“Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control.” ― Jack Kornfield
This blog was written one day after losing power at my house. That day was only the beginning. I’ve lived most of my life in much colder climates, but I’ve never experienced anything like what happened last week. And, with this blog, I don’t mean to downplay the pain that many went through during the rest of the week. There were lives lost, as some people died from hypothermia and others from carbon monoxide poisoning due to their efforts to stay warm. By day #2, the temperature in our house had dipped down to about 40 degrees and it became impossible to stay here. The roads had previously been too dangerous to drive any distance. But, at that point, after trucks had been driving on them, packing down the snow, we decided that it would be worth the risk to drive, as the alternative of staying in the house no longer seemed feasible. I am immensely grateful that we were lucky enough to have family that were not too far to drive and where the power and heat had been turned back on. They did not have water, so we brought bottles of drinking water we had at home and snow was boiled for all other water usages.
Many suffered damage to their houses from burst water pipes. We were, again, lucky that this did not happen to our house. Having said all of this, being able to surrender to “what is” does not mean giving up. It was, in fact, what helped us to have the wherewithal to figure out what was happening, what we needed to do, and when we needed to do it. The Gratitude that came from this experience goes deeper than what I described below, on that first day. To not give full attention to it, after such an experience would be to miss one of the most important lessons of this experience, and a valuable opportunity to find the light in the darkness.
Shivering in the Dark on Day #1
As I write this on February 15, 2021, it’s now been over 27 hours since our power went out. Not only has there been no electricity or internet, but also there has been no heat or ability to cook. Normally, in Texas, that would be an annoyance but not a very big deal. But the world has gone haywire, and 2021 has been extension of the bizarre 2020. We are having colder weather here in Central Texas than my friends and family up in New York State. The temperature dipped down to 9 degrees during the night outside; while inside the house, we were greeted by temperatures in the low 50s and possibly high 40s. To make matters worse, we woke up to 9 inches of snow on top of treacherous ice. A three-hour reprieve of power (and heat) lulled me into a peaceful sleep, confidently believing that all was well, only to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to a freezing cold house once again.
The second day of our emergency, I sat in a spot of sun by the backdoor for hours, following the warmth like a snoozing cat. During that time, I read by the light of the sun, looked out at the winter wonderland and the birds snacking on the birdseed put out for them by my partner, from whom they’ve come to expect their daily meals.
Then, I meditated and tried to find my center.
What am I feeling? I asked myself. Miserable, I responded.
And so, I sat with that, paying attention to my misery. Mostly, it consisted of fear that the power outage could go on for a long time, making it more and more difficult to function. This was somewhat of a realistic fear, but not completely. I knew there would be an end to freezing inside my own home, even if it was not as soon as I wanted. I was confident that we would get through it, even if it meant several more days of cold meals, layers of clothing, and lots of blankets.
Then a shift began. I thought about what I was grateful for. The spot of warm sunlight, the beautiful winter scene that I rarely get to see in Texas, the beautiful birds, the red cardinal that kept coming back, and that I have food and shelter…and the needed layers of clothes and blankets.
I also noticed that I was feeling that I should be working. I had planned that this would be my writing day. But that seemed impossible. My brain was foggy, as icicles formed everywhere in my mind and body. Creativity was nowhere to be found. And so, I continued meditating in the sun, warming myself and giving myself permission to feel miserable, to rest, to be OK with knowing that the energy expelled to keep warm was quite enough, and I didn’t need to add to it.
And then I remembered my last blog, Finding Grace in Flexibility. I wrote that blog about being flexible in the face of obstacles. Okay, okay, but really? This?
This thought led me to remember the title of a book by Peter Cameraon, Some Day This Pain
Will Be Useful to You, which I mentioned in that blog. I hung the words of that title above my desk a few weeks ago and promised myself that I would continue to remind myself of the message whenever I felt challenged. Maybe, I thought, today was a day to really learn about completely surrendering to what is. I have no power over the frigid weather or the electricity. I also have no power over the fact that the roads are too treacherous to drive far and all of the nearby hotels with power are already booked.
Later in the day, I dined on what felt like a cold post-apocalyptic dinner. It was lovingly put together with careful thought by my partner. (Seriously, who else can make a cold dinner on a cold night in a cold dining room taste so good). We ate by the dim light of the lanterns that he had stockpiled. Later, I huddled in bed with five blankets and multiple layers of clothing, typing by the light of my laptop. There were several tea lights throughout the room, both, to give light and a tiny bit of heat. They also offered the room a soothing glow.
A surge of the creative energy I was looking for earlier appeared. I suddenly felt the urge to write because I realized that I needed to put into words the lesson of that moment. I didn’t want to forget. I wanted to remember to surrender to what is because to do anything other is to create misery for myself in what was already a challenging situation. I had no other choice if I wanted to continue on my path.
Life is full of challenges, some greater and more unexpected than others. This challenge was certainly unexpected. Texas has never had a winter storm like this on record. And this situation could continue for several more days. If I want to have more passion and meaning in my life, if I want to be present for every moment of my life, then I can’t ignore the more difficult times. I need to remember that fighting off something that I have no weapons to fight is in vain. I need to be present with how I feel, but also surrender to what is, even if my teeth are chattering. And I want to make today’s pain useful to me once the heat comes back on by remembering this lesson of surrender.
And so, I accept what is.
I’m cold. It’s dark. I can’t go anywhere. But I have gratitude for what I have and who I have around me, both, next to me and far away, the people who warm me with love and support. I’m grateful that I’m still able to appreciate the frozen beauty outside the window, even when I’m feeling cold. I’m grateful that I can appreciate the light of the sun warming me when it shines through the window. And I’m grateful that I can laugh even when it hurts.
“Look at this situation,” my partner and I said as we laughed while eating our cold food in the cold room, my shoulders tight from bracing against the frosty situation for much of the day. “Would you have ever imagined this? This is like a scene from the Book of Eli,” I quipped.
We are where we are at any given moment. It’s as simple as that. Some moments are joyful, comfortable, and fun. In other moments, we have a space where not much appears to be happening. And then, there are moments of great challenge that we have to find some way through. It’s these latter situations that bring about the lessons for creating more joy in our lives. We do that by accepting that we may not have control of the situation, but we can decide our response to it. And, mostly, we can be kind to ourselves in the midst of the challenge.
We made it through the snowpocalypse and it’s been a week since we’ve been back in our warm house with running water, the temperatures outside are hovering in the 70’s. It’s almost like last week was a dream. Yet, many are still without water and have had damage to their homes. The shelves of the stores are not fully stocked. And some have lost their loves ones. Between the pandemic and this strange weather event, there are many who could use some help. I urge readers who can to donate however you can. One such place to donate is the Central Texas Food Bank.
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