Monthly Archives: October 2015

How to Find Humor in a Crisis

I posted about my experience on vacation in Chile in a coastal town, Valparaiso, when an 8.3 earthquake hit and we were evacuated from the area due to a tsunami. The experience was terrifying, frankly, but it could have been much worse. Up the coast there were 15 dead in a small town.

It could have been so much worse.

I worked hard that night to not let my brain go to the ‘what ifs’—what if the tsunami is as bad as the one five years ago that killed hundreds? What if a wave crashes over our head? What if the hills we climbed crumble into the sea? What if our hotel on the water crumbles with all of our things.. the list could continue on and on.

Instead, I ran a constant soundtrack that things were going to be ok, and that my story wasn’t over. I didn’t want it to be—I have too much to live for and too much to do.

After the immediate urgency subsided, and over the next few days, we tried to find some humor in the situation. It really seemed to help keep our focus when there were regular aftershocks shaking the ground beneath us.

My friend mentioned during the aftermath of the earthquake that she can’t swim. My response was that if a wave crashed over our head, her inability to swim really won’t matter!

I said I’m checking Valparaiso off my ‘where I want to live when I retire’ list.

My friend added ‘lived through a natural disaster’ to her bucket list and then checked that bad boy off.

The humor and irony continued during the trip. We finally flew out of Santiago and landed in Houston, so happy to be back on U.S. soil. We boarded our plane but then were delayed over an hour. A man with full hazmat gear (face mask and plastic surrounding his entire body) boarded the plane.

What else could possible happen?

We started joking that we would end up being quarantined for ebola or something crazy like that.

We were able to view a movie preview as we waited the hour plus to take off. Care to guess what preview was showing?

San Andreas

Seriously. Over and over it played! We expressed our disgust at the situation, then laughed our asses off.

Then we arrived in Phoenix and I drove home from the airport. My route took me on I10, where the highway was plagued by close to a dozen incidents of a person (or persons) firing on cars while driving on the highway. There were ‘I10 shooter tip line’ number signs scattered down the highway.

I laughed and thought, “I didn’t survive an 8.3 earthquake and tsunami in Chile to get pegged off by this idiot shooter!” Needless to say, I was very happy to pull off the highway to head home!

Interestingly, I came home with a super power: the ability to fry technology and electronics. My laptop died near the end of our trip. When I got home and booted up my backup, it also died within minutes of use. My phone tried to die, but I somehow revived it. Same for my work laptop. Then my internet went down at home, saved by the Cox Cable guy. If I were to choose a super power, this would not be what I’d choose! I’d want something cool like the ability to turn anything into dark chocolate!

I came home feeling really off-kilter—almost like I was looking at my life inside a snow globe. I felt very disconnected and was really struggling to feel home again. I finally was in a place where I felt safe, and yet I was experiencing some pretty vivid nightmares that plagued me for several days. Apparently my brain was processing what happened between the wee hours of 2 and 4 am. Fantastic!

One one hand, the experience and visiting Chile overall made me feel incredibly grateful for all that I have: a roof over my head, the love of friends, a safe place to be, among others.

On the other hand, I was feeling very much like my life isn’t all that I want it to be. I’m content, but I’m not happy in several aspects of my life. It felt like the experience was a wake-up call of sorts, and I really felt a strong urge to make major changes in my life to work towards being more in alignment with the life I want.

I’m not yet sure of the lessons I’ll take away but I’m not going to make any rash decisions. I do know that being grateful for what I have feels good, and that I do have a lot to be grateful for. Focusing on the humor in and after the earthquake made the situation more tolerable and gave me something more positive to focus on than my fear and lack of control. I know that focusing on the gap between what I have and what I want doesn’t feel good, so instead I’ll continue to seek gratitude with humor. Maybe that’s the super power I truly came away with.