After the fire when people asked us how we were doing I always said we were doing well. We were doing well. Well is relative when it comes to disaster. Surviving each day without being completely overcome by despair or anger or being paralyzed or pretending that nothing happened is doing well. If you can find the best safety available and make some actions toward rebuilding yours and your family and close others lives, even in the smallest way, you are doing well.
When I look back I think about how hard it was those first days, then weeks, then months. When I look back I sometimes feel embarrassed about how we were. Not much, and it is a passing thought, but it is also a statement of how un-normal our lives were. When I look back I have to take time to understand what transpired because it is not immediately recognizable as me. Carl Jung once commented on the expression of being so upset you were “beside yourself.” He saw it not just as expressing strong emotion but as literally being true at the spirit level. He pointed out that you were so distressed that you were not inside yourself but beside yourself. You were not yourself.
I think that fits well. It is of the spirit so it cannot be understood, as Jung would say, directly, but it can be understood by knowing when you have stood beside yourself and when you have stood inside of yourself. Some would call standing inside yourself as grounded. That term has never been all that meaningful to me because standing strong inside of myself is being free to fly in the wind without the risk of being lost in the open space of the sky. Perhaps being grounded and flying free are the same after all. The wind keeps you from being tied down and the ground keeps you from blowing away. I know more of the ground and of the air now than I did a year and a month ago when the fire consumed our home and consigned it to ashes.
Moving froward in a trauma-wrought world each step toward recovery seems like the next since you are embedded in the event. The changes of recovery are subtle and unfold small step by small step. Nothing can replace the passage of time; of getting used to the event that transpired. There is one no moment when everything suddenly and completely becomes OK. There is no one moment when things are not changed. The small unfolding steps are like breathing, subtle and ever present. Sometimes something takes your breath away and you notice the change but usually you just breath. That is moving forward.
Looking back it is as if the journey is on a trail that follows a valley surrounded by the mountains of the event.
When I turn my spirit 180 degrees from from the breathing of forward, I can see that the trail began tightly hemmed in by the mountains in forest with great canopies where no sun shone through. The backbreaking trail was rife with great long stretches of unrelenting uphill climbs followed by frighteningly steep descents through perilous rocks. Each turn was as elusive as the sun. Stumbling along the rocky and dark path we saw a few shafts of pale light breaking through the deep canopy. The trail was arduous but not unrelenting. After a time as more sunlight filtered through the trees, while no less difficult, the trail was less exacting. In my mind’s backward-looking eye I see that the trail began to find stretches out in the open. The narrow chasm gave way to small canyons to valleys and then to glens. The trail through the glens, though long, held more beauty than the threat of the chasms and canyons.
Standing at the top of the mountain, surrounded with the hardness of fire and ice with the beauty of the panorama still shows nothing of the journey to the valley. Before the fire I understood the journey by envisaging it, by knowing others that had made the journey. After the fire I had traversed that terrain becoming one with the trail leaving parts of myself as I scrabbled through the rocks and struggled through briars and forded raging streams making our way every toward home.
This is a trail well walked. We shall build our home in the glen.