Getting back up, again and again

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COVID, fires, smoke, hurricanes, injustice, unrest. How to rally in this time that seems far beyond rallying? 
Here’s my story in feeling near constantly knocked down over the past two years. I resolve to keep getting back up.
Will you get back up with me?

How are the 2nd and 3rd largest wildfires in CA history burning in the same year – at the exact same time?! It’s mind-boggling. 
Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

Our densely-populated Bay Area hillside neighborhood was recently deemed to be in a “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone”.

2019 was the first year I remember getting an actual heads up to “be ready to evacuate”. (2017 was the first year I recall ever smelling wildfire smoke) 

It was October, and for me personally, things had just settled down after 7+ months of intense drama and trauma (illness, home hospice, death, etc)

And suddenly we were amidst a 2-week cycle of public safety power outages. 
So much for computer work... All I wanted to do was work, darn it! It was past time to get down to business on launching the first version of our app. 
But then, I was confronted with an impossible question: “What would you take?”

There was a fire less than 20 miles away, and if the winds happened to blow a certain way, we’d have an hour to evacuate and get down the hill. The neighborhood was buzzing. 

“What would you take?” It’s overwhelming, nauseating, sad, and frustrating at once. Not to mention guilt-inducing.

Most never have the luxury of thinking this through and instead have minutes or seconds to “get out” immediately. And some don’t even have a home, much less a house.

And the anguish of those who lose it all – including loved ones. It’s too heavy. 

Fast forward 10 months to August 2020: Here we go again.  Deja vu on all fronts. 
This time, I’d finally regained focus and energy after 5+ months of long-haul COVID
The Bay Area is on fire in nearly every single county. At its worst, the outdoor air singes your throat and lungs. The knot grows in your stomach. Reality really bites. 
On Friday we’re told more fires are likely on the way. “Be ready to evacuate.” Some neighbors proactively leave.

Enter the long, exhausting weekend. A complete diversion from my well-laid plans for weekend productivity. 

We’re compelled by a new sort of productivity: “Perimeter defense.” 

I take a crash-course (googling/forums) on landscape fire safety and hazards. Turns out, we had combustible ‘fuel’ right outside our home! I make a prioritized list to attack it, starting ASAP. No time to call in anyone – it was up to us.  

And then there were evacuation checklists – things to bring I’d never considered! Of course. Amateur hour. 

I’d waited until late December to unpack my things from the last fire season. 8 months later, I need to pack up again. 

Despite unhealthy air and heat – and sensitive lungs – I donned an n95 mask and worked outside Saturday from 830am to 830pm. All the while, ‘fuels’ emerged everywhere. 

Sunday morning, the air was too smoky to bear, and I was numb. And sad. And nauseous. And overwhelmed. And stressed. Exhausted. All over again. 

Why does it seem that JUST when you hit your stride, you get punched down… again and again and again? 

At the end of the day, we filled over 17 outdoor garbage cans with dead dry ‘fuels’ and overgrowth. We put a dent into larger work that will be ongoing.

The momentary fire danger subsided, though the smoke remained. Another grateful yet sorrowful sigh of relief.  

(and then news of double hurricanes in the Gulf emerged. Just a sick feeling for those in the path) 


There are too many things I just can’t control. But one thing I can control is maximizing my time and productivity every chance I can take.

I intend to run when I can, as much as I can.

And to be fully present (and ideally calm) in dealing with whatever is or needs tending at the moment.  

And to return to ‘running’ as soon as diversions subside, after taking a few deep breaths.  


The alternative is to resist. To fret and stew and steam and lose even more time and productivity.

The time is NOW. Onward. We must pick up, and carry on.

Stay safe, healthy, and productive! 

I get knocked down, but I get up again. 
You’re never gonna keep me down

— Chumbawumba

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