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  • Writer's pictureLise Parton

Writing As A Part of Self-Survival

What do you do when the world is topsy-turvy? What do you do when life's journey gets really stressful? What things can you do to self-nurture and give yourself some support when times are tough?

Life can rotate on a dime. One minute the world can seem normal, and in the next, it's not. We've all been there with COVID, now it's global warming with the current extreme weather, with flash floods, or droughts and raging fires. As humans we have to cope, survive, evolve or we are in big trouble.

I have been through a lot in the past decade, and I have to really reach deeply inside to use all my resources to carry on when I'm hit with stress. I have my own personal set of tools now in my life-coping tool box, and sometimes I have to reach in for a tool to keep going.

In this past week, I left my beautiful little home to travel to a Provincial park to meet my family to do our yearly camping trip. I had been so looking forward to it because I miss my family now that they are grown, and also, because now I live farther away from them and consequently see them less.

These days around here it is a time when my world seems to be crying out, the crazy drought conditions are leaving the forests vulnerable to fire. Lightening strikes and man-made mistakes are causing the forests to scream in agony as they catch on fire, bringing with that an air thickened with deadly smoke. There are extreme and unstable and volatile weather conditions causing havoc in multiple places.

I fully admit I miss my beautiful lake where I had an off-grid, one-room cabin in the bush for over 57 years. ( It was a beautiful place, a place where I could happily leave the city-life behind, leave the everyday stresses behind, and become gratefully recharged and grounded amongst the fragrant, beautiful, massive trees in a much-loved forest by a cherished fresh-water lake.

Days at my cabin, living amongst the amazing guardian trees and being cleansed by the cool waters of the lake were an experience I needed and welcomed during my busy, not always perfect and occasionally very stressful life. It was a intervention I accepted from Mother Nature in a place that was my blessed second home. I truly miss that place, but it three years ago it became time for me to make changes geographically as my life evolved, and so, I still welcome and crave a 'bush fix' amongst forests of trees and communing with nature from time to time. Hint...that is a life tool, getting out and reconnecting with nature.

There I was this week, in the lush forests of our province at a camp in my van spending time with my son and his wife and her family. Side by side in 3 campsites, we ate, laughed, shared stories and played games living in each other's company for a few days, off-grid and oblivious to what was happening around us. With no cell service I was completely unaware at the state of my world back home. When I left my home area there were two relatively tiny fires not far from me, caused by lightening, and left burning for a month (because "there were no immediate structures in danger", we were told). I did not know that since I went camping for 3 days these fires had now joined and become one, with a fast-moving, extremely volatile behaviour in the dry conditions and winds, leaving my home and my life, as I know it, now threatened. I was not alone.

I drove out of that Provincial campsite feeling all charged up, feeling like I had been living in a happy family and forest bubble, only to return to the highway noticing the building smell of smoke and a hazy evidence of fire as I travelled each kilometer back towards home. It couldn't be those small fires near my home growing now, could it, I ask myself, visibly shaking my head?

Yes, in those few blissful camping days, the fires near to my town exploded into a Fire of Note, and within a couple of days I have found out those original 4 to 10 hectares each fires that were ignited almost a month ago, had now merged and had grown to a staggering 37,000 hectares (today now 44, 000). Where I live is now threatened, and many of my friends are on evac alert with some on a full evac order, and it wasn't stopping.

It is very surreal to live amongst the dense smoke with that eerie orange ball of sun, not being able to spend any safe time outside. At first, I dodged the smoke with a mask to hand-water my gardens and rim my house with water (because it made me feel like I was doing something proactive). Even the indoor quality of my house air has become poor at times, even with two air filters going...and I am still one of the lucky ones.

One dear friend and her husband live in a major city affected by another massive Fire of Note, and she has been in danger of losing her house. You just never expect or imagine a huge metropolitan city bordering a large lake to end up in seemingly burning with unstoppable flames like this. It is simply catastrophic what is happening out there, and I wonder what chances I have in a small town, with an small aging population, in a fire. I am always extremely grateful for every firefighter and all their heroic efforts, shouting out a BIG thank you...but, somehow in the tiny recesses in the back of my mind I sometimes can’t help wondering...are we even that important, in this tiny little town?

The other day, as I talked with another bestie, plumes of smoke started to appear in front of me, up over my front view mountains, completely in the opposite direction of the large fire already established behind me. I called it in immediately and they said it was a newly discovered fire quite a distance away from me. The operator told me it was displaying an aggressive behaviour, and I should just keep checking my app. I have been constantly on my wildfire app, and saw the small red dot, but I just couldn't believe it that fire was the one that could be these plumes of smoke over the top of the ridge near me! Apparently, that small fire had swiftly become 1000 hectares in the period of one day. Now I am living right in the middle of 2 Fires of Note, in an area that is usually very windy, and they are often unpredictable. I have been told to be ready to leave on a moment's notice because of that. It is very scary!

Although I am not officially on an evac alert or evac order, I have, for the past 24 hours been getting household and personal papers together, also packing clothes, chargers, and important things, and making a plan to run if I have to. It is exhausting and is it that I do best when I'm stressed? I write. That is one of the best tools I have in my life-coping toolbox.

I am sitting here, quietly writing this article, and little bits and pieces of this and that, as I try and keep mentally focused and positive with the scary things happening around me. It reminds me of COVID when we all stayed in self-isolating so as not to get sick. This time however, the difference is that these fast-moving fires, affected by winds and ever changing outcomes, cannot be stopped by self-isolating in your home. The fires are bigger and stronger and (often) seemingly unstoppable, and I don't have any control over them. This creates a feeling of powerlessness and fear. And so, I write.

Writing is my therapy, my support, a method of self-care. Writing lets me purge my thoughts and worries...and although I cannot 'write' away the fires, I can, at least, help myself through the act by expressing myself and thoughts as I write. Writing is a tool in my life-coping box and I am using it now.

Expressive writing is a healthy way to help and support yourself through something tough. It is how I am stepping back and suppressing my inner panic and fears while living with these events. This form of writing (expressive writing) is something I highly recommend for you if you are experiencing your own personal stress battles, your own fires, whether they be a fire situation metaphorically or whether you are one of the hundreds of thousands of people currently experiencing these devastating weather and fire events.

We are all currently here in a declared state of emergency. If you are facing what I and many others are facing I'm sure you must know that I'm not saying you should just sit there and write...make sure you first deal with your escape plans, your important actions and your safety of self, family and pets. Just remember, you can curl up later in a safe place to purge your thoughts or support yourself by the act of writing. It will support and most likely comfort you as you cope with all this. It is an activity (a tool) that can help you in a time when you may need it most...and that is a good thing...

Stay safe everyone! Cheers! Lise



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