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

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

3. Find inner peace

You want to drop your monkey mind? So far in my life, here have been my options for reaching this point: A) Meditate for hours and hours a week or B) realize while sick in bed that your house is on fire.

You can read my last post, where I wrote a poem about how I miss those first few days after the fire. Even in a week-long silent meditation retreat two months ago, I still couldn’t find the inner stillness I had that first week. I was running around 12-15 hours a day, I’d lost my home and most of my possessions, and everything stable in my life had just been upended. But everyone made it out of both houses safe, and the source of our trauma wasn’t personal.

When I found out I might lose everything because of asbestos contamination, there wasn’t much physical left to lose. And I sat with what I had: my personal relationships. My experiences. My car and the laptop, purse, iPhone and family jewelry I’d run out with (which, granted, helped bring a hell of a lot of inner peace). My me-ness. And that was more than enough.

4. Change your relationships

The people I love, I love even more now. The people I disliked … I don’t dislike them more, I just don’t care about them as much. I was blown away by people’s reactions, both supportive and dismissive. A few people were shockingly insensitive, even in the first few days. A few people I didn’t know all that well offered more help than I could emotionally manage. I met someone special. My own resilience showed up more than I could have imagined. The relationship that probably changed the most (Aack! Cliche alert!) was probably the one I had with myself.

5. Change yourself


In the days after the fire, Jen, Anne and I fell in love with this video ‘Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions.’ I think Anne watched it a dozen times in one day. We wanted to get a photo of us in our best Charlie’s Angels outfits (a blond, a brunette and Chinese girl with black hair; we were a natural match), preferably wearing knee-high boots and leather jackets, just walking away from our house. Maybe we’d pick up smoking, just so we could flick a cigarette as we strutted away.

While my physical appearance certainly has gone downhill somewhat (“Well, hello, 10 pounds. Nice to meet you. Now please go away.”), my emotional resiliency has strengthened, and I feel like much more of a badass. I don’t have time for your bullshit. I don’t have time for my own bullshit. It’s funny; I’d originally started my blog because I was going to add one totally badass experience to my life each month for twelves months and then write about it. My friend Pierre was going to take me shooting. I was going to try archery, dragon boat racing, champagne bottle sabering. But I felt like I was missing something. Who knew it was a proverbial and literal fire lit under my ass?

One thought on “Things You Wouldn’t Expect After a House Fire, Pt II

  1. daleenberry says:

    Enjoyed reading this, Alex, especially since: a) We got to dish about your fire while stuck in the Rome airport last year and, b) I had my own life-changing fire, once upon a time. Oh yes, and great Charlie’s Angels’ pose!


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