Friday, April 1, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

How does this sound: 10 hours with no errands, laundry or grocery shopping, no TV blaring, no checking email or mindlessly surfing the ’net? Yeah, I would have thought so, too. I spent such a day yesterday, but I did not find it relaxing or refreshing. I found it frustrating…and then this morning, I realized how lucky we’d been.

A storm system blew through our area yesterday, drenching us, spinning off tornados, and cutting power to more than 100,000 people, some of whom will not get their electricity back until late today. Strong winds tipped over cars, trucks and small airplanes, flattened fences, tore apart pool cages and snapped power poles. Thankfully, no one was killed or seriously injured, according to the local paper. (To see photos, click here and scroll to "Links from the Times for April 1: Severe storm.")

Forecasters expected the storms to be strong, but not this extreme, so some people (including me) were caught off guard and unprepared. We were without electricity for 10 hours. I didn’t have my laptop battery fully charged and hadn’t taken a shower following my workout. Due to the power failure, our household alarm system caused all the smoke alarms to go off with nerve-shattering blasts. My husband and I ran through the house with a bar stool, disconnecting them. The two radios we have that take batteries didn’t work when we put the batteries in them. Since I didn't know what was happening, I didn't realize how serious this storm system was.

I couldn’t do any of the things I’d planned for the day. No power for doing laundry or working on the computer. The wind and rain made it too dangerous to run errands, and even with candles and battery-operated lamps, it was too dark in the house to do any real work.

I would have enjoyed this if I hadn’t felt worried about dinner and what we’d wear the next day if I couldn’t finish the load of laundry sitting in the washing machine. I worried about the survival of my freezer’s contents and how long we could go before we opened the fridge and let all the cold air out. I felt guilty about what I “should” be doing, and anxious that my Friday would now become too busy to manage.

The real problem here was not the power failure. It was my expectations and slavery to a schedule, my inflexibility and my inability to abandon myself to the moment. It took me nearly all day to wrestle my mind to the ground and relax and enjoy the experience. When I stayed in the moment, I enjoyed hearing the sound of the rain on the roof—something I can’t always hear when all the electrical things are humming. I admired three creamy gardenia blossoms glowing under a silvery white sky, while our oaks bobbed and bowed in the wind. I pulled out and reread one of my favorite books, 84 Charing Cross Road. I only became anxious when I began to think about what would happen if the power didn’t come on soon.

Yesterday, Gretchen Rubin’s emailed Moment of Happiness was this quote from Schopenhauer: “To be sensitive to trifles implies a state of well-being, since in misfortune we never feel them at all.” I realize I am fortunate. We have no damage to our home, and the boarding stable where we keep Tank is completely unscathed. Today, I can think about what I learned from my enforced idleness, catch up on everyday chores—and be thankful that we are all safe.


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13 comments:

Laure Ferlita said...
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Laure Ferlita said...
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Laure Ferlita said...

Do NOT feel that you're alone. It also took me a while to finally surrender to the fact that there was no power, there wasn't anything I could do about it and I might as well sit back, watch the storm, read and count my blessings.

So very thankful we had no damage. A house seven doors down from us had a huge oak limb land on their garage and back porch. They're awaiting a crane to come and remove it! We are sooooooooooo fortunate!

Danielle said...

That sounds awful. It's nice to think of not having to do anything in particular, but not in that sort of a situation. I would have stressed out, too, and do so when we have bad weather and power outages. Somehow it always seems easier to appreciate coming through it unscathed or thinking you really didn't need to worry--after the fact. Glad everything turned out okay!

Claire M said...

I enjoyed your thoughtful reflelction, and I'm glad that your storm has passed. Hopefully some sunny skies ahead for you.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Laure--I think it would have been easier if I had known up front that it would be hours before the power came back on! I might have surrendered more quickly. (Though why I didn't assume this in the first place, I don't know--maybe because I didn't realize how severe the storm was.) Glad to hear you all are OK.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Danielle--Yes, it's much easier to put things in perspective after the fact, when everyone and everything is safe.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Claire--Thanks for your good wishes. It was lovely yesterday, and even better today--cool and sunny. I'm enjoying every minute!

kerridowd said...

I am so glad you're OK! I guess we need to stop and just be every so often, but perhaps not like this. About four years ago, we had a major windstorm in Washington, and we were without power for five days. It was 40 degrees inside the house, and we all holed up together in one room. Makes you think about what we take for granted... Thanks for sharing this.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Kerri--Five days?! That must have been quite a challenge--and chilly! I guess you figure out how to cope, though.

Cheryl Gebhart said...

What a difference your attitude makes in how you react to something. I'm glad you didn't have any damage and that the storm wasn't any worse - and that you had at least some moments of enjoyment from it.

freebird said...

We went for days without power when we lived in Minnesota. It was winter so we didn't have to worry much about the fridge as my husband had a generator going that we'd hook up the fridge to for a while, then the stove, and then I don't remember what. It got chilly but an outage is an outage - usually.

In Lakeside, CA we went for three days and I finally called the electric company. I was the first one to call! I guess we were all assuming someone else had called in. Now I call and then watch the rain while my husband frets.

I am glad it didn't stay off for more than 10 hours for you. It does start to take a toll especially on the refrigerated items and on the people. It's certainly no wonder you couldn't enjoy that leisurely day - that only works if it's by choice.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Timaree--I think days without power in Minnesota in winter would make me worry about more than the contents of my fridge...like would we all freeze to death!

Yes, the element of choice was missing, yet when I choose to have a leisurely day, I feel guilty. I need to get it all together, don't I?