Dear Meli,

I know that you live in Sonoma County, so I’m curious to hear your take on this. I was evacuated from my home during the recent wildfires here in Santa Rosa. I was out of my house for about a week, but after that I was able to return home. Not everyone was so lucky. I have lots of friends who have lost everything. And yet I’m grieving like I lost my home too. I feel sad and lost and traumatized, even though my life has supposedly gone back to normal. Do you have any advice or thoughts about this?

Not Normal


Dear Not Normal,

This was pretty much our situation during the fires too. And we, like you, have many friends who lost everything. Most of them barely got out alive. There is much to say about this, so here goes:

First of all, everyone in the region went through a trauma together. Whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. There can’t be that level of destruction without ripples moving out to touch every life.

I don’t know anyone who lives here in Sonoma County who hasn’t had a personal relationship with someone who lost everything. Everyone has their story of where they were when they figured out what was happening, and how they got out…or didn’t. Everyone was affected.

Not sure about that? Have you noticed the drivers?

When Z and I are driving around town doing errands and we see the drivers around us making crazy or unsafe choices, we look at each other and say, “Fires.” It’s sufficient to remind us to be gentle and forgiving of others and of ourselves (when we’re the bad drivers).

Many of us had the experience of looking around at our homes and considering what to keep and what to let go. Some of us came to a realization that when our lives are in danger, not much of our “stuff” matters at all. Others, who lost everything, have come to realize just how much memory and meaning there was in all the “stuff” they lost. No matter what angle we look from, we reviewed our lives and our stuff in a way we don’t usually do.

After we’d returned and I was still feeling very funky, one wise friend pointed out that we had all detached from all of our stuff. And now we were reattaching to it. Bringing meaning back to it because it was safe again.

My experience of it is that the fires poked through the veil. We live in a dream. In the dream we usually live in, things change relatively slowly from day to day. But most of us who’ve lived many years know that this is an illusion. We never know when a radical shift will take place. Sometimes it’s a shift we’d prefer not to have. But we also experience fun surprises. It’s just the way the Universe works.

When we see through that veil, we become acutely aware that we never know when tragedy might strike. This can shake our sense of safety.

But if we guide our thinking around to it, this can be an amazing blessing. Because the reality is that each moment is a gift. All of our stuff and all of our friends, and the reality we live in from day to day, is a gift. It can disappear for whatever reason at any moment. We can use this to terrorize ourselves, or we can use it to remind us to be grateful for every moment. Grateful for our lives and all the people and things in them. Grateful for all we have today.

That is the gift of the dance of the present moment. May we use the tragedy of the fires to teach us to become better at being present. Hmmm. Maybe that’s the point of all of it?

Blessings and Love to you in all you do!

Meli

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