(Mainichi Japan) April 24, 2011
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Returning to our pre-earthquake selves
Since the earthquake, I have called for people to live their lives like they did before the disaster as much as possible. I recently thought about how I myself have done on that front.
Thinking about it, I realized a few things. One is that when I've gone to bookstores recently, I haven't been buying novels or medical books like usual. Instead I end up buying nothing but magazines related to the earthquake or the nuclear plant disaster. Another thing I realized was that, even though I've been telling people to "distract themselves for even a little while with a movie or music," I myself haven't set foot in a movie theater.
And, I realized that when my job at the hospital is over and I get myself ready to write an article like this, I end up writing about the earthquake disaster even if I didn't plan on it. It all showed me that my life is not back to its predisaster ways.
Last week I had a chance to go to Sendai, one month having passed since the earthquake. I met a friend from my high-school years who is now working as a researcher. She said that since the earthquake, she has been busy checking on the safety of her students and getting her lab equipment back in order. Keeping a cheerful mood, she said she was borrowing the bath of her friend's house because the gas line at her own house was still out.
I asked her, "Has your life completely changed because of the earthquake? These days, how much of your time is spent dealing with things like the aftermath of the earthquake and preparing for aftershocks? Around 80 percent or so?"
「震災で生活も一変しちゃった？ 今って、地震の後始末や余震への対応が毎日の何割くらいを占めてるの？ ８割くらいがそんな感じ？」
"Hmm," she thought for a second, tilting her head. Then came an unexpected answer: "Maybe around 20 percent."
She said that, yes, there were lots of earthquake-related things to take care of, but she was also going to international academic conferences and running experiments, just as usual. Her life had not been completely turned upside-down.
Just because the earthquake happened doesn't mean that we no longer like the food we once did, that the job we took pride in is now meaningless, or that a person with a kind, humor-loving personality must change. Thinking back to who we were before the earthquake, we can try to slowly get back into the things we were interested in, and restart the things we had begun. By doing so, we should be able to feel how our pre- and post-earthquake selves are a continuation of the same existence, and our feelings should change for the better.
For my part, I've recently started to read a book I bought before the earthquake but had been leaving untouched since. It has been as interesting as I hoped, and it made me feel that my pre-disaster self had returned.
Aftershocks will continue for some time, and many people will continue to be occupied with the results of the disaster, but I would like people to try saying to themselves, "Be it last year or this year, the person called 'me' is the same." (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2011年4月19日 地方版