PP 238: The Path Out of Disaster with Sandra Younger
Quick Show Notes – The Path Out of Disaster with Sandra Younger
“We are either limited or liberated by the stories we tell ourselves.”
In 2003, Sandra and her husband woke to find California’s wildfires had surrounded their house, and were right outside their window. They grabbed their animals and a few pictures and ran for their lives. Today, Sandra uses her experience, combined with further training and research, to help communities recover from tragedies.
We chat about disaster preparedness, the recovery and resilience mindset, and the internal and external forgiveness that must occur after a disaster..@syounger and @thekimsutton chat about disaster preparedness, the recovery and resilience mindset, and the internal and external forgiveness that must occur after a disaster. https://thekimsutton.com/pp238 #podcast #disaster #resilienceClick To Tweet
Episode Transcription – The Path Out of Disaster with Sandra Younger
Transcript not yet cleaned up but thanks for checking it out!
Kim Sutton: Welcome back to another episode of Positive Productivity. This is your host Kim Sutton and I am so happy that you are here to join us today. I am thrilled to introduce our guest, Sandra younger.
Sandra is a speaker, author and resilience expert in the author of the fire outside my window. Sandra, welcome.
Sandra Younger: Thank you, Kim. I’m delighted to be here.
Kim Sutton: I am delighted to have you. I have given a brief introduction to you to the audience. And I would love if you would share some more especially the journey that led up to the fire outside my window.
Well, that is quite a journey. And unfortunately, all too timely because we have again seen some incredible wildfire activity in recent weeks. here in California and earlier in the year Montana British Columbia wildfire is here to stay. And I learned that the hard way because 14 years ago, my husband and I woke up in the middle of the night in the middle of what became California’s largest ever wildfire. So the story started About seven months before that when we decided we wanted to change a pace our kids had launched, they had left home and we were a little tired of the suburbs and we found a beautiful house out in the country. This is about half an hour east of San Diego, we were living in the San Diego suburbs. And we found this beautiful house perched on the side of a mountain with an incredible view down this canyon all the way to Mexico. And we loved it. We loved it so much. We thought it needed its own name. And so we called it Terra Nova, which means our new land and that seemed a fitting moniker for this new chapter in our lives. But only seven months after we moved there. We woke up to the sight of fire outside our window. And that is when this this wild chase or this wild escape began. So we realized we were surrounded by fire and we had no time so we grabbed our animals. We grabbed a few pictures off the wall. Off the dressers shoved them in a laundry basket and we jumped in the closest car, which happened to be my little accurate coupe. It couldn’t have been Bob’s giant suburban because we couldn’t find the keys to that. So disaster planning Note to self, know where your car keys are before you go to bed. So we start out and as we back out of the driveway, I’m driving, we’re in a tornado of red embers and we see this huge towering wall of light and flames wrapping around our beautiful new home. There was only one way out and it was down a steep, narrow sliver of asphalt carved right into the side of the mountain. And just as we got to the most treacherous part, we hit the smoke, and suddenly I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t see the road and I started screaming, I can’t see the road and my husband screamed back. Well just don’t wreck the car. Oh. And what he meant, of course, was don’t drive off the edge. And just at this moment, we’re teetering on the edge. The mountain were lost in the smoke a bobcat cam jumps from the brush right in front of my headlights. He was running from the fire to and something in me knew that the bobcat was on the road and something in me knew to follow it. So I followed the bobcat, which kept me on the road. And by then we could see that there were these two fields of fire below us already burning and we stayed on the dark part in between these two fields of fire, this dark place that I knew had to be the road and negotiated between two lines of fire for about a mile and a half until we finally popped out and that is how we escaped the Cedar Fire. 2003 which, still, despite everything we’ve seen, at least at the point, you and I are talking here is still the biggest California wildfire in terms of size at about 280,000 acres.
Oh my gosh. So where was the fire When you went to bed the night before was it around? Or was this something that just popped up?
