Taking Stock of What Really Matters

Old Photos - What Really Matters

It’s the week before Christmas and I’m sitting in a hotel room in San Luis Obispo, CA with everything from home that matters to me. One husband, two kids, two cats, and seven crates of un-digitized photos, important papers and knick-knacks that represent the early part of my life.

But, quite frankly, the seven crates of non-living items don’t really matter at all.

Nor does the fact that I’ve done very little to get ready for Christmas.

It’s been 15 days (or is it 14 – I’ve lost track) since the Thomas Fire started and after evacuating (twice) it seems crazy to write about content marketing right now. Especially when I’m keenly aware that I still have a house to return to when there are others in my community who aren’t so fortunate.

I’m only human after all.

But, life has a way of moving forward – whether it feels like it should, or not. Things will (eventually) return to something that resembles “normal.” And I will be eternally grateful to the brave men and women who beat back the massive wildfire that ravaged this beautiful section of California that I’m lucky enough to call home.

So, I have decided to take advantage of the fact that this is my blog (and I can do what I want). Instead of writing about marketing in my final post for the year, I’d like to take a moment to express gratitude for the things in life that really matter (to me).

1.   The Kindness of Strangers

After hiding indoors for four days (to save our lungs from the toxic air) and being startled awake one too many times by emergency evacuation notices, my family decided to leave town. Our nerves were frayed, we were concerned for our health and we needed a break from the fear.

San Luis Obispo is about 2 hours north of Santa Barbara – far enough away to escape the smoke, but not so far that we can’t quickly return should we need to. After a quick search for “pet friendly hotels” we made a reservation and were on our way.

We have all heard the horrible tales of businesses who take advantage of those who escape disasters, but I have to say that my family has had the complete opposite experience. The locals of San Luis Obispo went out of their way to make us feel welcome and to ease the financial burden of un-planned travel expenses. A special shout out to the Sands Inn & Suites and Big Sky Cafe for their insane generosity and hospitality that cemented my belief in the kindness of strangers.

2. Family and Friends

It’s sobering to realize that you can pack your entire existence into a car. But the phone calls and messages from family and friends with offers of support and lodging were a stark reminder that nothing of substance can actually be possessed.

Our loved ones are precious, but their presence in our lives could be fleeting. And sometimes we only remember this when it is too late – when faced with the reality that we may lose them. I helped a friend mourn the passing of his father this week and learned that someone else I hold dear is facing the potential loss of her husband to cancer. This kind of reality check is heartbreaking.

father and son - what really mattersWhile the rush of the holiday season can be stressful, try to take this time to remember what truly matters. It’s not about the gifts or the food (ok, maybe it’s a little bit about the food). It’s about the relationships. Those irreplaceable relationships with amazing human beings who give your life meaning.

Take the time now to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Don’t wait.

3. Love and Compassion

Running life from a hotel room when stress levels are high and everyone is out of sorts has been a test of my patience. If my family was on vacation we would be out enjoying adventures, but instead my husband and I have been trying to keep our business lives afloat while tuning out the (usually endearing, but currently incessant) chatter of one child and the exasperated sighs of the other.

Of course, if I’m honest with myself, this actually isn’t too dissimilar from the world that we live in today. The crazy events of 2017 and the constant noise of social media, doomsday news and political frustrations have many of us on edge.

So, the last thing I am grateful for this year is love and compassion. I don’t believe love and compassion need to be directed at anyone in particular to have a positive impact on the world. It’s a gracious way of being that you can exude as you go about your day-to-day business. And it’s the belief that if we walk through this world with an open heart and mind that good things, good people and healthy experiences will find you.

Interratial Couple Holding Hands - What Really MattersWouldn’t it be nice if for the rest of 2017 we could put aside our individual agendas and beliefs, stop judging those who think differently and remember that we are all moving through this life together?

Love and compassion is what will allow us to push through the challenging times, respect each other’s perspectives and come out the other side of this crazy year stronger than we were before.

Conclusion

Wherever you are and whatever your troubles this holiday season, I hope you are able to take a moment to be grateful for the things that give your life meaning.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by the Southern California fires – particularly to those who have lost their loved ones and/or homes and are grieving during the holidays. I am very much aware that my family’s experience is a minor inconvenience in comparison. I hope you’re surrounded by love and that you are receiving the support you need to heal.

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