Two Years, a Lifetime, and Yesterday

It’s December 30th.

Two years ago today, I woke up not knowing that my life was about to change. I didn’t know that in a few hours, the fire alarm would go off, and it wouldn’t be a false alarm. I didn’t know that I’d have to get my kids out of our burning home and stand on the corner with them and watch black smoke pour out of our house while none of us knew what would happen next.. I didn’t know I’d be making my first ever 9-1-1 call. I didn’t know we’d be leaving our house for almost a year. I didn’t know I’d spend the next few days counting my kids, making absolutely sure I’d gotten them all out.

It’s funny—it’s almost hard to remember a time when I didn’t know those things. This whole thing has been so consuming and intense that it feels like “the fire” has been a thing that’s been there my whole life. There’s a “before the fire,” and there’s an “after the fire,” but there isn’t a “never was a fire.” In this way, I find myself wondering, “Has it really only been two years?”

But at the same time, I can’t help but think, “Has it been two years already?” In some ways, it feels so recent and raw. I’m nervous around fire, even in a fireplace. I force myself to light candles (occasionally) because it makes me feel brave. I sometimes imagine that I can smell something burning, especially when I’m feeling particularly anxious. My heart doesn’t start racing at any loud beeping noise anymore, but it does start racing when I think about the (admittedly slight) possibility of it happening again. It’s way too easy to imagine scenarios now: a dish rag on the gas stove; food left in the oven; an electrical problem; a candle I didn’t blow out. I know what our home looks like, sounds like, and smells like when it’s charred and black. My mind can go there in an instant.

It was yesterday. It was a lifetime ago. It was two years ago.

Regardless of how long ago it was or how long ago it feels like it was, the whole thing is just a part of our family now. It’s had an impact, whether large or small, on every day of our lives for the past two years, and I have no doubt it will keep affecting us in the future.

Someday, I need to sit down and really process and work through all the things I’ve felt, thought, and learned because of “the fire.”

I know that I’ve felt everything from proud and capable (I did save my kids from a burning building, after all) to ashamed and embarrassed (how did I let this happen? Why wasn’t I better prepared? Why am I not better prepared, even now?).

I know that it’s made me think about everything from how much I value our possessions (and whether or not it’s wrong to value your possessions) to what it means to have a “home.”

I know that I’ve learned everything from how dangerous house fires can be (really, really dangerous), to how good people can be (really, really good), to how expensive it can be to rebuild and redecorate your entire house (really, really expensive).

But sometimes it feels like I haven’t really gone there, like I haven’t really let myself feel and think and learn all those things on a truly deep level. Maybe I’m scared of what it’ll bring up. Maybe with all the “life” going on, I just haven’t had the time or energy to do any significant amount of thought work on the topic.

Maybe I just have to have patience, and recognize that something like this does change you overnight, but it also changes you over time. (Which is maybe why it feels like it happened both yesterday and a lifetime ago. Light bulb moment!)

Since the day the fire happened, I’ve thought a lot about how I want to handle the whole thing. And the biggest thing I’ve thought of, over and over again, is that I want to be grateful.

I want to be grateful for what didn’t happen. I want to be grateful for all the help we’ve been given. I want to be grateful for everything we have. I want to be grateful for our home.

Grateful for life experience.
Grateful for chocolate.
Grateful for good books.
Grateful for therapy.
Grateful for family pictures.
Grateful for firefighters.
Grateful for faith and religion.
Grateful for a wardrobe.
Grateful for smoke alarms.
Grateful for insurance.
Grateful for friends.
Grateful for family.
Grateful for my kids.
Grateful for Dallin.

I’m not going to lie: I don’t feel grateful for all these things, all the time. Sure, I do when I think about it, but it would be a stretch to say that my attitude on a daily basis reflects the level of gratitude I think all of these things deserve.

But I think that level of gratitude is a worthwhile goal. And you know what? If “the fire” ultimately helps me to be a more grateful person, then maybe I should feel grateful for “the fire” itself, too.

Maybe. And maybe I’ll get there, one day.

Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in a lifetime. Or maybe in two more years.

I guess we’ll see.