It was around from about 530 in the afternoon the day before. And what made the difference was it was way out in the National Park, maybe another 20 miles out from us, and it was lit by a loss Hunter, who had been wandering around all day got dehydrated, was afraid he was going to die. And he did what he was told to do in hunter safety classes, which was to light a signal fire, but he lit it under the worst possible conditions after many years of drought conditions we’ve seen again this year, low humidity, high temperatures, incredible, tender dry levels of brush. And the biggest factor, as is often the case in these catastrophic fires was wind and so on. This fire simmered along for several hours until up just about exactly midnight at the stroke of midnight, Southern California’s famous or infamous Santa Ana winds blew in. And that is what blew the fire out of the wilderness. Before that it had been in a place that the firefighters couldn’t get to. There was no access, and it was too late in the day to fly planes against it at that time, and now they do fly planes at night, but then they didn’t it was a safety issue, so they couldn’t get to the fire earlier. And then when this wind came up about midnight, it just exploded out of this national forest area and started running faster than fire engines can drive toward populated areas. So we knew about it along about 1am or so we woke up or my husband woke up and smelled smoke. But when I tried to find out information about it, all I could find was that it was a long way away. It was burning in another direction. And I was actually told by a firefighter at our local station that we were safe where we were, which was not at all true. And we went back to bed and then we had to wake up right in the middle of it later. Wow. So that’s what happened.
Yeah. So, living in Ohio, we have tornado drills that go off. Actually, we had our tornado drill yesterday morning, despite when we’re recording this. It’s mid December. So it’s the craziest thing to hear the tornado drills in the middle of December when I mean it’s 22 degrees outside. Yeah. Do they do anything like that? In California? Do you have drills in this type of case of emergency?
We have earthquake drills. Okay. You know, we have we have just about every kind of natural disaster in California except tornadoes and in some places, we have had tornadoes, but we don’t necessarily have wildfire drills. We have a lot of Increasingly good information out in the public sphere about preparing for wildfire. About hardening your home about keeping vegetation cleared from around your home about what to do. When you may need to evacuate keeping a go bag we call it ready to evacuate not standing around too long waiting. I actually have been in the media talking about how to be prepared the but we don’t have drills per se. Maybe we should try that. Because you know, at any natural disaster we are, unless we been through it before, we’re pretty much unprepared for how incredibly overwhelming the power of nature is. And we may think in advance, oh, we’ve got this not going to be that bad. We may have been inoculated against events by being in a little earthquake or seen a tornado somewhere else that just sort of dissipated before it did any damage or see A dissonant wildfire. We may be inoculated and think, oh, we know what this is all about when really we’re not prepared at all for the real fury of some of these extreme, unstoppable events.
Oh, absolutely. I have to share. A funny note that within the first six months of my ex husband and I moving here to Ohio, from New York, where tornadoes are extremely, extremely rare, like, I think I heard of one in the 22 years I was living there. He was leaving work one day. And that same day, I saw my first ever wall cloud. Have you ever seen a wall cloud? Sandra?
I don’t think I have
no, it’s a phenomenon, listeners just google wall cloud in their absolutely magnificent looking. However, in every instance that I’ve ever seen one there is ridiculous weather on one side. I’m not a meteorologist. So it’s just ridiculous weather coming behind it. So I was driving home from work by this wall cloud and he was driving home from work almost two hours away from me and he started hearing the sirens go off. And he just thought it was the firehouse down the street from his office. And it was actually the tornado siren. He would, oh my gosh, actually drove right underneath the funnel as it was about to hit the ground. Oh, and it took down like the bowling alley in the mattress shop and part of the guys
were not it was cut
right on top of him. We weren’t educated at that point to number one recognize a tornado siren. And at that point, they weren’t doing that. No, actually, no, because we were in our town on Wednesday mornings we were both at our different places of work. So we’d never heard the drills or maybe our offices were so this is not good either. Maybe they were just so well soundproof that we didn’t hear them, which would be a bad thing. What’s the point? Right that we didn’t he didn’t know that. That’s not a fire hall.
That’s a tornado drill, so be careful. And then uh, yeah, well, we Don’t
know can kill Oh, it definitely can’t. And actually, just this year, we actually had a tornado go through our town. So I love where it’s gone. I just wish that for the sake of you, and especially everybody in in your area of California right now at the time of this recording that there was something more because imagine if there was a drill like that that could alert people in the vicinity to get out. Then you when
you went through that, right, well, they do have evacuation protocols that you know, that go into effect immediately when a fire is coming. But the problem has been in our fire at 14 years ago already, as well as many of the really worst damaging fires we’ve seen this year. The speed of the fire is often just completely shocking to people and it’s difficult for emergency responders to get out ahead of it long enough in advance to get to everybody. It’s hard enough keeping up with my kids. So I can’t even imagine. So my big wildfire experience which tragically has been repeated now 10s of thousands of times, even this year alone by other people who’ve also had to run for their lives, and many have not made it that led me to write this book, called the fire outside my window of survivor tells the true story of California’s epic Cedar Fire. I was a journalist, I had been a journalist all my adult life, and I was really acutely aware of the fact that I was the storyteller who had come out of the worst part of the worst fire that anyone could remember. And it was my job to tell the story, even though it would have been enough to rebuild a house can because we did lose our house, but I felt that it was my job almost a sacred obligation to tell the story and so I set out to research the fire. I did dozens and dozens of interviews and eventually on the 10th On your anniversary of our fire came out with this book, which has led me on the rest of the journey we’ll be talking about
oh, I would love to hear. Can you keep on going?
