If the Dam Breaks & the Levees Fail

Maybe I’m a bit of a dying breed, but I’ll always take the newspaper. There’s something to be said for the ritual of putting the kettle on, shuffling to the door while it heats-up, and coming back reading it as I make my cup and then sit on my comfy chair.

The other morning, I found myself singing as I headed to the door. I generally have a song rattling around in my head, and without thinking, I sang, “bad news on the doorstep, I couldn’t take one more step.” If you can’t name that tune, I followed up with, “bye-bye Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levy but the levee was dry.” Many of you recognize Don McLean’s hit “American Pie” from 1971.

Lake Oroville Dam

When the Dam Breaks and the Levees Fail, Lake Oroville, River City Counseling, Sacramento CAAnd even if you don’t recognize the song, you may have heard about a major dam at Lake Oroville, in Northern California, that has been severely stressed by this season’s heavy rains. Two places are severely damaged, and the potential for a catastrophic event is higher than anyone would have ever thought. And down the river, no one knows for sure if the levees will hold.  (Fortunately, they’ve done major repairs over the last couple of days, and the outlook has improved for now. Initially, nearly 200,000 people were evacuated but have been allowed to return, with the strong suggestion to keep their heads up and ears open for the mandate to leave again.)

As you’d expect, the dire headlines took over the front page, and I felt super anxious and put down my coffee, threw the paper under the couch, and went to the kitchen to help KD with his morning chart. Unfortunately, rather than being his co-pilot, I went into drill sergeant mode. Fortunately, before ordering KD and my wife to change into combat gear and do pushups until they puked, I headed back to my chair for my coffee and an opportunity to calm down. I read a good piece from my blogger buddy Aaron, did some deep breathing, and suited back up and did the dishes.

Return to Baseline When the World Feels Out of Control

Once alone in the house, I reflected on what happened.  I realized that the news on the front page left me destabilized and off my game. Rather than being the father, spouse, and man I wanted to be, I’d gone to an anxious place. I needed to get straight.

Sure, I did the self-care stuff I try to always do. But since I’m bored talking about it, I’ll stop after saying I went to the gym. And regardless of my regimen, the world still felt (and feels) a bit out of control.

When I’m out of control and bottoming out, my best choice is to do things that I can control and help me return to my baseline. The world feels out of control, but the dishes don’t. The world feels out of control, but I can review the emergency list my wife and I wrote out and check that stuff is still in place. The world feels out of control, but I can still be present with my clients and be the best therapist I can. The world feels out of control, but I can hope, wish and pray that the experts are on their “A” games and patched-up the dam so it holds. I did it all, and the rest is the rest…

As usual, this therapist, parent, and spouse will check his emergency list and stay as calm as possible.

Until next time…

One Response to If the Dam Breaks & the Levees Fail
  1. elizabeth
    February 17, 2017 | 8:08 am

    We all have to develop techniques to overcome the scary feelings that come over us with the constant drone of bad news on radio, TV, on line, in person.

    Using the relaxation response, where you let your whole body go limp and take some breaths and still your mind helps

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