Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Brightness in the Snowtober Power Outages

“Snowtober” really threw a curve ball at much of the North East this past weekend, dumping an uncharacteristic amount of heavy, wet snow on much of the region.  I, along with 649,999 other Massachusetts residents have been without power for 60+ hours and, according to current restoration estimates, we may only be halfway through this ordeal.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had a minor meltdown here and there during this trying time.  Like when the power initially went out right at halftime of the Penn State/Illinois game (Snowtober hates college football apparently).  Or how the street behind me didn’t lose power for a second and I’m pretty sure they’re leaving the lights on in every room of their houses just to taunt the rest of the neighborhood.  Or like when you get chicken and whatever veggies are left in the fridge ready to throw on the grill for dinner, only to find the propane tank is empty.  Or even when you have to venture into the basement by yourself armed with only a small flashlight and something reminiscent of Infantata from American Horror Story darts from one corner of the room to the other and nearly makes you crap your pants.  It was there, I swear.

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Ok, so I’ve had several meltdowns since Saturday at 5pm.  Many of us are stressed and frustrated to the max.  My best way to cope is to think of a saying I once heard:  “Everything you need, you already have.”  Meaning, I should be benefiting from this situation in some way instead of focusing on what I am without.  I’ve settled on three important lessons.

1.  Take time to de-clutter. Everyone has a seemingly never-ending "to do" list tucked away in the back of their mind.  It's full of little projects that continually get pushed on the back burner in lieu of more urgent items.  I literally spent all morning Sunday wandering around the house looking for these projects. I straightened up the whole house, sorted a mile-high stack of mail, organized a dozen new recipe cards in my recipe binder, and caught up on some fitness podcasts patiently waiting in my iPod.  It felt good to write mental check marks next to these.  It’s not that these tasks were overly taxing or complex. In fact, it’s just the opposite. They're always the bridesmaid, never the bride.  However, their mere presence in your environment or mind is like a thickening fog.  It clouds your vision and slows you down.  You have to navigate through it first in order to get to the higher priority tasks.  Imagine how effective you’d be if you took just 30 minutes a week to complete a couple back burner projects and paved the way for the things at the top of your "to do" list.

2.  Connect with loved ones. With the amount of technology available at our fingertips, it seems smart phones and DVR's get more attention than our closest relationships.  When was the last time you can honestly say you gave someone 100% of your attention?  My husband and I spent one evening playing card games by candlelight.  We laughed the whole time, activated parts of our brain that hadn’t been used in awhile, and then upped the stakes by turning each game into “Ultimate [insert random card game]” when one of us felt the other’s win was a fluke.  We didn't think about anything else because, well, we couldn't.  We were shut off from the rest of the world.  I also spent two evenings in a row at my in-laws for dinner, something that can have several week gaps in between occurrences.  We shouldn’t be forced into this quality time because technology isn’t available at the moment to entertain us.  It should be the exact opposite.

3.  Appreciation of the little things.  When you don't have those distractions or electricity-fueled sources of entertainment, it allows you to savor the smaller things in life.  Like how the bathroom is transformed into a spa from all the candlelight.  Or indulging in your first pumpkin spice coffee of the season.  Marveling at the unusual combination of bright blue skies, autumn leaves, and snow-covered surfaces.  It makes you stop and take a breath.  It reminds you that you are a small being in a big world, which we could use every so often.

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Maybe we should implement a faux power outage once a week.  Some time to slow down from the craziness of life to clear our minds.   Straighten up around the house, play a game with your favorite people, or light candles in the bathroom when you take a shower.  When your mind is in a good place, everything else will soon follow. 

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