Sure. And please pardon my dogs barking in the background. They will settle down in a moment. But
but positive. Okay, good, not about perfection,
not about perfection. Good. Well, what happened was that I started interviewing so many people to research my book. And what I noticed Kim was that people responded in different ways to this disaster that had fallen right into the middle of their lives and its listeners hear this think about what your disaster is. It doesn’t have to have been a natural disaster. It can be anything from a fender bender to a hurricane. But there are these events that fall into our lives and just divide everything into before and after. And here’s what I noticed about how people reacted to that event, when it happened to be our fire. Most of us said, well, we’re survivors, we will come back we will rebuild, we will reboot will be stronger than ever. That’s what most people said. Even though in the media and in the concerned language of many people around us, we were all called victims fire victims. And you can see this even now in today’s headlines, fire victims. Well, I didn’t feel like a victim cam because you know what, 12 of my neighbors who lived within a mile or two of me
died in the fire.
They were the victims. I survived in probably miraculously, I survived. So I could not see myself as a victim. However, I did encounter people who who identified with this victim label and what I noticed is that these people who are almost always very bitter and angry, it didn’t matter how much or how little they had lost in the fire. In fact, some of the people who had lost the least maybe an office or a garage were the most bitter, more bitter than people who had lost loved ones in the fire. And that was my wake up call. I thought this is a choice that’s happening here. It’s not something that is imposed on us by the disaster by the adversity itself. It’s a choice that we make in response. And I found a quote by Viktor Frankl and I don’t know if you have you ever heard of Viktor Frankl? I sure have, you have. So you know, then that he was an Austrian psychiatrist who was imprisoned in the Holocaust. He was in the worst of the concentration camps. He was a cow and Auschwitz he lost his entire family. He came so close to dying himself, and he came out of that most extreme disaster, pretty much we can imagine. And he wrote a beautiful book called Man’s Search for Meaning. And I found a quote from that book, which says that everything can be taken from a person but one thing the last of the human freedoms, we To choose your attitude in any given set of circumstances to choose one’s own way, and of course, I could not begin to compare my experience with Victor Frankel’s but I resonated with that quote from him to such a degree that I started to wonder if perhaps there were other things we could do other actions we could take our attitudes we could shift that would help us come back from disaster, whatever, the inciting incident and I started to do some research and I found this entire body of psychology called resilience. And that’s what these people had been studying. I was late to the party Kim, I didn’t know this was going on, until I discovered it after the fire. And there’s even a subset of the resilience literature devoted to what’s called post traumatic growth, not stress growth. So this is how I became super interested in the area of resilience. And once again, being the journalist I was compelled to do all this research and find out about this subject. And I found a lot of different principles and practices that have now been empirically proven to build resilience like a muscle. Our resilience isn’t just innate, although it is it’s in our DNA, but it’s also a skill set, we can build like a muscle to be more prepared, and resilient before disaster strikes us whatever that disaster may look like and come back more quickly and stronger even than before. And I boiled all of those principles that I read about down to five because we can really only remember three to seven things so five is a good number. And I call it the comeback formula five common sense powerful practices proven to build resilience like a muscle and help us transform disaster into opportunity and even loss into legacy.
