Ten years ago as Katrina ravaged the Mississippi Gulf Coast it brought with her unprecedented clarity to Julie Freed’s eyes and heart. Naked is her powerful true story of loss but also of triumph, and path to true love of self.
She learns to rise above, survive, and persevere despite all life and Mother Nature presents. Struggling to find meaning in her journey, Julie shares a remarkable story of strength with humor and tenderness.
A woman facing two threatening storms
Wednesday 24 August 2005.
I know deep down you do not think I am a good person anymore. And I am sorry you are not happy. I am tired of all the arguing. My job is incredibly demanding and I do not think you get that… We both could probably be happier apart… I do not have a great family like you to depend on, but being alone seems better than hearing complaints all the time. I am not who I want to be anymore. I drink to numb the pain you cause me. You are pushing me to alcoholic tendencies and I need a change no matter the cost.
~Katrina is a Category 3 storm, predicted to become Category 4. It is 380 miles from the mouth of the Mississipi.
The good and bad part about hurricanes is that you know about them well ahead of time. Maybe the same can be said about some divorces. It’s not a tornado or earthquake that randomly strikes without warning.
Learning to reformulate love’s parameters
In my vows, I promised to be with Conner in sickness and health. Conner was an alcoholic, one who was performing surgery on soldiers every day. He had a disease. Was I doing the right thing by agreeing to divorce him? Was I breaking my vows?
Would Plato and Aristotle have declared my actions ethical?
My friend Jackie shared a wonderful poem with me by a Cuban poet her first husband had given to her years ago when we met in New York. I lost my copy in the storm.
He descibed love as an entity we create and groom outside of ourselves. It is a relationship and being that exists philosophically and essentially physically in between two beings. It requires continual cultivation and nourishment. When one party is no longer nourishing the being, it dies. Therefore, love is not about the person who is doing the loving, or the person they love and adore, rather it is about the entity, the space, and time you give to that relationship that grows between two people. If one lover moves or steps away from that entity it no longer exists in its original form. A one-side marriage or love affair could not last.
And so was my case. I’d been left alone to choose between nourishing a dying entity and nourishing my daughter.
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: Connection and kindness trumped chaos
We had all been through so much together. So many people were now in some sort of cramped living arrangement, whether with friends, in a trailer, or in a hotel room. Although depressing, I felt more comfortable being back around Kratina survivors. We spoke the same language and had a shared history. We knew not to ask questions like, ‘So how are your repairs coming along?’ or ‘Are you back in your house yet?’ Nobody attempted to comfort with, ‘Well, you had insurance, right?’
A sense of community had blown in with Katrina. People were broken and their sad eyes dark with exhaustion, but we smiled with understanding when we passed one another. A connection and kindness had taken root.
Surviving the storm for most, was the easy part. The grueling challenge came in the form of living and plodding along every day after the storm. We all worked to keep each other up, celebrating small successes together. Formal professional relationships became friendships greeted with hugs. Everyone hugged and held hands. We all needed affection and the healing of human touch.
Reminder: Don’t miss the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 29.