Rising From the Ashes of a Dumpster Fire

Photo by  Yunus  on  Unsplash

Photo by Yunus on Unsplash

I recently spent two weeks in hell. It doesn’t matter why. It doesn’t matter what. But I was in hell. And trust me, you don’t want to go there. You don’t want to go where I had to go. Maybe you’ve been there, but I hope you haven’t. I’d rather not go back, but if I have to I will, in a heartbeat.

Because when you rise from the ashes of a dumpster fire in hell, you awaken to what really matters. And it’s not your Instagram page. Or your four dollar latte. It’s not even you. You don’t matter. At least not in the grand scheme of things.

What matters is whether you are there for those who need you at the exact moment in time that they actually need you. Not a little later or when it’s convenient. Now, when it really hits the fan for someone you love. Not for your third cousin who may not even be a cousin. What matters is whether you are there for those who you would die for.

Not in the way that you say you would do something, but when the time comes you are mildly nonplussed about the action required to do something.In the way that nothing else on Earth matters except your help. Even if it kills you.

And it didn’t kill me, although at times it felt like it might. When I was crying tears that came from places I didn’t even know existed. When I was helpless to help, but helped anyway in any way. I didn’t matter. I still don’t matter. I may not matter again. And that’s ok.

Identifying What Really Matters

It’s not that easy anymore because we think so much matters. We kid ourselves about what’s important in our lives. We list all of the things we “have” to get done, but aren’t we being a little precious about what we “have” to do? I mean really, what do you “have” to do today?

Go to work? Sure, if you don’t want to get fired. But you could call in sick. If you just never showed up again, you wouldn’t die. Your dry cleaning pick up is not a life-altering requirement of a good day. It’s just a chore like rest of the crap we convince ourselves is important every day.

But until a moment comes in your life that definitively proves that everything else is worthless except this moment, you don’t know. I thought I understood, but I didn’t. I worried about how many words I wrote each month. I worried about my to-do lists. Those things mean nothing to me now and they never will again. That’s not to say I won’t track my words or keep lists, but they won’t matter.

I worried about too much. Until it didn’t matter. And it didn’t matter because something happened that required my full attention, love, compassion and understanding for multiple weeks. I didn’t think about my to-do list. I didn’t think about my bills. I didn’t think about NaNoWriMo. Because that shit didn’t matter. I didn’t matter. Because I was busy identifying what really matters.

Photo by  Jake Oates  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jake Oates on Unsplash

Rising From the Ashes

The dumpster fire is done. All that remains are the ashes. But those ashes could reignite at any time because that’s how life works. Everything isn’t always better forever. Caring about all this nonsensical bullshit just takes your focus away from the smoldering pit in the alley. Before you know it there’s another dumpster fire. And it was your fault. Because you thought it was fixed.

But the only way to truly rise from the ashes is to understand the ember. When you watch a fire die you see the ember. Sometimes it glows and then disappears, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. It’s not gone and you can’t conclude it’s gone because you can’t see it right now. Because the ember is still under there, flickering.

We often neglect the ember and assume the fire is out. We often want someone to feel better so badly that we convince ourselves the issue is resolved. But issues often remain issues and require constant attention, care and prioritization.

If you don’t rise from the ashes with knowledge of the ember, you will find yourself in the same spot again in the not-so-distant future. And you will wonder how you got there since everything was fixed. But it wasn’t fixed because most problems in life aren’t solvable in a single shot.

So wake up. Because so much less matters than you think.