Sunday, June 14, 2009

Reality check

Late Friday night, a storm ripped through western Tennessee with 80 mph winds and the destructiveness equivalent to that of a tornado. I've never seen my city brought to its knees so quickly.

I drove home from my high school reunion happy hour through streets filled with dead streetlights until I finally arrived in my pitch-black neighborhood. The house was muggy and without electricity, the pets were all freaked out, the candles and flashlights seemed sort of useless, and it was a reallllllly long night.

When I woke up Saturday, we still had no power, telephone or hot water. In fact, 131,000 households were without electricity that morning and as I type this blog post at 3 a.m. on Sunday, 75,000 of those houses are still waiting for it. Ours finally came on around 4 p.m. yesterday.

I spent about five hours Saturday morning helping my family clean debris out of our yard and trying to put our garden back together. It felt good to get my hands in the dirt, actually. I had forgotten how much I liked it.

Our yard was completely trashed, but that was nothing compared to the mess my neighbors across the street faced. There was a gaping hole in their roof and one whole half of the front of their house was gone. A HUGE old (oak?) tree had fallen on it and completely wiped it out.

As that husband and wife stood stunned on the sidewalk and stared at their house, we all left our respective messes and went over to find out how we could help. I watched the woman struggle bravely not to cry and then finally lose that battle and sob. It was horrible. People spent the rest of the day helping them temporarily patch the hole in their roof, clean A TREE out of their living room and cover the front of their house with plastic. 

I skipped my fancy high school reunion dinner Saturday night. (I'll hit the Sunday brunch -- two out of three isn't bad.) My back was throbbing from carrying giant branches and I was covered with dirt and soaked with sweat. When the electricity finally came on, I took a shower and climbed in my COOL bed with a COLD beer and my laptop. 


I logged into Second Life to discover that my dearest friend there is struggling with inner turmoil, so much so that she deleted her whole friends list, me included. I can understand leaving SL for a while or even for good if it's causing you grief. I don't understand the part about cutting out all the people who love you.

I will be really, really, really sad about this situation later, but at the moment I'm just numb. 

Yesterday I watched a husband and wife standing in shock on the sidewalk, holding each other and crying over their demolished home. I threw away a nest full of dead baby birds. I worked alongside my neighbors as we tried to dig our damn neighborhood out from under piles of rubble.

It was a huge reality check, and although it wasn't pretty, there was beauty in watching everyone on my street join forces to help each other out, to gather tools and supplies, to clear the street and sidewalks, to get drinks for the men sawing branches. These violent and unexpected acts of nature, sometimes they bring out the best in people. Next week I'm sure these same neighbors will be back to harping at me because my dog pooped on their lawns, but for today we all put our differences aside and got each other through this horrific mess.

Because that's what good friends and neighbors do -- when your life seems like it's in shambles, they'll get right down in the muck with you and help you dig your way out of it.

To my friend, whom I've come to love more than anyone else in Second Life -- I'm sorry you feel like you'll never be able to "redeem [yourself] in the eyes of the second life fashion community." But my response to that is just . . . confusion. Who gives a damn about the eyes of the Second Life fashion community? Bravo, they make beautiful clothes. Some of them are interesting people. But you have real friends who love you. Unfortunately I'm just a nobody in "Second Life society." So maybe my friendship never held any weight after all. 

And I'm sorry that men have broken your heart in Second Life. But, my friend, before I met you, I had never met a woman who could captivate so many men so quickly -- in any life. You are charming, hilarious, intelligent and fun. Trust me, you have sooooo many more men in your future.

So I guess I just lost my best friend in Second Life. And it already seems hollow and sad there.

But today I also watched a woman's face crumple into tears as a group of us helped her get a TREE out of her HOUSE and . . . I don't know. 

It's one of those days when you close the laptop and say, "I don't feel like playing today."

I understand how real Second Life is for some people. I understand that when the heart is hurt, it doesn't distinguish between reality and a computer screen. I'm not trying to downplay the significance of SL to many people or the impact of the pain that we can feel there. Hell, I've got my own battle wounds.

But I don't know. I feel different this weekend, and I'm at a loss for words. I feel like I need a good long cry and for once it's for someone or something outside of myself. I feel sort of shocked and detached and like I've just gotten a good hard slap in the face from a giant hand traveling 80 mph.

I guess I'm just trying to say this:

If Second Life has broken your heart and you feel like everything is a huge mess there at the moment, come on over to my First Life later and help us rebuild my neighbors' house. I've got extra hammers. Thankfully the beer will be on ice. And trust me when I tell you that the metaverse or anyone in it probably won't even cross your mind once.