I’m writing this from a hotel because I’m still not back in my place. But I do have a place and stuff, so that’s a good outcome. It’s just covered in a thin layer of ash that makes it unsafe to be there right now.
Hopefully I can go back soon. I should have an estimate for clean-up this week and am hoping it’ll get done in the next week after that but living in an apartment has its own stupid challenges because the apartment company needs to do its part, too.
As with all life events, this whole situations makes me think about things. Maybe I should’ve been a philosopher instead of a writer…
First, one of the biggest challenges of being high Strategic (CliftonStrengths) is that you can see all the paths. Or more of the paths than others do. Which means you live catastrophes that haven’t yet happened sometimes.
When my friend was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer a few years back there was a part of me that mourned his loss because Stage IV cancer. And yet, he’s still here and thriving. (Knock wood.)
Same with this fire. I partially lived losing everything. And I partially lived having the insurance not cover the hotel expense. (They wanted me to go back to an apartment with no heat, no running water, no cellphone service, and unbreatheable air, but I refused. They have since come around.)
Being able to see what’s coming and plan a path through is an invaluable skill, but it comes with its own weight of stress and unhappiness for things that have not yet happened and maybe never will.
Second, I’m reminded yet again that sometimes absolute devastation is easier to recover from than that middle of the road area where things are bad but not horrible. If I’d lost everything I’d be in a new place by now buying new shit and moving forward. I’d be mourning the things I’d never see again for probably the rest of my life, but it’d be something I was recovering from already.
But because I didn’t lose everything and also wasn’t spared from the fallout of the fire, I’ve spent the beginning of 2022 in a no-progress limboland that feels like pulling teeth to accomplish anything.
(Which kind of reminds me of writing now that I think of it…Doing well enough to keep going, but not so well that it’s just a joyous fun ride full of love and money.)
I can also tie this to COVID, too, right? We’re all stuck in this ongoing, slow-motion train wreck. It’s not something that blew through, devastated a bunch of people, and ended. We’re mid-crisis and so we’re living as best we can until it derails us somehow. Maybe for a few days, maybe for months, maybe forever.
Someone somewhere said that you can’t recover from an ongoing trauma and I think that’s true for a lot of things in life. That bad job, that bad relationship, the ongoing decay of your society or your health. Sometimes you just want it all to fail miserably so you can start to move forward.
Third, I’m reminded of how just because what someone is going through isn’t as bad as what others are going through doesn’t change the emotional impact to the person suffering.
That sounds very wordy. Let me give an example.
After I lost my dad I was devastated. I was barely holding it together because he was my rock. About five months later I got together with a friend for lunch and she talked about how absolutely crushed she was that her friends had already gone back to college.
At the time I got furious at her, “Like, seriously? You’re barely holding it together because your living, breathing friends aren’t here to hang out with? I just lost my fucking dad. Let’s get real here.”
But after many years of processing that conversation and sometimes being the one on the other side of it I realize that the size of the problem or loss and the size of the emotion around that problem or loss are not always linear.
One person can roll just fine with a punch that would put another on their knees. And another can be knocked down by what seems like nothing. So, yeah, it seemed absurd to me at the time that my friend could be so upset about something so minor, but for her it wasn’t minor.
Which right now I’m using to let myself feel the stress and loss of this situation even though I know others have a level of loss that’s infinitely worse than my own. It doesn’t mean I can’t feel exhausted and sad, too, you know?
So, on that cheery note. Onward. Life is never going to be all you want it to be (unless you’re a fucking unicorn of a human), but it can still have moments of being amazing if you keep pushing forward.