Putting Out Fires

My father used to tell a story about his job and putting out fires. He sat at his desk, concentrating, and the phone would ring. A problem had flared up, demanding his immediate attention, diverting him from what he really needed to be doing. It drove him bonkers—when would he get his real work done?—until he realized putting out fires was his real work.

Disturbances in life hit me the same way. My brain constantly wants the eruptions to go away so I can get to my real work. But they won’t. Accidents happen. Diagnoses arrive. Setbacks bombard. The hot tub won’t heat then the oven won’t ignite then the two-year-old refrigerator suddenly stops cooling—major developments when your main job is keeping the house running. When these fires flame, I try to remind myself: the key to happiness is being aware of the gift of life even while trouble is burning.

Soon after I had fallen and shattered my elbow, I stood on the porch at the beach house and watched my husband and Evangeline play in the sunshine in the yard. He would pretend to run away, and she’d give chase. It was pure joy, and it filled my heart. How, I wondered as I stood cradling my elbow, can I be so happy smack dab in the middle of a wanton, destructive accident? Yet, I was.

Today, and for the days to come, I wish you the gift of sunshine. Or perhaps the gift of soothing rain. Yes, it may whirl into a storm (hello, hurricane season!). But in the midst of the chaos, may you experience the gift of inbreaking joy.

The lilies I planted on Easter Sunday when I came down with COVID have arisen.

living life with grief, putting out fires

Comments (9)

  • Thank you for this. Lots of family and business stuff going on and suddenly I am taking care of 2 senior cats, 2 kittens, as well as my own on top of it all.
    My father always used to say he was “running around, putting out fires.” That was absolutely “his job.”

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Oh, I didn’t know about the extra felines! And what different types of attention they need. It’s been sooooooo long since I was around a kitten…Our dads would have recognized each other.

  • Reading with tears in my eyes, after literal decades of personal fire-fighting and being in the midst of more right now, even as we are in London to celebrate our first grandchild’s fifth birthday. Thank you for reminding me of joy today after a mostly sleepless night.

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