I am up this morning before the dawn, taking inventory of this day, of my life and what it means to me. In the past, this was always my worst time of year. I struggled with depression, fighting off the darkness that returned to my heart every November as the days became dark and cold winds howled, reminding me that sixteen years ago today, we almost lost our lives in a fire.
On November 19, 1994, we were being released from the hospital in our blackened greasy pajamas. The nurse came into our room, removed our oxygen masks and cheerily told us, “Your carbon monoxide levels have leveled out. You can go home now!” Troy and I stared at each other in disbelief, as I held my four year old son Taylor tight against me, and looked at his sooty, tear-stained face. We had no home. We had no possessions. We didn’t even have shoes. Our daughter had been at a sleepover, and had no idea. We would have to tell her soon that as we slept that night, an electrical fire began in the walls of the house, that we were trapped by raging flames and had to jump out second story windows onto cement below.
Troy was on crutches. I had burns on my back and arms. After throwing my four year old out the window to Troy, I was the last one out before the explosions started. We could not get back inside to save our pets. Whitney, Lady, Munchkin, Angel and Bunny were gone.
Later, I wrote this poem about that morning.
And left nothing in its wake
Over the corpses of our dreams
And stink up the morning sky
Shell-shocked, charred and broken
We stand at the side of the road
But only serve to wash away
If only to be stripped from our canvas
Exposing a vast emptiness
Of all possibility and no possibility
Beckoning but not inviting
I stand motionless, no palette in hand
Even the angry voices in my head
False optimism is offered freely
I swallow every last drop
Clutching it like a crucifix
I face the cold and distant unknowing
Wearing it like a warm coat
This morning as I woke, I didn’t feel depressed. I felt with every cell in my body that yes, I am alive. And after the nightmare of a year we’ve had, I am wide awake. I know this life is a gift, and I will not squander a moment of it. Today is a new beginning. I vow to step into my own shoes, and own this life I’ve been given. No more hiding behind insecurities and fear. I am stepping in, leaning into it with everything I’ve got.
From now on, November 19th marks the anniversary of my new life, my very best life.
No looking back, only looking forward…
So much beauty lies ahead, I just know it.