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On January 9, 2011, I returned from my in-law’s home where I’d been helping my brother-in-law make an insulated box to house the batteries of the solar system that powers his yurt on the family farm.
As I drove up my driveway, I noticed a huge cloud of smoke in the front lawn.
I parked and got out of the car to investigate.
When I opened the door to the basement, I heard a strange, eerie crackling sound. I could see no flames, however. Wary of entering my home, I backed away and went upstairs see if I could figure out what was going on.
I pulled the door open and was struck by a wall of smoke and heat. I immediately backed away and dialed 911.
A few minutes after speaking with the 911 operator, who dispatched several local fire departments, my house burst into flames.
By the time the fire trucks arrived, the house was engulfed in flames. There was nothing that could be done to extinguish the fire.
Over the next three and a half hours, I watched my home and virtually all of my possessions go up in smoke.
I felt completely helpless, in a state shock, not believing that this could be happening.
At the same time, though, a voice inside my head kept reminding me that I was the luckiest guy on Earth.
My home had been uninsured for a quite a while to save money. I had just insured the place in December.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture had given me a grant to install a solar hot water system on the house and required that the system be insured.
I had grumbled at this requirement, but as my house burned to the ground, all I could think of was how lucky I was.
As the house burned, I also knew that, after 60 years of life on planet Earth, no matter what life throws at us, we always recover, often stronger and more resilient — that is, if we don’t let ourselves get sucked into self-pity and helplessness.
Moreover, I had learned that life sometimes has a better plan for us. That is, sometimes great things come from tragedy.
In my case, I was afforded the opportunity to create a more energy-efficient home entirely powered by solar and wind energy.
Building a home like this, in turn, will help me in my teaching and writing. And, it will be a showcase for others looking for ways to free themselves from ever-rising fuel bills or ways to lower their environmental footprint.
What is more, the fire provided me an excellent introduction for my newest book, tentatively titled Things I Learned too Late in Life.
I’d been working on the book for several months, but hadn’t the foggiest idea how I would start it. That is, I hadn’t come up with a really compelling introductory chapter for the book of life lessons that I wanted to share with others so they can side step many of life’s hurdles or recover from problems more rapidly.
The tragic fire provided me with a very compelling story that worked perfectly for the new book.
The fire also showed me that I’d come a long way in my life. That I was about as resilient as any human can be and, more important, how important resilience is to personal and professional success.
Are you still fumbling through life crippled by past tragedy?
Perhaps your troubles go back to your parents who mistreated you. Or perhaps it was a spouse who hurt you, leaving you unexpectedly for someone else. Or perhaps it as personal financial tragedy. A lost job. A child’s death. The death of a parent that’s plaguing you.
I know events like these are significant. I don’t mean to trivialize their affects. I know because I have experienced many significant events myself.
At a younger age, I often let tragedy drag me down or even paralyze me at times. However, surviving one tragedy after another led me to the realization that no matter what life throws at us, we survive, and often emerge much stronger. That notion alone can help you make it through tragedy. Take solace in knowing you’ll make it through, and moreover that you will be better equipped for the next tragedy.
Life deals us some rotten hands and we deal quite a few of them to ourselves as well.
But no matter how dark life becomes, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Whether we succumb to tragedy or move on stronger is up to each of us.
You can choose to be strong or succumb to weakness. You can permit tragedies to ruin your life. It’s up to you. And it’s that simple.
Each time adversity faces you in the face, vow not to let it ruin your life.
Know that you will not just survive, you will emerge stronger.
Strange as it sounds, you can be thankful for the lessons you are about to learn.
Sometimes you’ll find that life has a better plan for you. You’ll emerge much better than you ever dreamed.
Personally, I’ve opted for strength and resilience. I accept the fact that life’s full of surprises. Buy I have vowed to live as few days as possible in pain and mourning.
I encourage you to make a commitment to strength and resilience.
Don’t expect overnight success. Strength and resilience is a conscious choice. They will build slowly inside of you, if you refuse to let life drag you down and to emerge victorious and happier from whatever comes your way.
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Contributing editor Dan Chiras is a renewable energy and green homes expert who has spent a lifetime learning life’s lessons, which he shares in his popular blog, Dan Chiras on Loving Life. He’s the founder and director of The Evergreen Institute and president of Sustainable Systems Design. Contact him by visiting his website or finding him on Google+.