Tonight I lit my first fire in my second rental house since my divorce four years ago (looks good, yes?). Not a big thing on the surface. But it’s my first house with a fireplace in 11 years. I was married then. I grew up with a fireplace. In both homes, either my dad or my then husband always lit the fire. My dad did it because, well, I was a kid. My ex did it because…that’s the way it was. (Yeah, yeah, I know – that’s for another blog post.)
I’ve been ready to light this fire since I moved in last June. One of the first things I did was get the fireplace inspected. Safety first! When fall came, I went to Home Depot and got the fireplace tools, a screen, built the tool rack with that stupid little gadget thing they always give you in DIY kits. I picked up a bundle of wood. I was READY. And then…
Christmas came and went. No fire.
I kept telling my kids, “Hey! Maybe we should light a fire tonight!” But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I told myself it was because I was afraid of looking like an idiot in front of them if I couldn’t get it going (our first campfire fiascos and my ineptitude with cooking over a fire are still fresh in my memory – suffice to say the hamburgers melted through the tripod grill thingy and we ended up eating potatoes for dinner.)
Except there is a YouTube video for everything these days, as I realized when my radiator went out on the road last summer, and duh, DuraFlame. So…why am I waiting to light my first fire on Easter? April Fool’s Day, no less? But it is 32 degrees in Chicago tonight…and then it hit me:
This is another first.
I thought I was done with those, but I am coming to learn that those never end. They just cycle around to keep life interesting. First Christmas divorced without the kids on Christmas Eve. First spring break without the kids. First house after my divorce. First date after being married for 19 years. You get the idea.
And now, my first fire in the fireplace – one of those things that I associate with the quintessential, Norman Rockwell “This is What a Whole Family/Life Looks Like” picture that no longer fits my life. This would be the first fire I made by myself and – because my peeps are teenagers who can hang with me for a bit, but then want to scatter to their teenager rooms and do teenager things – I would sit by this fire alone.
I wasn’t ready for that.
But tonight, I was. I’m not sure why. I grabbed that DuraFlame log, piled on the wood, lit that baby up and voila! A beautiful fire! Made by ME! Disclaimer: I love DuraFlame, so for all you hardcore fire starting, outdoorsy people who light fires with a stick and a leaf, good for you, but I’m not earning a merit badge for this, for God’s sake. Right?? 🙂
As I suspected, the kids oohed and ahhed, sat with me by it for a bit and poof! They disappeared and there I was, alone by the fire. And you know what?
It was awesome.
I brought my books, writing notebooks (I have different ones for different projects) and my favorite soft blanket out to the couch and settled in. I wrote pages and pages. Old fashioned pen to paper for rough first drafts. I wrote more than I have in months. It was like when you are running and struggling and thinking fuck it I can’t go another step, but you keep going anyway and somewhere around mile two the endorphins kick in and you’re like – YES!!!! I COULD RUN FOREVER!!!!!!
Tonight was like mile two. I could have written forever. But…you know. Monday. Life.
I only stopped when my eighteen-year-old boy came up and wanted to talk while he ate his carrot cake or when my sixteen-year-old daughter needed TLC for her bruised knee from soccer. And all the while, I felt my pages pulling me back, my words and stories taking my attention the way they used to do. Back when I was in grad school. Back when I was…most me. When I felt most alive.
When I really liked who I was and believed in myself.
It got me thinking.
I’ve been listening to a pop song as I write one section of my book that has the upbeat tempo and lyrics that fit the mood I am trying to capture, “I Like Me Better.” As I looked over my pages – not reading them yet, I need time and space away to let them breathe and see what they are – I thought, hey! I like this. Me, writing. I like me even better writing by a fire. 🙂
The song is obviously about a guy who likes himself better with a girl. But, translating that for me – and maybe you? – it’s: I like me better when…fill in your blank.
I’ll go first. 🙂
I like me better when I run every day, no matter how far I go. When I write every day, something creative, something just for me, not a client. I like me better when I get sleep. I like me better on 3 cups of coffee vs. 7. (Don’t ask.) I *think* I like me better when I am dairy free, which remains to be seen. (But CHEESE!!) When I am making fires and making my home feel like a safe, quiet, peaceful place to be.
I like me when I pay attention to the things that make me happy and do them. My energy changes. I go out into the world lighter. I carry myself differently. I feel happier, more at peace with myself.
I want to commit to doing these things that make me happy in my heart. I know there will be days and times when I will have to focus on life and put this on pause. But I realized tonight that I need writing, running, my family and these things as often as possible to feel my best. And I have to do whatever it takes to make that happen, as often as I can, and not let a pause turn into days, months or years. As Zig Ziglar said, “You’ve got to be before you can do and do before you can have.” So I’m gonna be for a while. See what happens.
I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant, this whole “I like me!” thing.
If you know me, you know that’s SO not me. <insert sheepish grin here> This isn’t about being selfish. It’s about recognizing what you need and giving it to yourself. Making it happen. It’s important. It matters. Because if you can’t make you happy, who can? And anyway, who knows better than you what you need to be? Give it a try.
My fire has dwindled to glowing orange embers.
Truth? I hope it stays cold a little longer.
I want to feel this fire forever.
Wishing you peace and love in your life with light and fire in your heart.
PS Don’t forget to give it a listen. 🙂