What goes through my mind while fire threatens to burn down my home
Updated: Sep 24, 2019
This was the view from behind a friend's house nearby. The fireman is keeping an eye on the fire's potential approach.
Nothing squashes the anxiety attached to the rigmarole of daily life quite like the prospect of your home going up in flames. I didn’t particularly like the vehicle of such a lesson, but now with our home intact, I’ll accept the important reminder of how to emotionally prioritize. The recent Woolsey fire forced thousands of residents from their homes, including my family and me. Through the intolerable smoke smell seeping into the house late that first night, we packed up both cars with everything deemed most important in our lives. Then later at my in-laws’, we watched the news in horror, as houses several streets away from ours went ablaze in dry, gusting winds. For 48 hours, I confronted the very real possibility that we wouldn't have a home to return to. I made mental notes of how we would explain it to our kids (approaching ages 3 and 5 respectively). We’d explain how ‘home’ means being together, no matter where we are. Or how stuff is replaceable. Also, I’d be ready to follow their lead over the next weeks and months, as in, if they’re sad, help them cope. Or if it’s something they can roll with better than I can, (because they don’t fathom insurance companies, property value, mortgages, etc.) then so be it as well. Basically to be there to help them process whatever they’re experiencing.
This was the view from the front of our house. Fire burned that whole mountain. During those days away from home, all I wanted to do was to return to our lives. And that sentiment made me reflect on the utility of having been so interminably restless and antsy in my life lately. If you’re like me in this regard, oftentimes ambition devolves into stress and worry. In the pursuit of excellence, you can forget that many facets of life are pretty excellent as they are. One of those facets is a home to return to every day. My colossal takeaway is simply this: since we all have limited mental resources to allocate every day, we must actively choose what to focus on. I’ve unequivocally realized how my mental allocation system needed a recalibration. Rather than the lion’s share of mental juice going towards “what’s next on the to-do list?” or ruminating on future desires, perhaps we can intervene on our own behalf, and direct our thoughts towards gratitude for everything that’s already working exactly as we hope. Then with that gratitude comes our capacity for empathy and service. Many people lost their homes and their lives in these fires. The firefighters did an extraordinary job; with the sustained winds and dryness for days, everyone in the community wonders why this whole place isn’t gone.
This was the view from behind our house. This Thanksgiving, if you’re looking to express gratitude and look out for people who deserve it, or who need it, I’ve included two donation opportunities. Those who deserve it: the firefighters and their families. They’re heroes. Those who need it: the victims affected. I’m grateful to be connected to you in this way, to have the chance to interact with you and share ideas for how to inspire our kids. From my heart, wishing you and your families a beautiful Thanksgiving. Warmly, Robert