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I got an email from PayPal today that said I had only $287 left to hit my “spending limit”of $10,000.

At first I blew the note off thinking it was one of the spam PayPal things. I went back and looked and it looked pretty authentic but these days given the mess I had on my computers, I am pretty leery of any email. I decided to run it by my spouse who has been using PayPal since it launched. As it turned out it was, in fact, from PayPal and it was not spam or a joke.

When we figured out it was real the limit thing hit me. I think I spent a few hundred dollars with PayPal in a decade and now I am hitting a spending limit of $10,000? The fire makes my life surreal in more ways than one. It has been 250 days since the fire I have spent $10,000 on PayPal. That is an average of $40 per day for a little over 8 months. That is a lot of money. Cutting out one large “Caffee-lou-le Lottee” per day won’t take care of that one.

In context of the fire I suppose that is not all that bad but to me it is shocking. When I think of things I bought individually they make sense. When I think of the whole it makes no sense. It makes no sense to have bank accounts with your house it it and your clothes still have price tags on them. I cannot get used to the idea of replacing everything but I am used to the idea that the stuff we have is ours.

It is a big deal that I have gotten used to our stuff enough to not be confused by it. It has taken nearly enough time to bring a baby into the world for me to catch on that these shirts are mine and that those pans are the ones I am supposed to cook in. I had not really thought about it until the past few days but a lot of my old habits are back. I suppose they got scared away by the fire and as we have reconstructed our lives they are creeping back in.

I am not talking about bad habits although a few of those are there too. What am talking about are the ones that are from being creatures of habit.

Since we moved into this temporary house we mostly have taken Sophie out to do her business via a sliding glass door that is in a bedroom we made into a den. I started taking her out a hinged door this past week. When we came back in, she sat down and I said, “let’s unrope” and after she got her lead off she stood waiting for the ritual pat on the behind with the release command “off you go.” I did it a couple of times and then it hit me. We always did that when we took her out to do her business at the old house, which had a hinged door. The different door style was enough to trigger an old habit for the dog and for me. It was a profound moment for me when I realized what was going on. I actually stood an thought about it and tried on my feelings. Did the return of that habit mean that the fire had mostly burned away from my life now? I think, togehter with several other things I noticed the past week or so, the answer may be yes.

I do not mean that the fire has gone from my memory nor do I mean that it is “all behind me.” What I mean is that the fire is not on the front of the activities of my life, it is simply part of the activities of this iteration of my life, this fire-wrought life of mine.

For the first while after the fire every thought and every breath was about the fire. No one could let it go for even a few hours. Something was there to do or to be given or to be take care of that was about the fire. Well meaning people were there offering needed help. Gifts were arriving, notes were arriving, we received gift cards. There were groups offering casseroles, people were praying for us, my spouse got a shovel and a hose at the post office when he ran into a neighbor who had been given them by a lady who heard that we (the fire victims) needed them. Every waking moment was either someone putting us in the mind of the fire or us being consumed by it in our own grief and loss.

I have thought and thought about what we would have done without my sister and our close friend who stayed with us and literally kept other people from getting to us. That sounds awful but I suppose it is like those who run interference at funerals and wakes and serious illnesses. The people who are struggling with illness or loss are exhausted but everyone wants to wish then well and to offer assistance. I have been the impenetrable caring wall for people experiencing loss but I have never had anyone do it for me. I never had the reason to need it. Now I know what that need feels like and what I feel like now is not that.

I don’t even feel the intermediate stage of, “We are putting our lives back together and we are doing OK, thank you for asking. It means so much to us that people care and are still praying for us.” It is true, and I said that over and over and over and over again in person and by email and over the phone. And I meant is every time I said it. I could not be more grateful. It took me a long time to swallow the lump in my throat and to spend so much of my time listening to people tell me they were concerned and receiving it as the gift they offered. I learned to do that and I learned how valuable it is.

I don’t feel like that now. I flop on the couch in the den feel nothing, it does not feel new. It just is. It is an old habit for a couch that is now broken in like the old one was.

People don’t come up as often to ask how we are doing and to tell us they are thinking and praying for us. That is appropriate. The thoughts and prayers have done their job. We are not healed but we are healing. Almost enough time has passed since the fire for a child to be conceived and be born into a new life in to this world. It seems that nine months is also enough time to bring our new life in to the world.

panoramic view of house siteA panoramic view of the land where our house was. The land is healing as are we.

burned houseOur old house a few days after the fire. It lay in shambles like our lives.