by Jennifer Shannon, LMFT
Home Sweet Home
Sunday evening, the night before the fire, Doug and I returned from a weekend away. When I walked into the house I said to Doug, “Home Sweet Home”. It felt good to be back. Ever since I was a child, home has been my favorite place on earth. I am an introvert, and so the solitude that I get from being at home recharges me. In addition to the solitude, my belongings gave me comfort. My bed and blankets, my couch, my soft carpet, my plants, and my cloths; the familiarity of my home was comforting. Knowing where everything was in the kitchen, a kinesthetic knowledge of the stairs, how my furniture was arranged, even in the dark I could navigate my home.
The fire destroyed all of that, so quickly, so thoroughly. While seeking shelter at my mother’s tiny studio at 3AM that morning, my mind was going to where would we stay? In my book, Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind, I talk about how all fear and anxiety comes down to 2 core fears. Number one is the loss of life, loved ones, health or food and shelter. I was already incredibly grateful that Doug and I were alive, but I did lose my shelter. I impatiently waited until a decent hour to text a friend of mine who I knew had a spare room, to ask if we could stay there. She texted back immediately saying “Of course”. Ahhhhh.
We stayed with my friend for a month. Her home is out in rural Occidental, and the quiet of nature soothed my disquieted soul. I was so grateful to have a warm bed to crawl into each night. But I did not have the solitude I was used to while living in someone else’s home. I did not have my things, and I did not have familiarity with where things were.
We started looking for a long-term rental. This has been one of the most stressful things I have had to do since the fire. The rental market in Sonoma county is very tight, and with 3,000 people losing their homes, I knew that it would be even tighter. My monkey mind was going wild, what if we don’t find something, what if we must settle for a place that I won’t ever feel comfortable in? So, I drew on my community. I asked everyone I know, from the ladies in the locker room at the gym to my friends and acquaintances to keep their eyes open. I was able to escape the cutthroat completion for housing that I feared. My community came through for me. An acquaintance from my Toastmasters Club offered her Airbnb for us to stay at while we rebuild our home.
Moving to a new place is pretty easy when you have nothing to move into it. The home is already furnished, so we don’t have to shop for all new household items. Now it is time to nest. I have the solitude back, which feels amazingly wonderful. I feel tentative with the things in the house, as I don’t own them, and I am getting used to the layout of the house and the land. This morning at dawn, I took a walk around the perimeter of the property, saw an owl hunting for food, the sun rising, the fog and the clouds. Nature, in all her glory has always been here for me, this I can return to over and over, no matter where I am.
As a therapist and author who specializes in stress and anxiety, and has lost my home in the Santa Rosa fire, I am writing this blog to remind myself of the powerful tools I use in my practice with my clients. If It helps others to deal with their own challenges, nothing would please me more.