Why I’m Glad I Lost Everything and other thoughts about the flood

The Flood of ’07 – a recap

On July 31, 2007 – a monsoon storm hit Cave Creek, Arizona with an intense fury! It caused the wash that ran behind our house to overflow more than 100 feet on either side. The flood pushed through our back gate and filled our backyard with 5 feet of mud and water, pouring into the house and filling it with 2+ feet of mud and water.

It destroyed almost everything I owned.

My son, Chris and I, were gone, delivering some things to my wife, who had moved out of the above-mentioned house 3 days prior. When we returned, we could not reach the house for several hours because the road was washed out and severe flooding made it impossible to reach. When we finally made our way around Scottsdale – a 3.5 hour ordeal to travel a couple miles, we discovered the damage pictured below.

About depression

In case you didn’t catch the above, let’s summarize quickly.

  • Marital strife
  • Separation
  • Flood destroys everything
  • Divorce a year later

While I didn’t understand it and was unaware of it for almost a year and a half, I became depressed. I speak about this in a presentation titled, “Overcoming Adversity and Re-building Your Life and Career”.

The realization hit me one day when some time after noon I realized I had not eaten that day. I went to the refrigerator, opened a bag of sliced turkey, at a few slices standing in the kitchen, washed my hands, and returned to my desk. I sat down realizing that I had derived no pleasure from the food. I wasn’t even hungry. I ate because I knew I was supposed to eat something.

“This is what depression is.”

A perspective

I’ve spoken to a few others who have lost everything in flood or fire. Many share a similar perspective.. If not glad it happened, they appreciate the experience. It accentuates the passing and temporary nature of stuff – material belongings – and amplifies the importance of people, relationships, and experiences.

I am still more prone to anxiety than I ever was before the flood. But I recognize it quicker and can more easily muddle my way through it.

NewGuitarSara

Sara reflected in my new guitar

As far as what I find critical – materially – I suppose it is my laptop and my guitar. And even those things are easily replaced. (I do backup my data.) The guitar holds special sentimental value – my two oldest kids bought it for me on Father’s Day of 2006. So.. it trumps the laptop if I have to choose.

I have had some conversations with people who struggle in letting go of things. Here are some thoughts about that.

  • Of those people who lost everything, at the end of one year, none of them said (or thought), “I don’t have enough stuff.” This is particular true when/if you move. I moved back to California two years after the flood. I remember thinking.. “Where did all this stuff come from.”
  • Most of what we keep will need to be tossed by our children when we die. It’s sort of a screwed up burden to place on them. Make it easy on them, get rid of stuff – 1 or 2 family heirlooms might be worth keeping. Most of it isn’t.
  • The focus on stuff is like placing importance on the pan rather than the meal. The pan is just a vehicle to prepare the meal. If the pan is gone and you need a new pan – or have to prepare the meal differently, the meal is what remains.. that’s the experience.

“Its like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”
– Bruce Lee

I’ve become fond of saying, “Everyone could use a good flood now and again.” And I’m serious. Your willingness to divest yourself of stuff you don’t use, don’t look at, and maintain under a misguided belief that you – or anyone – will care about it in 5 years, 10 years, etc. – is one of the most liberating experiences. I highly recommend it.

Let the rain fall!

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