Late Spring 2008
It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback when it comes to the handling of natural disasters. Take last week, for example. Folks within a mile from my home were being evacuated due to the wildfires raging around us, so I knew it was just a matter of time before I also got the call. Any rational, cool-headed adult would have begun gathering important documents, family heirlooms, and packing the essentials. One isn't always the epitome of rational at such times, though. I decided to bake banana bread.
Without getting psychoanalytical here, the long and short of it is that to me, nothing says ''Fire? What fire?'' like making a big mess in the kitchen. It's easy to be the mistress of your own universe when you're following a proven recipe and producing something as predictably yummy as banana bread.
Of course I knew my actions were a little off-kilter at the time (an understatement, perhaps!), and I wouldn't be sharing this with you if I didn't think there was an important message in it for us all! For me, the message began with my 24-year-old daughter’s response. Unlike her mother, she is one of the least judgmental, most forgiving and accepting human beings on the planet. When she stopped by to tell me to ''leave now,'' I was met with eyes of compassion and a knowing smile when my reply was, ''In a little bit, honey. I've got bread in the oven.'' In her innate wisdom, she knew I was coping in my own unique way. Had I been in her shoes, I would have taken more of an incredulous, ''ARE YOU CRAZY?'' approach.
I didn't think much about any of this until our first day back in the office. There I was, barely awake and still a little shell-shocked from the evacuation, reading an early morning email from a colleague asking me about a particular deadline. ''IS SHE crazy? How can she be asking such a trivial question at a time like this!'' I moaned. Our open-minded editor told me in a compassionate tone that this particular colleague had been very stressed by the fires, and diving into work was her way of coping. Aha! ''It's her banana bread!'' I proclaimed!
I thought back to at least half a dozen scenarios when people appeared to respond really oddly in the moment, and I had either taken their actions personally or judged them to be nut cases. It turns out that my friends' and family's responses to the wildfires ran the gamut from overdosing on okra martinis and CNN to stockpiling flashlights and first aid kits. In short, sometimes we humans are rational and cool-headed, and sometimes we're not -- in disasters and in our everyday lives. My new goal is to cut people some slack, knowing that we're all coping in our own unique ways. And the next time I find myself feeling irritated by another's actions, I'll silently say ''banana bread'' as my new mantra of compassionate understanding.