Now I know that this journey got started for you. As a result of the fire of the Cedar Fire, but I’m even seeing a parallel. And I apologize because I often have cinematic Is that the right word cinematic references, but even to in or men who are leaving abusive relationships, but in this case, I’m going to talk about women, living relationships, how they can set themselves up in advance to make sure that they’re successful in the future and are resilient, like I have sleeping with the enemy in my head right now thinking about this, you know, she sets herself up in advance so that she can make a better life for herself in the future. And that was so traumatic. I mean, and even though I’m talking about a movie here, there are so many people who have endured abusive relationships. And as you were talking about bitterness I was thinking about, I’ve known a few women who leave a marriage and are bitter afterwards, rather than thinking about how blessed they are now, you know, they left a bad marriage and now they can choose to make better life for themselves. They
can choose but often Why do they not? Well, why do they not? That’s the $64,000 question. Why do we not choose into now? It’s not just the huge things in our lives, it can be everyday things now that I’m aware of this, I sometimes stop myself and say, are you choosing to be pissed about this right now? I mean, do you really have to be upset? Can you choose not to be upset? Yeah, you can. So why are you choosing to be a victim of this incident, however petty, but you’re right, it applies across any sort of adversity across any sort of trauma or stress. And I think the key to successful living because life just keeps throwing adversity at us that and I think and probably a lot of the Zen masters in the spiritual wisdom teachers out there would agree that this is for a reason what we’re here to learn and this is how we learn the most We don’t learn very much on a blue sky sunny day when everything is perfect and hunky dory, we learn in the throes of adversity in, in cases where we have to figure out what we’re going to do. So two things you brought up here. One is yes, resilience is universal. It is our, if you want to use the term God given ability to come back from any sort of adversity so that we can continue, it’s part of our survival mechanism. And these principles are also universal in that they can be applied to whatever your particular disaster is abusive relationships, a perfect example illness, even the loss of a loved one. Also perfect examples. So I’ve had many people say this that it applies, and it does apply whatever it is. And then the second point we’ve made here is that it applies not just to the big stuff, but to the little stuff. So maybe we are To talk about these five things so our listeners can start to apply them in their lives. I would love to but I want to
pause just for a moment. No, I’m not doing a advertisement for somebody, but about the small things I can even think about. You know, I am extremely clumsy. I just am.
But they’re, you know,
they’re those days when we accidentally sleep late, or I have been known more than a few dozen times to spill a cup of water or coffee on my desk. What Yeah, I know crazy. Yeah. And, you know, I can choose we can all choose to start our day, just cussing at the world and everything around us because oh my gosh, I woke up late, this is going to be part of my mouth. This is gonna be a shitty day and I just have to take it out on the rest of the world and I’m just going to be bitter about it. Or I can’t believe I just spilt it. This is like just gonna ruin my day. But I just look at it as and I this is nothing compared to losing your house. I am not trying to say that at all listeners. I’m just trying to reinforce the fact of small Small verse, we’re talking about
their city universe. We’re talking about the universality of resilience in it. Yeah, yeah.
But I choose to look at, for example, spilling a glass of water on my desk. Well, wow, I have a clean desk. No,
you know, or
Oh, yeah, I got the extra sleep I needed. Right. I need to go in. Mm hmm. Yes, I’m blessed that I work at home. And, you know, I don’t have an employer that’s gonna write me up for being a little bit late. So I am blessed like that. But anytime Oh, and I’ll put a link to this in the show notes which by the way, listeners, you can find it KIM SUTTON calm forward slash p p 238. Sandra. I just had to share last night, one of my twins for almost three years old found a green Sharpie marker and drill for her face.
So while I could have been pissed about it,
Did you just laugh about it? No, we totally laughed and took the rare occasion to post a Facebook Live.
Okay, there you go.
He told all of Facebook land that she had drawn on her face and she couldn’t get it off. And then she smiled and giggled at the end,
transforming disaster and opportunity. There you go. Exactly.
So let’s talk about your five steps.
Okay, the five steps I call the comeback formula. Start with the word come and come in this case means come to a place of gratitude. We know that gratitude is pretty much the antidote to any negative emotion. There’s so many studies on gratitude within the field of positive psychology. It’s even being shown now to have physiological benefits in the body. So what I like to say is if we can find one little thing, no matter how tiny to be grateful for even in the middle of the soup, it lives are spirits. It begins to lift us out of this quicksand of bitterness and blame that I saw people get stuck in for years. I mean, some of those people I saw again, some of the bitter people years later, and they were still bitter. So if we can be grateful for something, it points us in the direction of healing and growth. In my case, cam, it was super easy because I was alive. I was alive. I had gotten my animals out. I had gotten a few pictures. I felt like even though I had lost everything else, I had everything I needed to start over because I was alive and I had my family members with me, right? It doesn’t have to be anything that big. It can be something really tiny, like the sun is out today. The trees are green today, if we can just focus on something positive. So that’s the first step. come to a place of gratitude. Right? I love that. Yeah. And the next four, follow the acronym BAC ba ck the B is, first of all, be patient with the pain, because it’s going to be a mess for a while it’s going to be chaotic for a while you can’t come back overnight. You can’t rebuild a home overnight. You can’t heal a deep wound overnight, but it can happen. And in the meantime, it’s going to be messy, it’s going to be painful. And we have to be in that quicksand for a while because it’s part of the grieving process. If we truncate that process, we can’t really move through it, we’re just keeping a piece of it behind. So be patient with the pain and the process, it’s probably going to take longer than you want it to. And the second part of B is to be confident to be aware that you can come back know that you can come back because resilience is in your DNA. So that’s the B believe you can come back A this is the hardest one. What do you think a is Kim?
