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The first trickles of this flood. “I want to help!”

Things I don’t want to hear in the morning, “Don’t go downstairs, it flooded again,” and “Leave a credit card.”

I’m a little gun-shy about floods, having suffered the Great Rhode Island Flood of 2010.

“Um, Dad says there’s some water in the basement.”  It had been raining for days. I was teaching.

It was close to the end of the day. “Do I have to come home?” I asked. I’d be leaving in an hour and a half.

“He said, ‘If you can.'”

“Ask him, ‘Do I leave forty students and come home or do I finish teaching then come home?'” It’s tough passing messages through teens.

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The Warwick Mall during the Great Flood

I went home. A blessing, actually, because the river that bisects the state was in the process of doing just that. Cutting it in two for real. The embankment by my exit was under twelve feet of water, hiding buildings at the bottom, leaving the tiniest hint of things to come on the highway. It would end up being closed for days.

Any disaster’s a crisis when it’s happening to me. When I see one on TV, I feel sympathy and guilt because I’m usually drinking coffee saying, “That’s awful.”

Then it’s my turn to be the region on TV. I try not to cry when it happens. The news needs something to report other than another regional conflict. I’m comforted that there’s someone out there drinking coffee feeling a tiny bit of sympathy for me. We all live through it in the end. Whining’s not productive. Bailing, on the other hand, is.

We bailed for two days using a shop vac and a five-gallon bucket. The second day, a neighbor brought over a small pump. I’d never seen one before, but recognized it immediately–it looked like the thing in my fish tank. A godsend.

One neighbor stopped by to chat. “Sorry,” I told her. “Gotta save the heater.” Funny how prayers, hopes, and expectations change from general, “Fix everything” demands to very specific triage requests, “Save the heater, please.”

When I ask for the right thing, it always works out. Sometimes disasters are the universe’s way of resetting my expectations and priorities so I focus on the right things.

“Oh, honey, it’s no use…Just cash in your 401K.” My 401K was the same as my backup heating system. A sweater. I continued bailing.

On the third day, the flood subsided. I looked for the rainbow. There was none. No dove with an olive branch…did a hawk eyeballing a squirrel count in the city?

In the end, there were some takeaways from the Great Flood. I was blessed–while some neighbors were untouched, others were floating in six-foot indoor swimming pools for days. Many lost homes. I got to learn how to refinish a basement. I did it myself–what did I have to lose?

“What do I have to lose?” moments produce amazing results.

Letting go of the clutter felt good. Freeing. I thought I’d feel sad throwing out decades of stuff. Boxes, books, papers–all gone instantly. I wasn’t sad. I saved the important things. Memories.

The universe decided I hadn’t learned my lesson. There’s been a pile of boxes cluttering this new-house basement for over a year now, unpacked from the move.

“I really want to declutter these,” I’ve been saying to myself.

I was given another flood. Floods wash away the bad stuff. So it was for Noah, so it is for my basement. Again. It started small–a splash dried with a towel. It grew to shopvac size. And it spread a little at a time.

Washing machine issue? greywater system full? Eventually, it stopped. I cleaned. I took out the boxes, papers, and bags that had been ruined. Not how I planned to spend the night, but still I thanked the universe. It’s amazing how things get done under the right pressure.

The feeling of accomplishment set in once again. Only about a hundred boxes to go in the dry section of the cellar. Save those for another day.

Save those for another day…

That did it, “You didn’t get my message?” said the universe. “I told you to declutter. You were doing so well last night…I was proud. Then, you stopped.”

So it sent more water. Now I have to finish the job.

It’s a message worth receiving. Clear out clutter in the physical space. I’ll be doing that again today. Clear out clutter in the mental arena. That one can last a lifetime. It’s in process.

But it’s not so bad. With all that extra space, I can do some amazing things.

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