Disaster Preparedness

When I left home and started my own household almost two decades ago, I noticed that I began to do this thing where I would think about a possible tragic scenario and then think about how I would handle it if it actually happened.

Yes, I have anxiety.

Someone I knew lost her husband, or baby, or mother? An acquaintance was diagnosed with cancer or diabetes or depression? I would project myself into their position and picture my response to the situation they were facing.

“If that happened to me, this is what I would do,” I would deliberate to myself. I planned out big life changes—moves, downsizing, therapy, even more education. I considered the loss and sadness I would feel, and I pictured myself acknowledging these things and allowing myself time to dwell in grief before moving forward with the Big Life Changes.

There are several reasons why this process was so, so dumb.

One reason? It’s one thing to sit in a safe, neutral position, away from the vortex of a life in upheaval, and think clearheadedly about how to proceed. It’s quite another thing to be whipped around in the hurricane.

In my young musings about hardship, I forgot to account for survival.

My process of planning a life after tragedy was inadequate because it preemptively bypassed the swimming-amid-huge-waves-of-chaos phase. It skipped over barely surviving and moved directly to thriving!

I didn’t know. I just didn’t know.

I didn’t know that when hard things hit and difficulty becomes the new normal, there is a lot of just hanging on. Also, there is much more trial and error (and failure) than simply checking off the boxes of moving forward.

Thinking about how one will handle a difficult situation without ever having before experienced it doesn’t equal being ready for it. It might be an interesting exercise, but it cannot prepare you for when the bottom actually drops out.

In all my contingency planning for various disasters, I thought that thinking and organizing could help me with whatever came my way. But there are some levels of preparedness that don’t exist.

You can’t be ready for some things.

After Jack was born, our life was scrambled by developmental delay, autism, and M-CMTC syndrome. I found that complete preparation for raising a disabled person is an illusion. How can one be ready for one’s life to figuratively burn to the ground and then start over differently, with global limitations?

After Charlie was born, Jack rejected him, screaming and throwing things literally every time he and his baby brother were in the same room together. My body and mind were in a constant state of unsettledness. Survival mode. “You handle it so well,” people would tell me. They were being kind, but I was merely surviving.

After Truman was born, we were beyond the pale. We had had yet another child after Jack, which, to outsiders, possibly looked like potentially the most counter-intuitive thing we could ever do. But we did it—intuitively. We had to do it. Truman was the Manifest Destiny of our family’s expansion.

So what can a person learn from my unusual life? Is it a cautionary tale? An unintentional-yet-effective form of birth control? Are the things I write merely a perspective-enhancer for other people? Are we a three-ring circus? A traveling zoo train? A freak show?

Dutch and the boys and I have learned a few things.

Mainly that life prepares you during the challenge, not before.



  10 comments for “Disaster Preparedness

  1. Julie M
    February 16, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Oh, thank you, THANK YOU for this post.

    • Megan
      February 16, 2016 at 9:48 am

      Thank for reading it, Julie. And for your comments. I love them.

  2. February 16, 2016 at 10:09 am

    Amen to this! Preparation is futile, otherwise the experiences themselves would be. Also, you’re doing a beautiful job of surviving.

  3. Jennifer
    February 16, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    I needed this today. I’m not kidding. While the hurricane blows and the vortex sucks us in, our worlds get very narrow and often dark (for me, anyway). My brain tells me there’s a bigger, wider perspective to see. But my heart doesn’t always understand. Together, my brain and my heart have to find a way to survive and sometimes even thrive while the wild wind blows and knocks me off my feet. Your post is raising these questions in my mind: Am I actually surviving? What is today’s disaster preparing me for? What makes me wake up day after day KNOWING it will be hard, yet willing to do it anyway? Thank you for this perspective. I will be gnawing on this one for a while! And BTW: You are NOT a freak show. You are standing in truth. You are strong, even when you feel weak. I know because I’m standing outside your vortex and I can see what you cannot. So trust me (and everyone else) who has this little blog window into your life. It’s beautiful.

    • Megan
      February 16, 2016 at 5:40 pm

      Gosh, I love you. Yep. I do.

  4. February 16, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Oh. My. Goodness. YES!!!

  5. Kristie
    February 16, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post. I am very much like you in how I thought and what I am living (surviving) now. One thing I have had to learn and relearn is not to measure myself against how I thought I would handle the hard times. Sometimes I am so hard on myself thinking of how I “should” be handling things. Especially when people tell you that you are amazing and you know you are simply surviving- Trying to figure out how to keep your head above the water.

  6. louiseplummer
    February 17, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    I have to learn this over and over and over.

  7. Freya
    April 20, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Could you tell me when and how you got the c-mtc diagnosis? We’ve just been told this is what our 8 month old might have, but they’ve only mentioned kidney isssues and I’ve not noticed any other development delay apart from his feet and legs on one side.

    • Megan
      April 21, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      Freya, we saw a geneticist when my son was eight months old and he got the M-CMTC diagnosis then. I hear they’ve updated the diagnosis in some cases to be M-CM (or Macrocephaly Capillary Malformation), and I’ve heard that there are a couple of other overlapping syndromes now as well. My son hasn’t had any kidney issues. He does have a lot of ear infections (who knows if that’s related). He has leg length discrepancy, a much larger left leg, pronated ankles, and knock knees. But he is really quite healthy overall. The hallmark of this syndrome, at least for us, is the developmental delay. I wish you lots of help and support as you raise your special little boy. Whatever challenges or abilities he has, he is a person, and your child. What a gift.

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