Saturday, December 31, 2011

No Mayan calendar shit here

Welcome to 2012.

2011 was not an easy year. Our points of reference for it here in Christchurch are 'the February EQ' 'the June EQ' and now 'the EQ on the 23rd of December'.

The 5.9 and 6.0 quakes on 23 Dec were demoralising. They wrote off some already-damaged houses and made others more fragile. A man i know walked home and shed tears, just grieving for the city, just grieving. Children who had seemed bulletproof throughout caved in on 23 Dec, scared to sleep, crying in the aftershocks. There was a sense of oh no, not again. Just when we were getting to a new normal.

This was the first big EQ i expereinced when i was outside walking. My vision shimmered and i sat down. People were clinging to a telegraph pole. The ground just shuddered. i had no sense of scale at all.

i suspect there have been a lot of earthquake related deaths. What happens when you live with consistently elevated levels of cortisol and adrenalin is you wear out and get sick. Your body writes cheques your brain can't cash. Your heart gives out. You can no longer fight the cancer cells.

People also talk about mental stress. People say how they are quicker to anger than they used to be. And there is more to get angry about - the war of attrition fought with the bureacracies in charge of zoning and fixing and detroying and compensating. Probably most Christchurch homeowners are embroiled in such a war, and it takes its toll. Some go bust, financially and mentally. Some take the money and leave. It is a leaner meaner city now.

i know that our years are human made things. A more natural time to start the year might be on the solstice, 1 January doesn't really mean much and calling this year 2012 won't stop the earthquakes. But i am glad to see the back of 2011.

The best i can say is that it has been a huge test of our mettle as individuals and as a community. We all have learned something about how we cope in a crisis, even if (for some of us) it is that we don't cope. The workers who did emergency psychiatric triage got some training from an overseas expert. They asked, who should we be worried about. The answer was, the people you are always worried about. Yeah, most likely, but i did notice that some of us who are not usually so robust found some inner heroism and dug silt and baked cakes and fixed walls. i think a sense of purpose galvanised some people and they found some skills. i suspect that those who do best are those who can be psychologically flexible, who can deal with uncertainty, and who can live in the moment. Helpful traits for anyone, i would think.

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