Smoke and Mirrors

fire pic
Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

This morning something happened to me that I must share with you. It was frightening. It was an awakening. It was a message from my inner consciousness I am quite certain. It was very real. I woke up this morning out of a sound sleep at four am to the distinct smell of smoke, fire smoke. I quite literally leapt out of bed and bounded down the hall, and ran frantically with impossible speed as if I was partially floating from room to room. I breathed the air in deeply at each part of the house, having a hard time trying to follow my nose, to find the very vivid smell that had pulled me from my dreams. Nowhere. Nothing. Not even the faintest bit of smoke in any part of the house. Total relief. I checked each child since I was now one thousand percent fully wide-eyed awake, feeling like I had the energy to go run a full marathon with the amount of adrenaline coursing through my body. Instead, after I checked in on the last little person, with my heart still pounding out of my chest, I returned to my room, crawled back into bed, checked on my still sleeping husband, and then, just laid there. Eyes wide open, body tense and straight, I stared up at the ceiling in a sort of frozen coma-like position. My mind buzzing with thoughts for what seemed like hours. We have no fireplace at all in our home. We have never smelled neighboring homes’ fireplaces from inside our home. Logic was telling me that there was no smoke, and yet, my senses had screamed otherwise. My nose was so certain of it, it rudely startled me from the best part of the morning, the cozy nook of my husband’s arm once I have successfully wiggled the covers back over to my side. As I lay there still half terrified, and fully awake, it hit me. Smoke is the alarm, to force us to hold a mirror up to lives. I know that at some point I must have drifted back to sleep because my husband’s usual five am alarm woke me for the second time, and I was so grateful to hear the beautiful music of our normal routine as it jingled from his phone on the table coming from his side of the bed. I think I started to dream about the events I had just enacted, as I had dozed back to sleep, because it was in my dreamy- half awake, half asleep state of second awakening this morning, and not thankfully, in the reality of the prior hour, that I was envisioning myself bounding through the house bellowing out to my children, “Hands and Knees!” and “GO to the Front door!” It was all so clear. The smell, the plan, the momentum of raw fear that moved me from room to room. That was that. We must put an emergency escape plan into place today. We have lived in this house for eight weeks and two days; that is eight weeks and two days of too many sleeps not knowing if we would be terrifyingly awoken one morning to actual smoke and flames engulfing our unknowing and unprepared happy little life, and by then the damage is done and its too late. Yes, its time.

So if my inner subconscious is conjuring up the very real smell of smoke to alert me, I think it only right to take notice appropriately and with earnest. This was my life alarm. There is a lot of smoke in our lives. The smoke is the moments of warning right before something comes along, seemingly out of nowhere, when you absolutely least expected it, that bam! hits you with such force, you are left devastated, broken, whiplashed, and trembling. Or maybe the smoke is an alarm that something wonderful is about to happen, but if you don’t take notice right this second, you will definitely miss it. Why does life send the smoke? As an alarm, a warning, a foreshadowing. Do we always pay attention to it? Nope. In fact, I would argue, most of the time, I am too distracted to even acknowledge big red signs saying “LOTS of SMOKE, HUGE FIRE AHEAD, LOOK OUT! STEER CLEAR! DANGER COMING!!!” So, what is the purpose of the smoke? Well, I think given my very terrifying brush with what my body truly believed was an almost-catastrophe, even if the reality thankfully, was we were all safe and sound, is that the smoke is meant to give you a few seconds to get your head in the game, look up, put down the distractions and see what’s about to happen in your life; or perhaps, what you are about to make happen. It can be anything that’s coming, but we make the choice, consciously, or not, to heed the smoke or sleep through it.

As a parent, I can relate to this for sure. How many times have I already ignored the smoke? Why don’t my senses perk up in those moments and hit me over the head with, “hey, idiot with the phone crammed up to your face, maybe you should unplug for two seconds and watch your daughter try to figure out that caps to Chapstick come off–and go back on!… this is either going to be amazing or a choking hazard!” Whoa! Her tiny little fingers can manage so much already. She is so smart. She knows to put it to her lips because she watches mommy, this is a precious gift life is showing me. Oops she is trying to eat it, danger! She is growing so fast. Where did the time go? I wish I had paid more attention to the smoke in the moments that have now long passed with my three older boys, bug monkey and bean. Every time I chose to ignore the smoke and carry on with my distractions, I was missing something magical, perfect, innocent, important, gone forever. Sometimes it was bigger than that. Sometimes I missed the smoke warning me that something was wrong, gut wrenchingly wrong.. and I just slept right through the warnings. Smoke can also save us.

God forbid there had been an actual fire that followed that smoke this morning, I would be so thankful to my senses, for waking me up and saving the five people I love more than this life can ever imagine. If I had ignored the smoke in my life in past circumstances I would have been left, confused and blindly stumbling through relationships that were toxic, jobs I wasn’t any good at, and in places I shouldn’t have been in. Smoke is an alarm, and perhaps its a mirror. It can force you to stop, dead in your tracks, forget anything and everything in that moment other than what’s right in front of you, and look at the situation, at yourself. I am not sure why I was awoken on this day by a very vivid and very real smell of smoke, but I know that I will heed this warning that my inner self has brought to the forefront, and hold my life up to the mirror to see all of what it is that I am missing. Sometimes that can be painful and truthful, but clearly, I needed the reminder today, more than I needed that last hour of cozy blissful, unknowing sleep snuggled next to my husband. Smoke brings mirrors. Mirrors bring clarity. I will pay better attention to the warnings and the signs that smoke brings. After this morning’s events, I am committed to looking in those mirrors of my life straight on; really seeing everything I need to see- to get to the safety, the clarity, and the truth of what a distraction-free me looks like. A me where I see the smoke and I either embrace or run from the signs it brings with gratitude. I pray for the families and for anyone who has ever experienced an actual fire in their lives. My imagination does not even come close to the horror that such an actual event would bring. I am thankful for this warning.