Everyday adventures

Be Careful What You Wish For

April 01, 2011

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.