In Northern California where I live, we now have something called “Fire Season.” This year, the Kincade Fire broke out about 20 miles from my home, and in the course of 24 hours, 180,000 people were evacuated, including my family.
My husband and I saw the writing on the wall, and we chose to leave before the mandatory evacuation began. We left at 9 pm on a Saturday night, packed our most valuable artwork and documents in the car and took video of our home, just in case. We were lucky enough to be able to stay with my mother-in-law and bring Maya Kitty with us.
In the end, we were okay. Our property wasn’t damaged and everyone was safe. However, I have friends who weren’t so fortunate. They didn’t formulate a plan in advance and were forced to leave at 3 am, some of them packing up their 90-year-old parents, or children, or animals, or all three, in a panic. Some of them ended up sleeping in their car in a parking lot because the shelters were full and all lodging in the area was sold out. (Had I known they were sleeping in cars, I would have invited them to pack in with us at my mother in law’s house!)
We were able to get back into our home on Monday, but were still without power until Thursday night. Because I live on a country property, no power means no running water or heat. Plus our Internet was also out for six days… and both me and my husband work from home. It was inconvenient, to say the least.
Oh, and did I mention that the whole family got the stomach flu during this time?
The entire experience was challenging, but we handled it with relative ease and grace, considering. I came away from it with some lessons that I’d like to share.
Lesson #1: Priorities can shift in an instant.
In the face of a crisis, what felt so important yesterday may not matter today. It’s important for us to remember this as coaches because it happens to our clients: they say they want things, and then life shows up. When that happens, they also realize that things they thought were so important really aren’t when it boils down to it. Knowing the difference between truly prioritizing what’s most important vs. letting life simply get in the way is an important distinction.
Lesson #2: Everything can shift to accommodate your most important priorities.
Yes, a change in priorities has an impact, but everything can shift. I’m one of those people that probably can count on two hands the days I’ve had to take off from work unplanned in 19 years. I rarely get sick, and if I do, it’s just the sniffles. It is very rare for me to reschedule a client, although my clients reschedule with me all the time.
In the face of the evacuation, I did have to move some clients around. In some cases I actually scheduled and re-scheduled again because we were still in limbo (which I didn’t think would happen), but nobody blinked! All my clients were very understanding.
It was a good reminder for me that I am always in a place of choice. I don’t have to bend over backwards for things to work that don’t work for me when circumstances change.
Lesson #3: There is a gift in contrast.
I love my life. And sometimes living with a toddler can feel like the best version of Groundhog Day. But I have never appreciated my life more than the first day we got back: We had Internet and power; I slept in my own bed; the freezer and fridge were totally emptied out and clean; and life was back to normal. I love my big, juicy, boring life, and thanks to my experience with the evacuation — aka, contrast — I am able to feel grateful and blessed for a life I have often taken for granted.
Lesson #4: Joy is directly linked to your ability to feel grateful.
I have so much gratitude for my community, the first responders, my husband, my mother in law, my friends, and the way everyone supported each other during this crisis. It would be easy for people to complain about what they had to go through and what they lost, but people are so appreciative. Everyone has made a point to rally for our community, and it is truly inspiring.
We really hope that Fire Season doesn’t become our new normal, and we also realize that if it does, everything can shift. My family and I have made some major commitments to lessen our impact on the environment and do our part to slow the effects of climate change, and we’re constantly looking for more ways to take it even further, like supporting non-profits that are fighting the good fight for our planet. We are doing what we can and we also know it isn’t enough. If each of us makes small (and big) changes, however, the dial will move in the right direction.
This holiday season, take a few moments to embrace and appreciate the contrast that you or your clients may be experiencing. There is a beautiful gift waiting for you if you look for it! What are you grateful for? I would love to know!
Tara Butler Floch