It is days like today, when I am caught up in my very normal, mundane daily activities, when routine and kids and chores are all that I think about, it is days like today that I am thankful. Thankful to have a normal boring day. Thankful to have a friend to go with me to thrift stores just to see what hidden treasures they might contain. Thankful beyond words for my mischievous and beautiful baby who is already keeping me on my toes at only 12 months old. Thankful that my 5 year old is adjusting so incredibly well to the vastness of kindergarten despite all of my fears and trepidations (and hers) for all these many years.
I am thankful because it is in this normality that peace settles in and one can move beyond the day and live in the now.
I am thankful for this day because on this day, this very particular day, that normal has not always been my experience. The first year, everyone remembered. The second year – and perhaps it is only my own myopic perceptions, but it seems as if those of us in this exclusive club fear to mention it, even amongst ourselves.
I have had other traumatic events in my life, as nearly everyone has. Those life defining events that you remember the date of from year to year. For myself, it was the death of my most beloved dog, Carbon. He was a puppy that I got while a Peace Corps Volunteer – we grew up together in a sense. He was my soul mate, my best friend, the “Best Dog” in my wedding. And 8 years later, the loss of him still takes my breath away. The first years after his passing, I always remembered, always grieved. And then, as time went on, I began to live that day as normal, forgetting its significance in the history of my life. And then I would grieve even more fiercely for having forgotten him, as if that somehow indicated my lack of love for him. Reaching that point took years and I am sure that some therapist would say that it is a good sign of my healing. To me, it is another loss of one of the few things that I have left of him.
So today, it took me rather by surprise that my day went as planned, normal, routine, boring. A state of which I had longed for as much as I have ever yearned for excitement. That it was not until an hour after the time of the event that it occurred to me. I did send a text to another club member hoping that she was OK today. But, from the many people that I know, I saw nothing on their Facebook posts indicating the date. The only people that seem to remember, and are willing to talk about it, are the news media. They talk about recovery, or lack there of, of dead trees and missing houses. Of the state park and the fun run to raise money to replant the trees.
They don’t mention the exhaustion, the weariness of soul from the never ending task of rising from these ashes to reach that ephemeral state of “recovery”. The knee buckling gratitude to strangers with a debt to people unknown that can never be repaid. They fail to mention the joys of the mundane. The anxiety of potential repeat loss. The deep instinctual knowledge that the odds don’t always play in your favor; that at some point, you will be the 0.05% of people affected, no matter which god you honor. The understanding that it really isn’t the loss of “stuff” that is so traumatic but rather the effort to return to and find… normal.
Our house isn’t totally done, we have much yard work to do, tree stumps to take out, grass to plant. Our vista is full of blackened skeletons of the true “Lost Pines” and of small green spires of the future growing from the ashes of their parents in the form of baby pine trees. We cannot forget simply because the mere act of looking out of our windows reminds us every day. But it seems that we can reach the much despised phrase of “new normal” – despite how far we have left to go both in a physical landscape of our property and in the psychological acceptance of our hearts.
Strength comes from hardship, of trials and trauma. We are stronger people because of today – both this day 2 years ago and because of where we are right now. It is an anniversary of endurance and honor and it is as much a part of me as my beloved dog.
So I will say it aloud. Today is the day that the nations worst wildfire ever started*. Today is the day that our lives changed. Today is the day… and we are just fine.
* (by financial losses per capita in the county – 3rd worst in general)