I was told a story today.
Last January, in Montecito, California, it was raining. A lot. Too much rain for the slopes to hold it all. Incredible amounts of rock and dirt and mud began to break loose. A landslide was certain.
The storyteller told me about two people that he knew: Connor and his dad, John. When the slide started, they were in their home. They realized they could not escape the wall of mud about to slam into their home, so held on to each other as it struck. The house disintegrated. Vaporized. Connor and his dad were separated. John did not survive.
Connor was swept away down the slope.
He was electrocuted five times as he was carried away in the slide.
His clothes were removed by the force.
A piece of rebar pierced his neck.
He was pinned under a car and drowning in the water, until another car crashed into that car and released him.
He finally found himself near the ocean, found the highway, and walked naked until he was discovered.
(You can read more here and here.)
One of the reasons for the mudslides, was the fires.
The fires, as you know, are burning again in California.
The stories — of the slides and the fires — were shared with me by a team I was working with today. They had arrived on a delayed flight from California this morning at 1 am — our session started at 9 am — and meanwhile, their home in California had been evacuated due to the threat of nearby wildfires.
At the end of the day, one of the participants said: “I’ve never felt so taken care of in a session, like my emotional needs were really paid attention to.”
How could we not have? They’ve left a community on evacuation alert and come to workshop with us, they’re underslept, and fires are raging in their home communities. They need to have their energy and contribution paced well in order to make the most of their journey.
The other team member’s joking comment at the end of the day was this: “This was worth abandoning my wife during a firestorm to be part of.”
My own family, back at home, had also been abandoned by me. Today was a travel day for me, too. Trips away aren’t easy for anyone in our house. For me, it meant being up at 4:20 am, after a night that was all-too-brief. Though there was no firestorm, our daughter Rosie had an ear infection. My son Ben had sobbed when I told him I had a trip. Kendra had to take all four kids with her to the walk-in clinic to get care for our other daughter, Addie.
I reflect back on the session I led, and wonder what I had “done” that had led my clients to say they felt the travel was worthwhile, and that their emotional needs were met.
I think it was just a matter of checking in. Every now and then, asking questions like:
Is this working for you?
How are we feeling about the direction we’re heading?
Are we cool to keep going?
It makes me wonder…
Would I have ordinarily been as sensitive as this, if there had not been the floods and fires?
If not…why not?
We are all humans, which is surely extraordinary enough. Beset by our own unique needs and realities, we need these to be incorporated and acknowledged for us to be at our best.
I choose to work in a way that leaves a place for taking care of each other — whether through fire, flood or feelings.