A Letter From LaundryVille

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Hello Friends,

It’s been 4 weeks since our lives were turned upside down by the flood. I’ve written a million things since then, but none I felt like sharing. Posting pictures and progress reports felt petty and meaningless, but that is how many things have felt in this time of grief and rebuilding. I have avoided Facebook because it is a relentless reminder that happy moments are happening and the world didn’t stop turning. It just feels that way. 

We have no washer and dryer so today I have come to my current favorite place on earth, LaundryVille. Friends have offered their homes and the use of their washers and dryers and I appreciate it tremendously. For now, this is where I need to be. I’m not sure if its the constant hum of the tumbling dryers or the smell of laundry soap, but I feel more at home here than in my home. It’s beyond satisfying to wash and dry all of your clothes in one hour. I feel efficient. Here I am not arguing with the people at the Planning office or begging contractors to please take care of my damn house. Here I feel momentum and progress. It is my oasis, and they have free Wi-Fi. Who knew??

While at Laundryville I have ran into several other families who’s homes were flooded. It’s always a similar conversation and we all look tired and out of place. The smell of dank river water permeates the items that arrive in big black trash bags, the tell tale sign of fishing your shit, or what’s left of it out of the mud. As we talk there are always hugs, tears and the knowledge that we are in the “in between place now.” It is that after the devastation and before the “its all better” place. No man’s land, an abyss, a black hole. 

This in between place is hard to describe. It feels like I am coming apart and moving without gravity and at the same time it feels like I have blocks of cement pressing on my chest. Everything is exhausting and I have constant feeling of impending doom. It’s an odd feeling because I have been the consummate cheerleader for hundreds of friends and clients for years. I have the uniforms to prove it. One box that survived the flood held my old blue and gold polyester uniforms from junior high and high school. They washed up perfectly and seem so tiny. I can’t remember being that small. I don’t know what size I am now because I can’t feel my edges. I don’t know where I start and end. 

This week my husband was talking about space in our basement. It’s about a 2-foot space that was behind a wall and previously occupied by a giant water heater. That space is now empty and he seems completely obsessed with the best use of this tiny space. He can’t stop talking about this stupid space. He doesn’t want to leave it as “dead space.” He needs order and plans. He needs to put things back in place so his mind can relax. He loves tidy garages neatly folded stacks. His mind needs order and he is trying to put our life back in order.

I found it to be the most irritating thing I have ever heard of. I go from calm to a total bitch in 2 seconds. I don’t like this me very much. 

“Why do you care so much about this fucking dead space? It doesn’t matter.” I yelled at him, which I never do, but I did. “None of it matters. I don’t care if we ever put anything there again.”

I honestly don’t want any of it. The house, our furniture, my clothes, all of it. I don’t care. I want to get rid of all of it. It’s suffocating to me. There is nothing in our basement but grey cement and naked boards where there used to be walls. The skeletal remains of a living space—IT IS DEAD SPACE.

He tells me in his comforting clinician doctor voice, “You have PTSD and you’re trying to distance the thing that traumatized you.” 

His words hit me hard. I am strong. I am resilient. I’m not weak, and I don’t want to feel this way. My rational, medical brain knows he is right, it has absolutely nothing to do with weakness or strength, but my emotional reactive, fight or flight brain fucking hates that he is right. 

This is the second time in the past 4 months someone has told my “symptoms” are that of someone who has PTSD. I am physically reacting to the thing that has traumatized me. A river and an ex-husband have taken parts of me that I will never get back and left me a reactive emotional mess. This is what PTSD looks like. I am what PTSD looks like.

I don’t want to feel my heart race or to feel like I am being suffocated. I don’t want to feel like I’m dying at times. I don’t want to hate that other people have no idea that there are lives that have been turned upside down and they are blissfully unaware of our sadness. Our friends and family have loved and supported us so beautifully through this and without that support I don’t know where we would be, but I have to be honest….I am struggling with all that comes with PTSD. Many of us are grappling with PTSD. I will say it because I know there are hundreds of others affected by the flood that are feeling the same way right now. We are traumatized and just because our clothes are clean and we look like we are doing ok, behind closed doors we are struggling. We still need love and support. 

It’s almost time to fold my clothes and leave my safe, warm cocoon. As I stand at the table by the dryers an older man with a bald head and very ruddy cheeks chuckles as he watches the Drew Carey on the LaundryVille t.v. He is wearing a green tee shirt that says Papa’s Keepers and has a bunch of fish that appear to float on his round belly. Each of the fish has a child’s name above it. His shirt declares that he has a bunch of grandkids and that shirt was definitely a gift. He seems nice. 

“You should have been here on Saturday,” he says from his chair as I fold. “This place was packed and all the washers were full. People were bringing in giant black bags of clothes. They were in the flood,” he says casually.

“I am one of those black bag people,” I reply calmly as I mate my pink socks. I hate that I am one of those black bag people other people are talking about as they fold their clothes. I feel my heart rate go up and a wave of hot flushes my cheeks. Breathe, I have to remind myself to breathe now. 

“Really. Did you lose everything,” he asks with a very surprised look on his ruddy face?

“Not, everything. Just half.” I keep folding. Keep breathing. 

I can feel how uncomfortable he is as he talks nervously about his friend’s four-wheeler under four feet of water and about how more rain and snow are coming and we will probably get flooded again. He is nervously making everything about this almost perfect hour NOT perfect. I keep reminding myself that he doesn’t know what to say, so he’s just rambling. He doesn’t know that every time I see those black construction grade trash bags I want to vomit. He doesn’t know that all the people that live on my street stay awake at night because random strangers say things that trigger our fears and worries. I know we all have insomnia because we all talk about it and we read emails and posts from each other that are time stamped 4:00 a m. Insomnia is kicking our asses. 

I fill my laundry basket and relish the warm feeling of clean clothes on my hands. The basket is heavy, but not too heavy. I like the weight of it and load all my things to leave. I feel like I have accomplished something . I smile at him as I head for the door. He looks away and I say, “Have a good weekend.” He says nothing. I think he is a good man and I am sure he is a really good Grandpa. That shirt with all those little fish has to mean something. 

I have hope all of this will mean something someday. 



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