action? Well, kind of sort of
it’s a kind of action. It’s accepting help, and asking for it when we need it. And this is the tough one because no one wants to be a charity case. No one wants to be seen as weak. It was hard for me, I felt that I was a given kind of person. I felt I was a helping kind of person. And suddenly all these people were coming out of everywhere, trying to help me and I was resisting that, you know, casseroles on the doorstep, checks. Somebody sent me a great big box of clothes that turned out to be designer clothes from the 80s with great big shoulder pads. And I’m like NFL linebackers and you know, I was so uncomfortable with that. I was kind of embarrassed. And then a friend of mine took me aside and said, you know, Sandra, your job right now is to be a grateful recipient. There’s the gratitude again, right? Be a grateful recipient, these people Want to help you? They’re traumatized to whole communities become traumatized. And people are traumatized by art loss and are suffering, right. This is a way that you can still be a giver, you can still be a helper by giving them the opportunity to help you that will, that will help them to so accepting the help that’s being offered to you, and then asking for it when you need it. And I do a lot of work with first responders, with emergency professionals with emergency managers cam. And I really underscore this with them. Because it’s so hard. It’s hard enough when you’re thinking of yourself as a giver or helper but it’s even harder to call 911 when you are 911 right when the public sees you as a hero, and rightly so. But here’s what we know about heroes we know about the hero’s journey, the great mythologist Joseph Campbell told us about the hero’s journey, it’s set of steps. It’s always the same across all the great legends every great civilizations throughout history and heroes always take the same steps we see it in our movies to get cinematic again, we see it in Star Wars where Luke has the mentor, Obi Wan and later Yoda. All of the heroes take help except help ask for help from a mentor, a guide and sometimes from other people as well. We see it in Harry Potter, where Harry takes help from Dumbledore and his posse of friends Ron and Hermione, and we see even Dorothy needs the help of Glinda the Good Witch to get home from oz. We see it in the Hunger Games, where Katniss takes help from haymitch it is a theme because it’s true. No hero can be successful without accepting help. And yet we think when things go wrong, now, I’m good. I can handle this. I don’t want to be burdened anybody
right. I love that. You All the cinematic references
okay, let’s see if she gets the names right. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to doubt you but you nailed them all and it was like you did even better than I would have and
Tao journalists research journalists do research and and go to the movie.
Yeah, I have to share a 911 I was actually working in Manhattan. I was half blocked from
Yeah. And so we were we were actually held on our block. And we had security checks on us before we could go home. Just because we were that close to the UN. However, my office in the days following. We took shifts, preparing, cooking and serving meals down at Ground Zero. And oh my god, I will never forget the fact that we were serving those first responders. Or at least that was my job. I don’t cook they wouldn’t have wanted my cooking.
Some things we Hey, we don’t need to be starting the fires, right?
Yeah, that’s gonna happen.
But I’ll never forget the gratitude that they were expressing to us, when all I could think to say to them was thank you for what they were doing. And they were the ones in there. And I can see, you know, they were pulling such long shifts. And the only way that they were going to get through that was if they had the stamina, and the energy and well, the calories to keep on going. It was the nourishment, but the nourishment goes both ways. I mean, they filled me with so much spiritual nourishment during that rough time. And I think we all need to remember that when people are trying to help us that it’s not just for us, it’s for them too. And I love that you brought that up before.
Well, and let’s go to another movie reference Jerry Maguire, help me help you. Right. Exactly. Yes, yes. And yet it’s very hard for us, you know, sometimes People may find it easier to pray for help. Even if they’ve never prayed before some something about adversity brings that out in us, they may find it easier to ask for divine help, because nobody has to know, you know, we could just in the privacy of our own hearts and heads, and it’s probably socially acceptable, or we think so to be praying for help in times of real distress. But here’s the thing about that is, have you ever noticed how a lot of times when we pray for help that help comes through people? Absolutely. So if we’re praying for help, if we’re asking for divine help, and we’re pushing away the people who are answering our prayers, we’re pushing away the answers to our own prayers, we sometimes forget that we’re social creatures like bees or birds flocking together and we really are not designed to make it on our own and yet, we tend to resist that when it’s really our strength.
