“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.” —Melody Beattie
This week’s post is about my experience going through the Thomas Fires in Ventura, CA.
The fires broke out over a week ago, on a Sunday night. Around midnight, I woke up to my neighbor pounding on my front door to warn me about the advancing flames. From my front porch, we could see fires along the hills shooting up into the red, smoke-filled sky above them. The Santa Ana winds were fiercely blowing, giving everything a surreal quality.
We kept vigil all night, packing our cars, getting ready to evacuate if need be.
Over the next week, the fire continued to burn and evacuation moved to within 3 blocks from my home. Homes burned and a mile away a whole apartment building was razed to the ground. I hunkered down with my cat, Sal, ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
At the Mercy of the Unknown
So what was the worst part?
Not knowing what was coming, and worrying about everything that could happen.
Though it was terrifying to wait, at the same time I found myself feeling grateful that I was okay. I had somewhere to go and a plan if I needed to evacuate.
On the fourth day, the winds shifted and the fires moved northeast. Almost a week since the fires began, I unloaded my car knowing that I was safe.
Crystal, my business partner, lives about 90 miles south of me. And this morning when we were on a call, I asked her what it was like for her knowing I was here, dealing with the situation in Ventura. Not only was she worried about me, but we had events and commitments that I was unable to attend. Yet she said what saw her through was gratitude; plain and simple.
Gratitude for what we have, and for all that exists within each moment.
When ugly thoughts like, “What if she can’t get out?”, “What if her home burns?”, or “What if things keep getting worse?” came up, Crystal moved into action.
For a start, she found a place for Sal to stay if I evacuated and came down to her place. She handled all the details of the events I was missing, and made a plan to attend them herself. She did whatever needed to be done.
Supported by Gratitude
Now here’s the thing. What supported Crystal in dealing with all this so gracefully, was gratitude.
Regardless of the upset of me being so close to an out of control wildfire, she was grateful that she could call me many times a day and get an update that wasn’t media driven; grateful that the fires somehow averted me; grateful that we have such a strong connection and could talk about everything that was happening.
When she started listing what she was grateful for, the big things that she had to deal with suddenly weren’t that big anymore.
As Crystal shared this with me, I knew what she meant. I wasn’t with her, but she stayed in constant contact with me. My sisters, brother, nieces, nephews, and friends were all checking in, all the time. I knew that if the fires moved our way, my neighbors wouldn’t leave without me. When I focused on how thankful I was for all the support near and far, it gave me the strength to keep going, knowing that I would be fine no matter what.
Gratitude is an Antidote for Just About Everything
What I’m getting at is that, as my sister says, “Gratitude is an antidote for just about everything.”
No matter what’s happening on the outside, gratitude is a natural inner solution to feeling scared, frazzled, alone, and being at the mercy of the unknown.
When we feel gratitude within, the scary thoughts come and go rather than take over. It’s not that they’re not there, it’s that gratitude calms the space within, allowing for more clarity and awareness.
In this way, we’re able to take action and find our way.
The fires aren’t over yet, and I am grateful to be safe. I pray for the winds to abate, the fires to die down, and balance to be restored.
I am grateful for all that is.