What's Up With That? ~ Katy Byrne

Katy Byrne Katy Byrne, MFT is a Psychotherapist in Sonoma, editor and animal lover. Her private practice specializes in: life transitions, couples communication, eating issues, moving forward, conflict resolution and the kitchen sink.


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In the aftermath

Posted on October 25, 2017 by Katy Byrne

We moved to Sonoma because it seemed safe and quaint. But this fire rocked our boat.

It’s been a week of fear and shock. Contrasts like people skidding their cars around corners and cutting people off in anger and stealing, to kind people waiting patiently in lines and giving help even when they were ready to drop from fatigue themselves. There were the good people and the mean-spirited ones.

My exhaustion is deep. I felt so small up against the fires. I wondered who really cared about me and who didn’t. There was a kaleidoscope of texts flying in and some confusing. I felt loved by people who hadn’t even sent me a Christmas card for years – and left in the dust by others who I thought were closer.

It’s all too much to digest right now. I just hope we all don’t rush to denial too soon. There is much to learn from this disaster. If the winds had picked up, our houses wouldn’t be here. And perhaps neither would we.

And too many have lost their homes or are still living elsewhere, unable to get back into their own beds. The range of stories is immense. Some landlords are doubling rents while kinder people are offering housing almost free. There are constant contrasts including people with two homes, fleeing to the other.

Friends vented with frustration and emotional hairballs: “This is too much – from Las Vegas shootings to Puerto Rico floods and now local raging fires.” I added, “Of course people are angry; the tone of politics is all about constant attack and walls. There’s little talk about the common good.”

The layers of experiences are hard to grasp. One man begged police to let him past a fire line so he could rescue his horses. Finally the cop shook his head: “OK, but we can’t protect you if you go in.” He saved all 17 horses. He thought he was a goner when the fire came to his feet. All I could whisper to him was, “I’ve always enjoyed you, but I had no idea who you really are,” tears flowed.

Wide-eyed and blurry, I observed my own flaws and resilience. I felt the cold at night without my heater while I reviewed the regrets of my life: the unnecessary divorces and partings. (If only we had been more skilled in our communications…). But always there was the terror of the fires and raw vulnerability… the constant waiting to go home again, and longing for more information.

The firefighters’ faces looked determined and worn. KSVY radio stayed on air for hours. I could see the hollowed out, ghostlike expression on the hard working faces of helpful community. There were too many good people to name here. But you know who you are.

And while writing this a bird hit my window and fell with a thump to the ground. Two rescue agencies replied, after I made many calls, on a long, smoke-filled day: Napa Wildlife Rescue and Native Songbird Care. They say the bird is recuperating now. I hope that is like the support offered to people who have lost their homes. So many are suffering.

How do we move forwards? All of us have had trauma, some more, some less. It is a time to sleep and do self-care and seek safe friends, a time to take an inventory of our lessons and ourselves. After you rest and grieve, clean up relationships without clear communication if they seem insincere.

Self-evaluation is necessary, reviewing our inner and outer flaws. Which services were helpful, which were not? How capable of helping were we? How do we take responsibility for the quality of our own lives and for future disasters?

For now, it’s back to some semblance of normalcy. Tonight I sigh at what used to be small pleasures, like sipping my coffee and sleeping on my favorite pillow, and all with gratitude.

And maybe the biggest lesson of all is that we are each imperfect. We do the best we can while surrendering to fate as a part of life.


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