
About that living in a shelter blurb (yeah, I have to come back to that because I am living in a shelter): It started with one man setting up his desk only to discover he later had to sleep on it. There is no hotel in the area, so a Red Cross staff shelter was born.
Ever experience one? There is no privacy. NONE nadda zip. Noooooo freakin' nuh-thin. You hear every single creak, sneeze, snore and learn to invest in ear plugs. Distressed people occasionally mumble in their sleep with some having entire conversations... Occasionally, there is a bit of brief screaming from a really bad dream or two (can you say, "Thank God for the Mental Health staff?" I truly do. It's a tough gig and I have one I email daily looking out for me, too).
The quirks of communal living between professionals and novices creates an odd sense of intimacy because we all wake with bad breath and bed hair. Pretending we don't see and smell it is the cool thing to do. Why? Bleary eyed mornings born from restless sleep and a determination to help devestated families create a recovery plan unites us in ways that makes me smile.
I was nervous when I arrived here. Now, not so much... we all want the same thing: to help people.