We go through life collecting that which is important to us; photos of celebration, our children as they hit milestones, the trophies, the winning moments and the joy. But what happens when tragedy strikes and we have but 30 seconds to determine that which is truly important?
Last Friday night I had the opportunity to choose. The sheriffs raced up our mountain into our driveway with lights flashing informing us we had 30 seconds to evacuate our home because the Sand Fire flames were raging toward us due to a shift in the wind. I awakened those next door to assist in their escape. We grabbed what we could; purse, safe, their dog. We raced down the mountain thinking all along we will be back tomorrow – no need to worry.
The Red Cross volunteers were waiting at the local high school / evacuation center with snacks and cots, encouraging us to settle in and get some rest. What amazing volunteers they are! Some of them in their late seventies had been awakened at midnight to help those of us who were now being called a name we had never been called before: Evacuee.
My daughter and I selected our beds for the night and finally lay down at 2 am. Upon awakening I noticed through the window, men sleeping outside on metal picnic tables in sleeping bags. I was curious as to why they had not come into the school to rest on the cots near us, when I noticed the ashes on their sleeping bags. And then it hit me – these were the firemen, the ones tirelessly doing battle on behalf of our community! As we moved about we realized these heroes had also prepared breakfast for us!
The high school was teeming with activity as I watched 18-wheelers coming through with manufactured housing to be used as a command post for the fire department, sheriffs and highway patrol. This had just gotten to a whole new level of serious for our community.
Often times when chaos hits our lives we search for an avenue of coping. For me I love to escape to the beach with toes in sand and rest while listening to the waves as they wash over my soul and give me perspective.
My son came to pick up my daughter and I to take this journey to the sand, knowing we needed this break away from the sirens and the smoke filled sky. Trips to the ocean never disappoint me and this day was no exception. I laid under the canopy of sunshine and soaked in the solace for my soul. And then the phone call came. The fires had swept over the mountain where we had lived and as far as they could tell there was nothing left but ashes.
My mind quickly assessed what that meant for me. I had lost all the photos of my children, my daughter’s prom dress that hang in her closet, her school clothes and books and shoes and, and, and…. I was in shock. This was not the news I expected to hear. My son and daughter with fixed gaze on my face knew what news I had just received. They tried to encourage me to come for a swim in the ocean to let go of the cares of the world. As much as I appreciated their efforts, I let them know that Mom just needed 5 minutes to process what she had just heard.
Had I just lost everything I owned? The kids went for a dip in the blue pacific as I contemplate my new normal. I lay upon the warmth of the sand and noticed a large empty clear plastic Ziploc bag fluttering across the beach that found a landing place on me! As I lay there thinking how weird that was, that it would land upon me, I looked at this empty bag and these words filled my heart:
Suzi, This is Your Life Right Now ~ You Can Fill it However You Choose!
Right then, I made a decision. I chose positive thoughts. I chose compassion and peace. I chose to believe the best of others. I chose to be free of bitterness, depression and anger. I made the choice to move forward one step at a time. What do you choose?
Life is filled with opportunities to select the perspective we would like to entertain. We can feel however we choose to feel. Our life is not about being victims of a fire, bad relationship or job loss. Life is all about adventure and we get to decide how we want to respond to the curve in the road. I choose to embrace the ride and stay positive. What do you choose?