Absolutely. Sandra, I heard a great story once I may have actually been at church when I heard it that there was a man stuck in a flood, which seems appropriate even though we’re talking about fire, but let’s just say he was stuck. No, we got to use the flood because it’s appropriate to the story, but he could have been in a fire. He’s on the roof of his house, praying to God for help in somebody in a motorboat goes by and offers to help them. And he says, No, I’m okay. God’s gonna help me. And then somebody in a raft goes by and asks him, and he says, Nope, I’m all set. And then the last one was somebody in a jetski goes by, and again, he says, No, but he shows up to God, God, where’s my help? He’s like, I sent it to you three times. You don’t?
Yeah, exactly. That’s a good I love that. I love stories. That’s a good story to illustrate that point. Right. Right. Yeah. So that’s that’s the toughest one is the a is accepting the help that’s already been offered to you that you haven’t accepted.
There’s a perfect example and asking for help when we need it. And sometimes when I especially when I work with disaster workers and emergency professionals, I say be tough enough to ask for help when you need it. Right. Be tough enough said the next you want to go on to the next to Yes, please. The next two practices in the comeback formula. The C is Victor Frankel’s lesson to us choose choose your response. Choose your way forward, I like to say because I’m a storyteller, choose your story. You know, we are either liberated or limited by the stories we tell ourselves. That’s good. I haven’t said it that way before let’s LARP right. That’s it. We double it. That’s a tweetable we’re either liberated or let’s let’s turn it around. We are either limited or liberated by the stories we tell ourselves. So those people I talked to who had chosen to be bitter. That was their story. They were choosing to be the victim to play the victim to play that role in the story. Whereas other people, even people who had lost loved ones had chosen a different story. So let me tell you the two extremes. So the one extreme on the bitter end was a man I met who insisted on calling himself a fire victim. He did use that terminology even and he had lost his office, his home office, and which was separate from his house. So he still had his house, his family, his animals were fine. And he was the angriest person I talked to. Well, I lost my home office to I know that’s a bummer. But he was focusing on what he had lost instead of what he still had. Right. So there was no gratitude there. And he was choosing to be the victim of this story, the story that he had been disadvantaged and he had been unfairly affected by this fire. That was his story at the other end of the extreme talked with a family who had lost their 16 year old daughter in the fire. They had two other children, both of the other children were burned in the fire. One of them so seriously that she lost her fingers. She’s scarred for life. And that family, the mother of that family said, the fire took so much from us. We are not going to give it anymore. We are not going to give it our future. We are not going to give it our joy. That’s the story that they chose. So this is a powerful, powerful practice that we can use no matter what the level of adversity that we’re facing. We can choose what story we want to tell. Wow, the story we want to live into. That’s huge. Yeah. So the final step of the comeback formula then is the k ba ck which is to keep moving forward. Word and what I found about this is that you know, there are those of us who find it very hard to detach from the past. And I don’t know if this was a movie, but it was a story Great Expectations was, was that a movie you’ve seen Ken? I’m sure
it’s out there, but I have personally not seen it.
Well, great expectations was a story written back in the 1800s by Charles Dickens, better known for Oliver Twist. And, you know, that became the movie Oliver. So I’m pretty sure it was a Charles Dickens. But it was about this woman who had been jilted at the altar and she never got over it. And so she lived by herself in her family’s big old mansion for the rest of her life. And you know, at the end of her life, here she is this old weathered woman still wearing her wedding dress, there are cobwebs hanging from every chandelier, she had not moved forward, she had tried to hang on to this old story that could never come true. They could Never be back in this part of her life. So when we can’t detach from the past that can no longer be there for us we we get stuck like Miss Havisham, we get stuck and life passes us by if we can keep moving forward and gradually detach. It’s a process because it’s painful. It’s painful to get used to living in this new normal. But when we can gradually detach that opens us to the possibilities and the opportunities of a new future, that would have never been possible. Otherwise, I would never have written that book, I would not be talking with you. Now I would not have discovered what I’ve discovered about resilience and be able to share that with other people had it not been for that fire, which was so disastrous, and so painful to me. So to keep moving forward is a reminder to embrace the possibilities of the new future, and the comeback formula is only the first step really in what’s possible in a new future. There is a further comeback journey that we could talk about. Well look at you, you’re already you’re well along that journey
speaker author doing so much more with this and I have to share Great Expectations is a movie I had to eat.
That’s Paltrow. I might have to watch it it.
Oh my gosh, wow, I missed that. I’ll bet that’s fantastic. And it was Charles Dickens, I hope who is the
author? I did not
Google then. Oh my gosh, forgive
author if Charles Dickens is not it?
