Hurricane Katrina

Six months after Rachel was born, Hurricane Katrina landed on Mississippi.  Even though we were over 150 miles inland, the storm was strong enough to be a Category 1 hurricane when it hit us.  We were without power for a week, and the children were off school for what seemed like a long time.  I was afraid—of the storm itself, then of the upheavals we went through as a society—people exchanging gunfire over gasoline and ice.  I stuffed down the anxiety and fear for several weeks until I had a dentist’s appointment.

When they put me under nitrous oxide to relax me for the procedure, I felt the walls I had built against the sadness and anxiety start to come down.  I lay in the dentist’s chair and thought, “I am not going to have a nervous breakdown in the doctor’s office.  I’m not going to break down.”

I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.  Where was God in my life now?  Why was I going through such a trial of my faith?  What had I done wrong this time to be suffering so much in my mind?  Those were the questions I asked myself.  I started counseling again within a week for what I thought was post-partum depression made worse by the events surrounding the hurricane.  I was wrong.

After the big breakdown nine months after Katrina, I realized that I couldn’t continue to work—I wanted so much to do so but just could not take the stress of daily deadlines any longer.  I let all of it go—the food column, the business news, the gardening and religion stories, everything.  I had one final assignment I wanted to complete—I had contracted for it before the breakdown and resolved it was my last job. I wrote 15 profiles of all the community colleges in Mississippi for a college prep publication and earned close to $2,000 that month.  I resolved to continue writing on my fiction project I had conceived after the hurricane—it felt like a natural move to go to a new field of endeavor in writing since I couldn’t do deadline work any longer.

The problem was that it had been 15 years since I had written fiction, and I just wasn’t very good at it.  I kept sending things off to be published and kept getting rejection after rejection.  I started questioning myself again.  Why was I failing at this writing?  What was I doing wrong? Why had God given me these stories to write if they weren’t going to be published?

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