I lost power five days ago.
Which is to say I was without electricity for five days. A result of the first winter storm of the season that brought 7-8" of heavy, wet snow and ice.
Evergreens genuflect in deference to the weight and might of it all. (Is it acceptance?) Hardwoods, however, tend to resist. (Defiance?) They put up a fight. Often a dry crack and thud result. Limbs or entire trees come slamming down. Power Lines, however, are agnostic as to whether they are taken to the ground by an Evergreen or a Hardwood. They just fall. And when they do, I can only imagine the dashboards and control panels and phone lines at power stations chaotically lighting up at the exact moment that, for those of us on the grid, lights go down.
There I was without electricity. Without power.
Confusion, hope, denial, mild panic, anxiety and "where are my flashlights and glow sticks?!" shoot through the mind in .0008 seconds. Alas, several seconds beget several minutes which beget a few hours. In those first hours, I had no idea I was only one of a quarter-million people without electricity. Without power.
Those quarter-million people and I are connected. One, maybe two degrees of separation at most. We're a family of sorts, connected by a series of grids. And we were all powerless.
I operated laptops on battery power, alerting anyone at work that I may not be counted on for much longer. I took advantage of the daylight in the sun room and read and re-read the same page, distracted by hope and anxiety as they ping-pong'd in my brain. I marveled at nature's snowscapes, unnecessarily using the phone's battery power by taking and posting pics to social media. Then, with impending darkness and temperatures forecasted to drop into the teens, it was time to suck it up.
There are times for dogged determination and self-reliance. But a night of 17-degree temps without power is not one of them. So I headed to my parents' house. They live 20 minutes from me. They had power.
As I drove to my parents' place with a couple pairs of sweatpants, two long-sleeve shirts and a couple hoodies, I had no idea that I would be without power for five days. And this is where the Unintended Positives began to kick in.
I got to have a week of concentrated time with my parents in a no-agenda environment. I mean, usually for most people that concentrated timeframe is over the holidays. Or at the beach. Or on a cruise. Those environments have inherent pressure, agendas and expectations. None of that exists in a hunker-down situation.
My parents and I talked in-depth about their respective health issues and we reviewed a lot of necessary details that we had previously put off to "we'll talk about this someday soon."
My parents and I talked about Life on Life's Terms. We had deep, open and honest and authentic conversations about some not-so-pleasant things. Conversations, frankly, that we wouldn't have had without these concentrated days in a no-agenda environment.
I learned things about my parents. I've known them 58 years and have heard many of their stories. But I learned things this week about their history. About our history.
I laughed with my parents. I mean really laughed. Guffaw laughs. How often have I had the chance to do that?
I observed how they work as a team, as a unit -- yes, of course, sometimes picking at each other, but they operate with total respect and as a team.
I slept. Hard. All week. Maybe it's because my parents' guest room is like a cave. Maybe it's the bed. I don't know. But for someone who has had sleep issues for years, this was a week of REM.
I proved something to myself. I stuck with my newly established routines, even though the New Year had started off in a kind of funky way.
I was able to practice gratitude. It was immediately clear to me that I have the fortune of a lottery winner. How many of my quarter-million brethren and sisthren had a place to go? And if they did have a place to go, was it a hotel? How many pets and livestock needed to be cared for, thus limiting the options for their owners as to where they could go?
As with all things, I tried to see the power-outage as a metaphor in my life. For my life. I got to ask myself questions, such as "When is it smart to be an Evergreen in a Storm? When is it honorable and smart to be a Hardwood? When do I just need to let go and ask for help?" I re-realized the power of Gratitude. And I know that even as the word "Gratitude" is read, many see it and roll their eyes. I get it, trust me. I'm a Recovering Cynic myself.
Whether in Storm or Pandemic or Divorce or Job-Loss or other, there are many without power. Whether the power was lost because a tree fell across a line, or because we get unplugged by depression, please know that crews are on the scene. Whether we're talking about Hardwoods and Evergreens or political parties, please understand we're all part of the same ecosystem. We're connected. We're on the grid together. We're in the same forest.
I'm home now after five days at my parents' place. My home office window overlooks the woods out back. I have a small row of Evergreens down below. The same ones that bowed in deference to the weight are now working their way back up. A couple of them aren't all the way back up quite yet, but I can literally see their trajectory -- and it's our trajectory that is more important than our current position.
I lost power five days ago.
But I started regaining power the moment I started seeing the Unintended Positives in the Storm. And that was long before the clock on my microwave started flashing again..