What a week this has been! Figuring out how to support a community through a wildfire that took out 1000+ homes in the community is intense. There is so much to do (tasks) and so much to hold (emotionally). It's been a bit of a roller coaster, and as I often write to process, this blog reflects that.
Thinking about 1,084 homes destroyed and 149 homes damaged (along with several commercial properties) is staggering in and of itself. Add in the thousands of homeowners who are dealing with smoke damage and limited utilities (although I think most are back now), who were displaced for several days. And then you go to the ~35,000 residents who were evacuated, many who left through thick smoke, seeing flames in the vicinity of their houses. The collective trauma is huge. Even those who were not directly impacted by the fire are feeling it.
Oh yeah, and it was less than a year ago that we had a shooting at a local grocery store, just down the road from several schools, where ten people lost their lives. Another incidence of collective trauma.
And there's this little thing called COVID-19...and all that comes with it.
It's all too much. I'm seeing big, red, flashing warning lights. We don't have much left to give. Call it compassion fatigue, call it a mental health crisis...but teachers/educators are BURNED OUT. I've talked to more people considering taking a leave of absence for their own mental health in the past week than I have in the past five years. I'm seeing people desperately to figure out their sick days because, three days after the semester started, they need a day...or two...or three...to breathe. It's not unusual to hear that someone isn't sure they can make it through the day. We hired 6 new teachers in my areas at semester because people resigned or retired midyear, and probably have 2 more in the next week or two. We're at the end of what we can handle, and it's showing.
And yet, while I deal with that existential crisis in my mind, I also see incredible moments of joy. Kids being kids, even after everything they have is gone. Kids loving each other, caring for each other, helping each other in the most precious of ways. A community that is surrounding us, being so generous, giving more than I ever imagined possible. Miracles happening all over. For me, it was some sweet friends who brought me food this week to make sure I am taking care of myself as I spend time taking care of others.
How do you reconcile these highs and lows? I don't exactly know, but here are two things I am focusing on this week:
1) Basic self-care. Making sure I eat at reasonable hours (which didn't always happen last week). Getting outside for some fresh air. Moving my body and exercising. Going to bed at a good time. Making sure I have at least a waking hour or two per day that is not focused on work or fire stuff.
2) Self-compassion. As I walked into a school to sub on Friday, I was thinking, "I don't know what I have to give, but I'm here with whatever I have for these kids today." I'm not at my best...and that's okay. I can be gentle with myself and know that doing something is better than doing nothing, and that is enough.
To those in our community: We're in this together.
To those at a distance: Please pray for us. And show some love to a teacher or educator in your life - this has been a tough year, regardless of fires or shootings or anything else!