I wrote recently about my struggle with setting goals for the new year. Well, I didn’t really struggle with setting the goals—I set about a billion of them. What I struggled with was getting excited about my goals because I had done my usual thing where I get carried away and overwhelm myself. I took a step back, set six specific and actionable goals, and created a simple roadmap that would get me from here to there. Then I decided what I would do this month, and this month only—the first leg of the journey. Taking things one step at a time is less overwhelming.
One of my goals this year is to achieve a better work/life balance, and the specific steps I’m taking to achieve that include ending my day at a reasonable hour, taking breaks throughout the day for meals and walks, and taking weekends off. Sometimes, that isn’t completely possible, and I have to work on a Saturday, but Sundays are off limits.
So it came to pass that I was relaxing at home this past Sunday afternoon. It was raining, so I was indoors, warm and cozy, watching the new Welcome to Chippendales miniseries. Then the power went out. Not entirely surprising—we’re experiencing intermittent storming, but at the moment it was only raining lightly. I decided to go grocery shopping and wait it out. But when I got home, the power was still out. I checked the little app on my phone, but it indicated there wasn’t a power outage in my neighborhood. I called PG&E, and they said they’d check into it. In the meantime, I walked outside to see if my neighbors’ power was out, too.
I rent a 1920s bungalow a half a block from the beach—my house used to be a vacation rental for summer visitors who came to Pismo Beach to dig clams. They dug so many clams that the Pismo Clam nearly went extinct, so that’s no longer a vacation option. They’re coming back slowly, but 100 years later, it’s still impossible to find a Pismo Clam that’s legal size for clamming.
My bungalow is in a little mini neighborhood of ten bungalows. When I went outside, several of my neighbors were gathered near the main power box. I joined them and learned that it wasn’t a power outage. It was a short somewhere on our side of the neighborhood, affecting four bungalows. They’d called the electrician, and he’d advised us to reset our individual breakers and see which one didn’t get power restored. That one, he said, was the one with the short. Three of us did that, and the power came back on in all three of our bungalows. We assumed the short must be in the empty bungalow that had just been vacated. We went about our Sunday afternoons.
I went back inside, put my groceries away, and resumed watching the Chippendales. Within minutes, I heard a popping and crackling sound coming from the recessed lights in my ceiling and smelled smoke. I walked outside and saw smoke billowing from my roof on all sides. My bungalow was the one with the short, and now my attic was on fire.
I called 9-1-1 and the fire department came within minutes. They were amazing. They managed to put the fire out without any water coming into the bungalow. I lost absolutely nothing to fire, water, or smoke damage. I was so lucky, and the Pismo Beach Fire Department was amazing. I’m going to bake them cookies when I’m back at home. But that’s going to be a while. The wiring in the attic needs to be replaced (old knob and tube wiring), the gas line needs to be replaced (the fire melted 20′ of gas line in the attic), and it’s supposed to storm on and off over the next couple of weeks. It won’t be easy to get the repairs done considering the weather.
I gathered a few things and checked into my favorite local hotel, the Spyglass Inn. The hotel staff has been wonderful, as always. They put me in an oceanfront room with a desk, a fireplace, and a patio and gave me a major discount on the rate. My landlord has promised to reimburse me for lodging and food. Normally, I’d have been excited at the prospect of a couple of weeks living the life right across the street from DePalo and Sons, the world’s best deli with the world’s best bourbon pecan pie.
But I’m not excited. This feels like a huge setback to me. I’m feeling gloomy and uninspired. And I’m feeling guilty and angry at myself. My troubles are absolutely nothing compared to the problems of just about anyone else on earth. Poor me—living in a luxury oceanfront hotel all expenses paid. But I’m thinking about the inconvenience and how difficult it’s going to be to get my work done. I’m focusing on the fact that I don’t have all my things available to me instead of the fact that all of my things survived the fire. I’ll be reunited with my home and my belongings soon. What do I have to complain about, really?
But sadness is individual and is relative, I guess. I know I’ll be okay, and I know I’ll follow this setback with a comeback. Eventually. Because that’s how I roll. Resilience is my jam. And gratitude. I am so grateful. I’m starting with that—with counting my blessings—and I know the rest will follow.