We Are Okay

A little over three weeks ago, we had a fire in our condo building.

Not to worry. Everyone–human, canine and feline– is safe and healthy. Thank you, Universe.

Still, it’s been a challenge. The fire part is actually not that remarkable. And on the spectrum of life events, not that traumatic. It’s the displacement since that has been most difficult. Difficult… really, it fucking sucks. It also came on the heels of my resignation from a job that had eaten me alive for two years. I am kind of tired. (More on that next time.)

Since the fire, my pets and I have been residing in a hotel. The condo is currently undergoing hydroxyl treatment. The walls, ceilings and trim have to be sealed and painted before we can move back in. Oh, and this is fun– the original restoration company hired to handle the cleaning and contents of my home is holding hostage 96 percent of my clothes, shoes, bags, linens, towels, blankets, etc.

I have been trying to write, share, for weeks. My brain has been a giant, tangled pile of yarn with eight distinct ends. Like you should be able to pull on any one end and get… somewhere better. It’s decidedly not so. I’ve tugged on all the ends, resulting in more snarls. Just word garbage.

Not ironically, people have commended me for dealing with this whole situation “well.” For being “adaptable” and “calm.” If I was texting, I’d insert various emoji to wordlessly take us from straight faced to eye rolling to peeing in laughter. I am not good at consciously faking anything for long. I also prefer words.

Perhaps a verbal snapshot of the past weekend. I live in the Tundra. It’s been a long, looooong winter. A little over a week ago, it snowed 12 inches. Stupid, unreliable groundhog. This past Saturday and Sunday, though? Spectacular. Glorious. Sunny. The snow was melting. The winter zombies were coming alive. The streets were teaming with happy people. Or so I hear. I spent most of the weekend in my hotel bed. Eating macaroni and cheese, pizza, chocolate, Sour Patch Kids, strawberry ice cream and other shit that gives me heartburn. Ignoring my cat (he needed snuggles and to fetch toys) and my dog (he needed snuggles and to run at the park). Watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy. Writing lots of outraged emails I did not send. Crying snotty tears. Desperately sulking.

Before you judge too harshly, I wasn’t altogether neglectful of my fur babies. I took the dog for walks and stuff. But I audibly sighed in annoyance the whole time (incidentally, something my mom used to do that drove me bananas). I was pissed he had diarrhea. I was not nice to the people who wanted to pet him. And the cat? I was extremely irritated. That he couldn’t keep the litter in the litter box. That he hadn’t adjusted to the hotel. That I had to give him Xanax. Also, I didn’t shower. I only changed out of my pajamas, temporarily, to take the dog out. (P.s. The sole reason I did that was because my pjs and shoes mismatched. What? I didn’t say this would make sense. P.p.s. I am aware that I sound like a total spoiled brat.)

Thank you, Universe (again), for snapping me out of me this morning. While it sucks to see oneself acting like an utter asshole– for example, yelling at an automated parking ticket machine, flipping off bus drivers and contemplating running over people who jaywalk really, really poorly– it’s pretty spectacular at the same time. It is jarring to be yanked back so vigorously, but it’s when I am at my most honest. And it’s when I gain perspective.

Kind of took my wind at 7:30 a.m. though. I had to pull over on a busy city street. My dog kept cocking his head and licking my nose. I literally had to make myself exhale, yoga style, repeatedly, until my jaw loosened and my face relaxed. I hadn’t even recognized how hard I’d been clenching. For days, maybe weeks. I can still feel the lumps inside my cheeks. That is alarming. It also signals to me that I need to fucking pause before I crack another tooth. Not kidding. My TMD doctor is in awe of my overly developed muscles of mastication. (I assure you, even if that sounds sexy, it’s not. I am like Popeye.)

Once I parked near the office, I was totally cool. Until I ran into someone I used to know on the street and he asked about the fire and ended the conversation with, “Well, things happen for a reason.”

If I ever end a conversation with “Well, things happen for a reason,” fuck, if I ever say that during a conversation at all, you have license to bitch slap me. Hard. I’ve discussed this with many people. I’ve probably dedicated many portions of blog posts to it. But I can’t recall the last time someone said it aloud in real time.

Things probably do happen for a reason. Butterfly effect. Destiny. God. But whatever or whomever it may be, how often are we looped in to the reason?  I’ve never been cc’d. So these words, “things happen for a reason,” don’t resonate with me. I’d prefer a long, silent hug. Followed by candy.

In general, however, I do appreciate the message behind the sentiment. And though I struggle some days, some weekends, I am okay. I am actually appreciative. But for the really shitty stuff life has thrown at me (and others),  I would lack empathy, compassion and awareness. Realizing that the job I thought was a career was actually a mind-numbing, unhealthy dead end–shitty. A fire that smoked out my home–shitty. Learning that a number of my belongings, including the things I treasure most– like my dad’s wool sweater with missing elbows (I wear it when I am cold or sad or sick), my mom’s apron (I wear it when I cook, which I used to do and started doing again a few months ago) and Blair’s blanket (I’ve slept under it most nights since he died and it was on my bed the day of the fire)– are currently in boxes that I have no way of obtaining–so shitty. The last one is actually sort of killing me. Yet I am here. And I am okay.

I just had this flashback to the the Smoky the Bear “stop, drop and roll” mantra. It reminded me of something I think only my sister could also recollect. When we were little, maybe nine and ten, my dad had us plan fire escape routes, via second story windows, on a scary, rickety ladder. I miss him. I didn’t really know until now that I always put on his old sweaters–stored in the cedar chest, frayed at the elbows–when I was cold. Or maybe when I wanted to feel warmer.

Anyway, I did not stop, drop or roll when my condo filled with smoke. I actually inhaled a ton of smoke (which might explain a lot…) I had to find my dog’s leash and my cat’s carrier. And we didn’t have to vacate via scary, rickety window ladder. If we had, I’d have known what to do. Because my dad. We got out and we are okay. Yes, we need more exercise, play time and green food. But we are okay.

Boundless gratitude, love and light to all.


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