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Santa Rosa Fire: Your Losses as Opportunities to Reinvent Yourself

by Dawson Church

One of the very strange aspects to disasters is the quest to restore survivors to the state they were in before the tragedy.

Before the Tubbs Lane fire, my wife, Christine, and I had a lovely house on a big piece of land. My favorite view was from the kitchen window: The green valley below, and the rolling hills in the distance.

The nearby building that housed our office had floor-to-ceiling windows, and as our team worked there we often saw deer and squirrels scampering by. One of the reasons we stayed there so long was that everything worked. The layout of the space. The ample storage. The flow of activity. The way the property supported our social and professional lives. All the possessions that made our lives flow.

When we began to piece ourselves back together again during the first weeks after the fire, we had many conversations with our insurance company. Once you’ve filed a claim, an insurance company has you make an inventory of everything you owned, and then pays you the depreciated value of those possessions.

The big items are easy to list and remember. Refrigerator, desk, computer, washer, generator. When it gets down to how many sleeping bags or board games you owned, the details are fuzzy. We’ve already put over 200 hours into our inventory over four months and it still isn’t done.

But the insurance company pays you the full price for items you replace, at least up to the coverage limits of your policy. So in the weeks that followed the fire, we bought this and that item that we’d had before. The company also helped us move into a rental that was roughly the equivalent of the home we’d lost in the fire.

One day I stopped in my tracks. I exclaimed to Christine, “Why are trying to re-create exactly what we had before? Are we sure we want to become exactly the people we were before the fire, at least as defined by our possessions?”

Of course the answer was no. I’m never going to restore 1970s British sports cars again, as I did before the fire. I’ve moved on to less space-intensive hobbies. Christine is never going to operate an art school again, with 2,000 big project bins that require an entire garage to store.

The whole mindset of relief agencies, insurance companies, and social support systems after a disaster is to make the survivors whole again. They take a snapshot of what people’s lives looked like before and try to recreate it.

Yet what if we look beyond restoring ourselves to the people we were and instead focus on creating the people we want to become?

Christine and I have decided to change our lifestyle completely. We’re going to travel light and live elegantly. Spending time in boutique hotels has made us think: “What if we decorated our house like a luxury hotel, and pretended we were living in a resort each day? What if we had far fewer possessions, but they were all exquisite? What if we radically simplified our lives and lived free of clutter?”

That’s a whole different mindset.

It applies to the mind as well as the physical world. We ask ourselves: “What habits do we want to keep and which ones do we want to ditch? Which of our previous behaviors and thoughts were self-sabotaging, unnecessary, blind, unconscious?”

These questions lead you recreate your life consciously. You use a life shakeup as an opportunity to define a new vision. The loss of the old does not set you on a quest to rebuild memory lane. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, you use the loss to birth the new.

You don’t need a fire or other disaster to start living a conscious life. You can use the loss of an old day and the birth of a new dawn to reexamine your priorities and lifestyle and make healthy choices.

Reinvent yourself to your highest vision every day! The conscious life is the one truly worth living.

Santa Rosa Fire Blog Posts by Dawson Church:


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