Discovering Priorities

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It's odd, looking around your house, trying to figure out what you absolutely must take with you in the event of an emergency evacuation ... or worse.

The first thing you realize is that you don't need most of the junk you've managed to collect over the course of your life. Junk that, at one time, you felt you had to have in order to live a full and happy life. Junk you never would have considered selling in a yard sale or donating to a charity auction, but which now in these circumstances you are reluctantly willing to let burn.

It's odd, too, in these circumstances, how your mind can surprise you with its priorities. I set out determined to create a list of items that could not possibly be replaced. Yet my fifth entry directly after "cat," "old letters," "photos/albums," "videos of the kids" and "important papers" was "Beatles CDs." I've spent years amassing the first complete Fab Four music collection I've ever owned. I'm not gonna let that burn.

Next on the list was "Wayne Dyer books." Nobody inspires me like Dyer, and my brain figured that, in a worst-case scenario, I'd need all the inspiration I could get.

The eighth entry was "'Psycho' poster." I own about a half-million old movie posters, but this was the first one I acquired, back when I worked as an usher in my hometown movie theater. I found it in a pile of junk behind the movie screen. Can't imagine life without it. Don't ask me why. I couldn't tell you.

Ninth: "Some clothes." Tenth: "Prescription meds." 11th: "Cat box." Man, it would have been a tragedy if I'd forgotten that. 12th: ...

As I surveyed the countless boxes of things I'd gathered over my 52 years ... as I gazed at the walls and pored through drawers and inspected shelves ... I couldn't come up with a No. 12. I was done. And I knew I didn't really need at least a third of the items on my list.

Under normal circumstances, humans tend to focus on all the things we don't have. If there's a bittersweet silver lining to be found in the Rodeo fire, it's that we are so vividly reminded of the abundance that's in our lives today.

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