I Feel the Earth Move…And I Don’t Like It

If someone asked me what I worried about (and I’m wondering now why no-one ever does), the list would be long. Bad things happening to people I love. Never ever EVER finding another job. Associated poverty and hunger and homelessness. Dry skin. Birds flying into my house and pecking out my eyes. Never ever EVER finding another cute pair of jeans to fit. Stuff like that. I worry about all of these things and more, but I also know that if any of them happened, even the eye pecking, I would somehow deal and survive.
But if someone asked me what I was afraid of, the list would be short. One word in fact: earthquakes! This may or may not be ironic, since I live in Los Angeles, which sits on top of many fault lines and is often referred to as “earthquake country.” And after several happy years of “earthquake drought” we seem to be in a current pattern of, well, would you call it “earthquake flood.” No, that seems a little dramatic even for me. We just seem to be having an unusually high volume of perceptible earthquakes, and it is freaking me out.
I was nine years old when the 6.6 Sylmar earthquake hit, and remember feeling completely terrified. Our house didn’t sustain any structural damage, but it did shatter and destroy my large collection of hand blown glass animals. Remember those, you used to be able to buy them at amusement parks? Maybe you still can. I don’t think I had really known about earthquakes prior to that, but now I had a fear with a name.
Flash forward to 1994, the Northridge quake. I lived alone, in the Valley, near the epicenter, in a little brick guest house. I remember, still, the feeling of being woken by the 6.7 temblor, grabbing my dog and running outside. There was a little courtyard outside that I shared with my neighbors. I remember huddling there with my Yahtzee in my arms, so scared. There was considerable damage to my house, and no power for days. I lived with friends, too scared to go home, for several nights, as aftershocks continued to roll. I wasn’t alone in my terror; I remember driving by parks filled with sleeping people, all of whom were too frightened to go back inside.
It took a long time, years, before I could sleep in the dark after that. To this day, when the power goes out, I am scared, with flashbacks to that time. I don’t know why earthquakes frighten me so much, but I would guess it has something to do with the complete lack of control they instill in me. Like many people, with each earthquake, I wait to see if this is going to be the next “Big One.” In my rational mind I know it’s unlikely I will be killed from an earthquake, although that would have a certain irony to it. And if I were to be killed, well, I would be dead and there wouldn’t be anything to worry about at that point, right?
But I can’t help it; it takes a while after each quake for the rational thinking to kick in. Last night we had a 5.1 around 9:00. My house was far from the epicenter, where there was some moderate damage, but I certainly felt it, and of course, was scared to bits for the next few hours, even taking Daisy Petals to bed with me, to protect me, serve as an early warning system, and to act as my bad dream catcher. She did her job and I was able to sleep without any earthquake nightmares.
Will there be another significant earthquake in my lifetime? Almost certainly. Will I survive it? Most likely. Will this stop me from being afraid? I’m going to say probably not, but I’m working on it. In the meantime, do my loved ones know to call me and check after each quake, knowing how I feel? Most definitely! And so, as long as nothing bad happens to any one of them, will I be okay? Yes, I will, thanks for asking!

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