Listen to Kat’s radio show about the good news and the bad news.
Usually when someone tells us they have good news and bad news, and then they ask us, “Which do you want to hear first?” we choose the bad news. To satisfy that natural human desire, the story you are about to read begins with the Bad News.
Part One: Out of the Ashes
It was the Monday after Thanksgiving and I was enjoying a visit with my sister Gretchen when the phone call came. We were in my car and I was giving her a tour of my new hometown. I was so thrilled with the natural beauty, my wonderful friends and some fun places I had discovered in my 9 months of living in Ojai.
The call was from my husband, Curtis. Nothing unusual in this. He often called during his work day when he had a break. Getting a call was not unusual but this call was a life-changer. Over the speaker phone of my car he, in very short order, told me that he had just lost his job.
The job he had lost was a contract he had as a therapist working with teenagers at risk. The place he worked had just decided to close its Ventura branch where he worked. They had decided to do this immediately and so, without any warning, a month before Christmas, our income had taken a significant hit.
Not only that, this was a hugely fulfilling work for Curtis. He is a masterful therapist and life coach. He had combined his many years of practice and training into an ability to help teenagers who were in despair, had hit rock bottom with issues of self-harm, substance abuse and psychological issues. He also worked alongside his son, Nathan, who is a counsellor at the Center and one of our dear friends, Jodi. It was wonderful work, income and added a stability to the lives of two entrepreneurs.
It was shocking and upsetting to say the least.
I was proud of the way we handled the loss as a couple. We looked at the financial hit and processed the other losses so that, by that Friday, we had regrouped and honored our annual Christmas tree shopping ritual with Nathan. On Saturday, we trimmed the tree and I decorated our new home for the Holidays for the first time. That good old Christmas Magic was working!
I was so grateful for our house and the town we had chosen to call home. As we brainstormed about ways to reorganize our business now that Curtis had more time, I felt a renewed kind of joy. On Sunday, we went to our church, Unity of Ventura, and were uplifted by our minister Cathy Norman’s message about hope.
Later that day, we walked on the Ventura Botanical Garden trail that overlooks the beautiful Pacific Ocean. I again gave thanks. Curtis and I had walked this trail for years and it was one of our favorite places on earth.
On Monday, one week into our new reality, we were so excited with some new things we were doing in our business and bubbling over with possibility as we held our Monday morning business meeting on the bike path near our house. I took a moment to give thanks for this ritual and the daily connection to the amazing nature that was right outside my back door.
Big Bad News!
Tuesday morning brought a very different kind of experience! As I wrote about in my blog last week a fire that began late Monday was fast approaching our house and much-loved town of Ojai and we were evacuated for 5 days. Needless to say, our lives were totally disrupted.
Grateful for Good News
When we returned, there was much to give thanks for. Our town had miraculously been spared. Our home was still standing.
I was so happy to be home!
Simmering Bad News
Many were not so fortunate. Whole neighbourhoods had been destroyed in Ventura. In the outlying area, of Ojai many homes were lost. Livelihoods were lost as businesses temporarily closed due to the fire.
I also realized we were not out of the woods yet. The fire continued to burn all around us. The air was filled with smoke. Our house was full of smoke. We bought air purifiers, wore face masks and didn’t dare venture outside. On the first night home I couldn’t fall asleep because the fires burning on the hillside looked way too close
Good News…. People are Good
The town of Ojai came together like nothing I have ever seen. There was a Facebook page set up for everyone in the town to communicate about what was happening. The miracles continued with people stepping up to help and community fundraising events popping up everywhere.
As heartening as this was, I wasn’t feeling it.
I have had many heartaches and tragedies in my life but this was something new for me. I just couldn’t find my joy. I felt trapped and in despair on a very deep level. I realized I was depressed.
About half way through the week I woke up early one morning and broke down in tears. I cried for all I had lost. The things I had thought I could count on. Curtis’s job, the beautiful botanical garden trail that had been ruined in the fire, walking on my beloved bike path, the beauty of the nature all around me masked in the smoky air. I wailed in protest. There is nothing I can count on!
It was in that moment I surrendered and remembered that I did have one option left. I could connect with spirit. Hmmm yeah, that…my spiritual rock.
Really Good News…breakthrough
I let go then and did just that. I opened my heart – as broken as it felt – to that power that is greater than little ole me. With what felt like my foundation gone, I found the only true ground there is. I like to think I can count on earthly things. I love my creature comforts, the beauty of nature, the amazing people in my life. But when everything is burned away, out of the ashes rises the only true thing in this life. Love
I felt that love and the support of spirit and it filled me up. Just like one of my earliest lesson from the fire, I found that I could quiet my mind and just feel the truth that relies on nothing but love.
Part Two: My Crappy Christmas
Now I would like to be able to tell you that, after all the “Good News/Bad News Learning”, this ended up with a “Happily Ever After the Merriest Christmas of All” type of message… but that is not how it played out for me.
I had a pretty crappy Christmas.
My spirits rose out of the ashes and I felt something in me had been renewed. It felt right. But I was not done with my grieving. It was Christmas time and I still wasn’t feeling it.
Bad Feelings/Good Outcome!
With a lot of my false ground burned away and new ground available for spirit to work with, I had another breakdown. This one was not so private or pretty. A couple of days after my epiphany, I got really mad. The stages of grief don’t always come in a nice and neat order!
I don’t remember what triggered my anger but once it got going I just rolled with it and after some bunchiness and messy communication with Curtis, I saw my anger was telling me I needed to wig out.
Anger is a fine emotion to alert you that there is something that is not right in your world. I have found it is a gift to feel anger and look to see what it means… but it often turns to blame of oneself or others and that is never a good thing. “Wigging Out” is one of my favorite ways to clear out the crap that is floating around in my head and release toxins.
Wigging out, for me, is being able to say out loud the things that are bugging me. The things I am sad about, the things that have changed, the things that no longer work for me. This is why we write in journals, go to therapists, have best friends, invest in life coaching and turn to spiritual guides.
Listening is one of Curtis’s gifts and – with a boundary around blaming anyone or thing for my state of mind – I was able to just let it rip. I said some low-down things, did a bunch of swearing and cried a few more tears before coming out the other side by the end of the day.
The Extra Special Good News
This kind of release was, at one time in my life, unheard of. Like many of you, I was raised to keep this type of thing under wraps! Clearing out the crap, the victim or blaming stories, the perceived injustices… clearing these out of my central nervous system was not something I used to know how to do.
Here’s what I’ve learned. There is no one way to do this and a lot of great ways as I mentioned above – write it down, take a long walk in nature, call your best friend, give yourself the gift of professional support, reach out to a spiritual guide.
Even with my newfound release, I needed time and to make an effort to recover. I wrote and performed an inspiring story for my church for Christmas Eve and the spirit in the room filled me, but I still felt a little empty feeling inside.
I spent time with a friend and found solace in sharing our stories of the good and the bad news! I talked to my family and shared some laughter and also broke down in tears a few times. I finally was able to walk on my beloved bike trail and allow the loss to roll through me as the joy of being in nature did its magic.
My spirit rose, slowly but surely, and I now feel a renewed sense of hope and wonder. And that is good news!
When life has been challenging for you it’s important to take time to clear out your own “crap”. Make the time to soothe your soul, allow yourself to let go. Do it so something new can bloom in you as it has begun to bloom in me and my town of Ojai.
Here is a poem by Rumi that sums up my learning from this past month of events.
Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled,
so wildflowers will come up
where you are.
You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different.
Wishing you all a VERY Happy New Year filled with more Good News than Bad!