Sunday, December 13, 2009

And it's ALL small stuff.

I've learned some important lessons over the last two weeks. One of them is this: No matter how hard you try, you can't control for everything.

I say this, because I have a very dear friend who is really experiencing some hard times, due to the owners of the adjoining property having installed a natural gas well quite near to her property line. Here in Ohio, there is a tremendous natural gas field in the shale about 100 feet down. It's not easy to extract: they have to use a process called "fracking", which pumps a lot of water into the shale to let the gas out.

But the point of this is not about the gas extraction process; rather, it's about her reaction to it. It's been negative, to say the least, and with good cause. She's become an activist. She's undertaken an aggressive lobbying campaign at the state level, has written editorials and given interviews about the violation of property rights and some of the perceived dangers involved in this drilling process. All good, positive, absolutely understandable reactions to what really is an unfair situation. But she's also declared her home "uninhabitable", and has moved her family out, and is trying to sell it very quickly for what will undoubtedly be a fire sale price.

I'm not insensitive to her concerns. To be fair, there have been a small number of adverse events over the past several years associated with these gas wells, and there is a potential for some release of toxic run-off from these wells. That's a given. But she perceives the risk to her children as immediate and extreme. The stress she's created around this is ruining her health and will doubtless ruin all of them financially.

I want to take her by the hand and tell her that yes, there is clearly some risk involved in having these gas wells on the adjacent property. And yes, if she doesn't like it, she should work to sell her property. But there are risks in everything that we expose our kids to: driving in the car with us, going to school, eating food. And that, no matter how hard we try to keep our children safe from harm, at the end of the day, we may lose them to something immediate and completely outside our control.

I want to tell her to relax; of course she should work toward selling the house if she's uncomfortable, but that she needs to put her risks in perspective and not create more strife and upheaval than the situation warrants. They can live in the house. They can celebrate the holidays. They can still live their lives with joy.

I don't know; maybe my perspective is skewed right now. I think losing your child to a condition that is as common as being struck by lightning might do that to you. But I believe our lives are too short and too precious to waste days, or hours, or even minutes, to worry.

I love her a lot and I need to figure out how to help her find some peace.


bhd said...

You perspective is not skewed. It is as personal and immediate for you as hers is to her. What drives her fears and actions and desperation are her story, for whatever reason.

You've heard this tale: first woman I ever met when going to a bc support group had the same diagnosis as I'd had. Stage 1, no lymph involvement. And she was in full metastasis. After telling me this, she saw the look on my face and said, directly and clearly, "This is not your story." I'm sure you find yourself telling parents this very same thing right about now.

It was the most gracious gift that the late Terri Baker could have given me. Maybe you can find out what story your friend is telling herself, and remind her that it's not her story, and help her find her way back to her own narrative. Not so much about relaxing, but about paying attention to what's in front of us, taking control of only that which we can, and making the most of the rest.

I love you, Bean. And I am truly grateful that you're still writing. I don't expect a response, but I am relishing your words. It makes me feel like I'm close to you right now. Thank you.

BillnDollarBaby said...

Living in fear is not living. I hope your friend finds some peace.

Xeric said...

Well, BHD pretty much said it all, better than I was going to, but since I'm here. . . .

". . . she needs to put her risks in perspective and not create more strife and upheaval." Yes. Exactly. So many people do. But to her, her risks ARE in perspective, just as they are to those dimwitted lunatics who climb El Cap with no ropes. Risk assessment is a highly individual thing. Which is not to say that your perceptions are skewed--they are not--but rather that facilitating any change in your friend's perceptions is likely to be a tall order, indeed.

Okay, back to reading what BHD said. Especially the parts about love, and joy at seeing you writing.

Ellie Creek Ellis said...

(I was just thinking while I was reading that the"But the point..." paragraph could have been written by Xeric; it's so clear and concise.)
I completely agree with his point in that she seems most frantic to us, but not to her. It's much easier to be objective when you're not the one living in the house, but her paradigm is much different than ours, isn't it. BHD offers great advice, I'm obviously just here to concur and ramble on. Wished I could grab ya for a cup of hot chocolate and take you to a Christmas Concert :o)