The shaking didn’t wake me up. It took me several moments after being startled into consciousness to realize it was even happening. A picture had rattled off its nail in the wall and the sound of breaking glass intruded into my dreams then ended them. The glow from the not quite risen sun permeated leaves and blinds, leaving me to try and make sense of chaos in a blue-gray, darkish room.

The shaking continued. I crawled from my bed and almost fell over. I normally had a difficult time with this, but the moving floor didn’t make it any easier. Slow steps took me toward the door. I grabbed the back of the chaise, then my desk, then my dresser as my procession took me closer to the living room. Nervous that this was happening, I jumped when my television finally rattled off its shelf and crashed to the floor behind me. What was happening?

I meandered around my apartment with trepidation, trying to figure this crap out. The roommate wasn’t anywhere to be seen, so I made my way over to the large picture window that overlooked the courtyard. I have hundreds of neighbors, one of them had to be scampering around somewhere. I reached up to pull a couple of slats in the blinds down and peek through when the headrail gave way and the blinds toppled to the floor. The giant, uncovered window revealed an empty plot of grass.

A loud crunch to my right came from collapsing supports. Cracks shot up through the drywall and the whole facade toppled out. I could hear the same thing happening behind me and didn’t know what to do. This place was falling to pieces and I was apparently completely alone! I stumbled toward the front door, I had to get out of this place before it folded in on me. The shaking kept getting worse.

I was almost across the living room when the ground jumped and I tripped and hit my head on the entertainment center. It hurt, but I had to get out if I was going to live. Scrambling to my feet, I almost felt sick when I realized the floor was dropping. I fell to my knees and covered my head with my arms. As far as I was concerned, I was basically dead at that point.

What kind of story ends like this?

I might have wet my pants when the place finally collapsed. Somehow, the falling ceiling and walls landed in such a way that I wasn’t crushed. They barely missed me. I stepped out from a bunch of debris only to watch the east wall- the last one standing, topple over. The world stopped shaking. My place was destroyed and my crap was gone, but I was alive. The sun had finally climbed over the foothills. Light spilled into the valley and long shadows stretched westward, over destroyed houses and uneven streets. My apartment couldn’t really be distinguished from the courtyard. The space that used to separate buildings was now just another part of the valley. It was all just open now.

Who has such a peaceable life that they never end up getting shaken up? Nobody. Traumatic experiences might have the walls crashing down around us but can also reveal the foundation we stand on. Walls have the power to prevent us from seeing the big, open world. They can blind us to the options that life has for us. It might be scary to lose them and it might even hurt a little, but sometimes, good comes out of the ordeal.

I almost didn’t post this. No intention to make light of recent events in Japan, Haiti or anywhere else there’s been a natural disaster. My last month just shook a lot and I think I’m living in a larger space because of it. The experience hurt a little, but here I am looking at a world with fewer walls because of it.