I have to check because I was not only a journalism major, but an English major. Yes, great expectations based on a novel by Charles Dickens. Okay. So here’s the rest of the comeback journey. So the comeback formula gets us through that first important step, moving from victim to survivor and all these people right now in the media who have lost their homes who have been affected. By these recent fires and earlier in the summer, the horrific hurricanes we saw in earthquakes in Mexico, there’s no dearth of disasters in 2017. The year we’ve just seen all of them are being called victims, right? There are a few places that are calling them survivors, which is my term. Some people don’t even like that term. So the comeback formula helps us move from victim to survivor. And yet, even though survival is great, when the world is on fire around you, when the ship goes down, when the odds are against you, it’s great to be a survivor. But we don’t want to stay there cam I did not want to pitch a tent on the ash heap that used to be my house, right. I wanted to rebuild. I wanted to come back stronger than before, and we did we rebuilt our house more beautiful than before, because now we could put all of our own little touches on it.
Yeah, you didn’t just survive, you wanted to thrive.
We wanted to thrive and that is the next step. From victim to survivor to thriver and thriver is terrific. That’s a great feeling that we have overcome this, we have come back. But now there’s another couple of steps we can take if we want to. In fact, I was speaking at a conference last week in Salt Lake City and about community resilience. And I heard them use the term to not just bounce back, but bounce forward. And I love that because bouncing back means we just come back to where we were. But when we bounce forward, now we’re taking this disaster that happened to us, and we’re applying this crazy kind of alchemy to it and transforming it into something wonderful, right? So that’s the step now from thriving to giving. And you see a lot of people do this a lot of people who have been through something difficult or even tragic, they are now sharing their wisdom, their empathy with other people, they’re the givers. It could be something just As simple as somebody moves into your neighborhood, and you take them a plate of brownies, because when you moved into the neighborhood, nobody welcomed you. You know, you learned you’re empathetic now and so you’re giving to other people givers make the world go round and it’s a great way to live. There is one more step though. Can you guess what the final step would be from giving?
I have no idea. forgiving.
Well, I call these the changers Hmm, yeah, the changers. These are the people who leverage their loss into a legacy. So these are the people we see them and really famous examples like Malala and like Nelson Mandela like the Dalai Lama, but it’s also everyday people. And I could tell you hear the story about my friend Rena. Rena, suffered the worst loss any of us who are parents can imagine she lost a child and she lost him suddenly without any warning due to another diagnosed cardiac arrhythmia. And Rena was, of course devastated. She just could hardly get out of bed for months. But when she did, she decided she would change the situation for other kids and other families and she started a foundation. It’s called the Eric Paradis save a life foundation in honor of her son. And so what she does is she in her Foundation, they go out and they do these screening events at high schools and they’ve screened over 20,000 teenagers for her abnormalities that would not necessarily be caught in a regular physical or even a sports physical because this is not part of regular physicals. At this point, it’s as simple EKG that can find these things. And for every hundred kids, they screen, they find one at risk and they refer that person out and they save that life because they go get the treatment they need. Rena became a changer. She leveraged her loss into legacy. And this is something that a few of us are called to do. It’s not something that we we need to think about doing. If we don’t feel that call, we can be thrivers. We can be givers. We can be happy at either of those levels, but a few of us will feel called to move on and change the world maybe change the course of history.
Absolutely. I’m actually thinking about a couple other examples. Amber alerts was created because of a mom. Yes. Who exactly and now look at how that is just benefiting. I know, at least United States. I don’t know how far yeah, Mothers Against Drunk drivers. Exactly. And then crying and I have a client Kim backing at looking forward living life calm who not only survived but thrived, and I know what we’re talking about, but I just forgot that she’s spreading the message and giving hope to people who have not only survived breast cancer, but also Divorce
two different Wow. Oh, wow. double whammy a double whammy.
Yeah. And she decided to take you know what could have been a very unfortunate and it could have been more life changing than either one was but now she’s thrived right past to the point that she’s helping others get through as well. Yeah, that’s a great example so it can be everyday people.
