Things You Wouldn’t Expect After a House Fire, Pt I

Sorry it’s been a while. I’ll explain why in a later blog post. But in the meantime, here’s a list of things you wouldn’t expect to happen to your life after your house catches fire.

1. Lose yourself

The first time I realized I’d lost a part of myself was when I first went to buy groceries. I stared at the breakfast food aisle for a full 10 minutes and realized I had absolutely no idea what I used to eat. Cereal? That sounds plausible. I mean, lots of people eat cereal. Um, eggs, maybe? Not that often, I didn’t think. Ooh, ooh! Oatmeal! I totally used to eat oatmeal. You know, four days ago.


The very second I saw the red smoke pouring in through the ceiling and walls, my body and mind joined up without my conscious knowledge. I would, said body and mind decided in tandem, be dropping several instantaneous levels on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Emotional fulfillment and self-actualization? Fuck that. How about reliable access to food and a place to sleep? When you don’t own shoes, the thought of personal goals like hobbies or, really, even work, matter so little as to be a humorous after-thought.

It took me about a week to realize I hadn’t turned on my radio in the car at all since the fire. Four months later, I still haven’t picked back up hobbies I used to do weekly: hiking or jogging, going to the beach, playing Scrabble, listening to History of Rome podcasts, meditating. I’m just now starting my ridiculously elaborate four-part dental hygiene routine again, the first act that feels like the responsible adult-Alex again.

2. Find yourself

Years ago, I went to school for coaching. (I learned absolutely nothing except where people went now that Est was defunct.) We had to do this ridiculous exercise where we sat across from someone and said some variation of, “One day, I will lose all of my possessions and everyone I love,” or some such mind-control-y thing again and again and again.

One day, I’m going to die. In the grand scheme of the universe, I’m practically already there, it’s so close. Perhaps this is a bit morbid, but this is what I think about my upcoming death: whatevs. I think about my own demise probably every day. In a way, I don’t ever not think about it. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always been thought of as a free spirit. If you know inherently you’re going to die, well … wouldn’t you dance naked in front of your cat every morning while you could, too?

I love that a house fire made me even more aware of the fleetingness of life. I know I’m in the weird no-man’s-land between the immediacy of the fire and getting back to normal life. I wanted to write this post after I’d gotten back on the path to some form of self-actualization, but that post is still another three to six months away.

3 thoughts on “Things You Wouldn’t Expect After a House Fire, Pt I

  1. bessiejulia says:

    There’s something to be said for being comfortable with the ideas of death & loss. It’s often overlooked in US culture, but after years in Asia, I appreciate that suffering & loss are just every day things that people are willing to talk about.


    1. likeahouse says:

      Thanks, BessieJulia. Yeah, there’s a certain sadness to loss in the US that seems especially morose. I just joked with a friend today that I consider death and loss more like recycling than an ending.


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