I am fortunate to live in a beautiful country town yet, in spite of its beauty, it is not without its challenges. Take today for example, when I looked out the window and discovered that half the sky was black with smoke; you guessed it, a bushfire was in the not-so-distant distance.
Whilst I do live in town, therefore with less risk than living in a rural area, I live on the absolute outskirts of town – on the other side of the street is bush, bush and more bush. So you can imagine my sense of alarm when I could see a wall of black smoke slowly making its way toward us. Thankfully, in the blink of an eye I could hear the unmistakable wail of multiple sirens and the sound of small firefighting aircraft heading towards the wall of smoke which, over the next half hour, slowly turned from black to grey and has now dissipated. Hooray.
During that tense half hour I was surprisingly calm, as I went about putting some clothes and essential possessions (laptop, external hard drive and iPad – that’s me covered) in a bag in case we had to evacuate. Aside from needing to grab some toiletries and our cat should the worst happen, I was ready within 10 minutes.
What I found most surprising once the fire was out and I could reflect on what had not-really-but-could-have happened was just how calm I was. Historically I’ve been a bit of a panic-yet-suppress-it-and-then-take-charge type of person in an emergency, which made me an excellent Fire Warden (then Head Warden) when I was in the corporate world. Even after stepping down from warden-ing when I took on a job where I wasn’t on the floor enough (bloody management meetings), I still found myself taking charge in an evacuation (much to the annoyance of certain members of my team, and quite rightly so). Throughout any of those evacuations I was never calm – I simply learned to channel my adrenaline into taking charge and getting everyone out safely.
As I prepared today I was deeply calm. I could certainly feel the adrenaline, yet I was able to breathe through it and focus on what needed to be done. All of my focus on mindfulness and quieting my mind has had a long-term positive effect – something you can never really tell for certain until you’re tested – and I am, gratefully, in a much better headspace than I was several years ago.
To me, there’s some interesting ‘food for thought’ stuff that came out of today about what’s really important, about mental preparedness, and about calm. I’m especially intrigued that the only non-clothing and non-cat items I went for were my laptop, hard drive and iPad – in fact, I’m sitting here writing this while looking at a backpack containing my life. I guess it begs the question of each of us: if you had short notice to evacuate, what would you take? It is, sadly, a question that so many people around the world have to face on a daily basis (so much so that it makes me feel a little silly and first-world writing about a bushfire up the road, but c’est la vie).
What is important for each of us to remember is that our stuff is just that – ‘stuff’. We can’t take it with us when we die, so perhaps it’s worthwhile to consider just what you’re carrying with you from one day to the next.
PS: A very happy new year to all of you, and thank you all again for your ongoing support. I’ve got lots of exciting projects lined up in 2017 and I look forward to sharing them with you!