Let’s talk about one thing that you actually brought up and I’m glad you did because I left it out the topic of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a really crucial part of coming back and bouncing forward. If we can’t forgive ourselves and others for what happened. It keeps us from healing and moving forward. So I always include forgiveness as part of that final step to keep moving forward. We have to detach from the past and part of that past is whatever happened in our part in it I had to forgive myself because When we were leaving the house, I was in such a hurry to leave. We didn’t stop to close the garage door and the electricity was out. I couldn’t close it remotely from the car, and that doomed our house. And it was years before my neighbor finally said to me, Sandra, your house would have burned anyway, just you know, give yourself a break. Forgive yourself for that right. I also had to forgive the man who started the fire that lost Hunter, and I had a chance to meet him actually, because I was researching my book the fire outside my window, and he pleaded guilty, he did a plea bargain. He pleaded guilty to setting fire without authorization on federal land. And after he did that, he came out of the courtroom, all the media who were there suddenly were talking to his lawyer and he was by himself and he walked over to this window he was looking out over the San Diego city skyline and he looked broken. He was so full of remorse and I realized cam boy he he needs Help here. And then my next thought was I could be that help. So I sort of slowly inched over towards him and I, I called him by name. And I said, you know, my name is Sandra and I lost my house in the fire. And I just want you to know that I forgive you. And he said, thanks. And then he started talking about how that wasn’t me out there. That was a man who thought he was dying. And I never meant to hurt anybody, and on and on, and then a couple more proceedings down the line because there were a series of court events. He saw me in the hall and he recognized me and he looked at me and he kind of have smiled and he said, I’m sorry about your house. And I said, Thank you. And you know what? I could let it go at that point. I don’t know if my forgiving that loss hunter helped him that was certainly my intent to help him but I know it helped me Kim because I haven’t had to carry this before. against this man who started the fire that burned my house and by the way, 20 231 other houses and killed 15 people, including 12 of my neighbors, I have not had to carry the burden of bitterness against him because I was able to forgive him.
You know, this is a lot different than so many other disasters out there. But in this case, specifically, Can any of us say that we would have done it differently? Had we been in his shoes? You know, if we were trying to save ourselves when we were using the hunters Handbook, right? I can’t say I would have done it differently. And well, I’ve certainly felt horrible.
Well, there were it was very unfortunate.
It was very unfortunate. There were mitigating circumstances like why did he get separated from his body and was he smoking marijuana? Could he have been disoriented because of that? There are a lot of different variables in the equation, but in In the end, the judge pointed out that he had not meant to cause harm. And he had done exactly what he had been taught to do a hunter safety class, and certainly there were a lot of things he could have done differently. He was a novice Hunter. But I think you bring up a good point in a larger sense. And that is, we don’t know what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, and even the people that we think can’t possibly have any redeeming excuse. Like, I will be honest with you for a long time, I felt kind of bitter towards the man who lost his office, you know, and was still bitter. I mean, I was choosing to feel bitter about his being bitter, right. And somebody said to me, we, you know, maybe there was something about his office that was intrinsic to his self concept and his self esteem and his you know, you don’t know why his office was so so important to him and It’s difficult to, to know what other people have been through and what is causing them to have the attitude that they have. So it’s best not to judge other people’s responses and not to compare levels of disaster and loss.
Definitely. I so appreciate that. And I appreciate you for having been here today. Sandra, this has been totally inspirational for me, and I’m sure for a lot of listeners as well.
Well, I’m so glad Kim, thank you and I appreciate your your longer format. It gives us a chance to really dive into some of these things listeners.
I’m about to ask Sandra where we can find her online where you can find her online. But just so you know, you can find all the links and the link to Sandra’s book at KIM SUTTON comm forward slash p p 238. Sandra Where can we find you online?
Well, I do have a website. It’s Sandra younger.com. But I would recommend that your listeners go in through the back door which is comeback formula.com comeback formula.com and just leave me your email address and I will direct you to a page where you can download your own copy of the comeback formula Plus, I created a little exercise I call the five minute resilience workout. It’s just a few steps that take just a few minutes and it will walk you through exercises that help you implement each step of the comeback formula into your life. So it’s not just in one ear and out the other and once you are on that download page, you will also be on my website, you can toggle around to get to the books page and you can if you’re interested purchase your own copy of the fire outside my window, which most Amazon reader say by the way they couldn’t put down that makes me happy and I also have the comeback formula workbook which is a deeper dive into some of the principles we’ve talked about. It will walk you through all the steps of becoming that formula with additional exercises so that’s all available through comeback formula.com.
Awesome. Thank you so much. And thank you again for joining us today. Do you have a parting piece of advice or a golden nugget that you can share with listeners?
I do remember my Bobcat story. Mm hmm. My advice to people is follow your Bobcat. I believe that the bobcat is pure grace that drops into our lives when we most need it, even though we perhaps least expect it and we need to be looking for that. We need to know to follow it like your story of the man on the rooftop, sent the boat away. Don’t miss your Bobcat. Your Bobcat is going to come just be looking for it and know to follow it.