I saw the lights first—blue and red, lighting up the night sky as I stood with my husband out in the dark. “Evacuate, South Murwillumbah, evacuate by midnight.” Those words, spoken through the loud hailer from the fire truck down the street, made my heart thump and fear pulse through my body. Memories from 2017 came rushing back as we quickly made our way back into our house. It was February 28 at 10:30pm and we were aware of the risk of flooding because we had lived through the biggest flood in our area just five years earlier. Once again, it was the perfect situation for flooding. We had been out to assess the river height when we saw the fire truck and heard the warning.
Of course, we weren’t expecting anything like 2017. As we shifted a bunch of gear upstairs to our deck, I remember thinking that it was such a waste of time—we were just going to have to take it back down the next morning. We opened our garage doors, moved one car, and then, as it hit midnight, we decided that this time we were going to get out while we still could.
In 2017, we had experienced a flood on a scale not seen in our area. It was crazy. The news vans parked across on our neighbour’s grass, helicopters flew low overhead looking for looters . . . we had two metres of water underneath our house. We ended up with a lot of neighbourhood debris in our yard and under our house (including a car), and our poor chickens had to live on the deck for a few days. Just three or so days later, in the midst of the processing this trauma, we had a phone call from my husband’s family in New Zealand letting us know that his mum had passed away. We flew from one disaster into a time of grief and the bittersweet celebration of a life well-lived.
Suffice to say, 2017 was tough.
As the waters rose once again in February, I had a sense that 2022 was also going to be challenging. I also anticipated the marathon recovery effort that was surely ahead. I couldn’t believe that this flood had come an additional two steps closer to inundating our house. As we ran into our neighbours—most of whom we had done this with before—there was a common theme: “do we really have to do this again?”
The smell of mud, then dust everywhere as it dried, the broken roads, no power, hot water or internet, all of this was initially unbelievable. A once-in-a-lifetime-flood . . . again? Five years later? Unthinkable.
A few days after this flood, my son went through a horrible ordeal with his school. Timing, right?! It’s been a lot. Shock, frustration, grief, loss and knowing there is a long road ahead to recovery.
I could use these words to tell you about all the emotions I’ve been feeling, and list all the other bad things that happened in 2017, and since the flood this year. Instead, I want to tell you about something I started one day not long after the floods this year. It was a simple act of defiance against negativity—and it really worked. I got up a couple of days after the flood and decided to start a post on Facebook called Flood of Gratitude. Here is the start of that first post:
Did you know that research shows that having gratitude is a powerful way to build a more positive mindset? As I sit here listening to thunder roll in, I realise that there is much to be grateful for.
After that, I just posted about the things and people I was feeling grateful for. Simple.
The next day, I posted Flood of Gratitude #2… A few days later, Flood of Gratitude #3… A week on, Flood of Gratitude #4.
I am not going to lie and say it was always easy to focus on the positives. Some days I thought about posting something and I just couldn’t. The emotions were too “yuck” (to use a technical term).
I do know that positivity is powerful. Stopping to be thankful can really change your perspective. Some of the things I listed were very small. One post included a frog who came to visit our back deck and made us smile; another day it was that we had the water connected and could flush the toilet. Still, there were things to be thankful for. Community spirit, people who brought food, others who just came for a chat.
Post #4 started like this: In the face of overwhelm and heaviness, there is yet much to be grateful for. I defy the temptation to allow myself to be stuck in places of difficult emotions. I’m there, in and out, and must allow space to process and grieve. But on our hardest days, when we must work harder still to see the little lights, to look up, beyond and focus on the glimmers of hope that will brighten until the new day shines in all of its brilliance.
I just want you to know that I remember that day, and I did not feel like being grateful. I felt like a victim. I wanted someone to blame. Someone to scream at. I wanted to run far away and not have to return to the complexity in front of me. Writing that post allowed me to stop feeling like a victim and step out into the light. I felt stronger when I finished writing it. It was almost like a cathartic way of standing on top of the mud pile and loudly proclaiming “I can do this!” A way of claiming back control of my own mindset.
So what does this mean for you?
I genuinely think it could be a war cry. A challenge. An invitation at least. An invitation to step up, be positive, find something to be grateful for and claim it. I know life is tough. I know some days feel really black. I can assure you though, that if you look for something to be thankful for, you will find it. It may simply be the fact that the sun is out or that a flower made you smile.
Try it, I dare you.
Next time you are feeling upset, or down, or even like a victim, find something to be thankful for. Write a list of things, as many as you can. Defy the insidious creep of negativity and open the doors to positivity. More than anything, I can tell you this firsthand: While gratitude won’t take away the pain, or (in my case) magically repair the broken and flooded mud mess, it will help you feel like you have scored a little win for the day. And that, my friend, is powerful.
Carly Moore is a mum, and youth worker living in northern NSW with her husband and two sons.