Friday, September 09, 2011

Clarity in the Dark by Robin Gorman Newman

Like many, we lost power due to Hurricane Irene last week.

Unlike not so many I know, we lost it for seven, nearly full days, but who's counting?!

Most I personally know lost it for a few hours or days.

Nothing prepares you for this.  We returned from vacation just the day before, as planned, knowing we were coming home to a less than stellar situation, but we had to secure the house.  We lost power in the past, and tend to be prone to it, given all the trees in my neighborhood (that add much beauty, but wreak havoc during storms),  But, 7 days broke our record and exceeded the timeframe LIPA (our power company) stated.  Had we had some realistic sense, we would have taken action like giving away our food, instead of seeing it go to waste.

Despite our supply of flashlights, push button lights, book lights and a lattern, the situation remained challenging.  No hot water.  No cooking.  No air conditioning.  No electric garage.  No internet.  No television. No house alarm.  No door bell. No charging a cell phone. When you think of lack of power, lights readily come to mind, but so much more is involved. 

I had planned to get certain things done.  It was the last week before school, and I was counting on playing catch-up from our time away, with an eye toward easing Seth into third grade.

Irene had another plan...and as my beloved mom used to say, may she rest in peace, "we make our plans, and G-d makes his."   Amen to that.  Sometimes a situation is way bigger than us, despite our desire for some semblance of control, and ultimately it's how you choose to react to it.

While it often felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, valuable life lessons and positive experiences emerged.  I'd like to share...

*Don't be afraid to ask overtly for help.  One of my close local friends had her husband pick us up the first night of the blackout so that we could eat with them and be in comfort.  It was SO hugely appreciated.

*Not everyone handles things the same. A friend or two said to me, if it's so stressful, why not leave?  Since they hadn't picked up the phone to actually talk to me, they couldn't fully appreciate how I was feeling and why we didn't want to leave, i.e. my bird was home with us in a rather large cage, my hormones were raging (that time of the month), our house alarm didn't work (we were concerned about theft), we couldn't lock one of the garage doors we had opened manually (also theft concern), etc. Until you live in someone else's shoes, you might not fully grasp their take on things.  Certainly if it had been scorchingly hot at night and we were unable to sleep, I would have looked for shelter elsewhere.  I've never been one to simply flee a situation, unless I have no choice.

*You can't always just put a "band-aid" on a situation.  We are aware that getting a generator is something to explore, but it's not an easy, affordable or overnight decision.

*Television and technology can take a toll.  While I know I spend much time with both, taking this forced hiatus made me realize how freeing it is to give yourself a break. Initially I felt like I was having withdrawal, but after some time, I grew more accepting and valued the quiet. Thankfully, I did have a Blakcberry, that helped me to feel connected.

Aside from the insight I gained, I treasured the time with my son Seth.  He was such a trooper.  By day, we kept busy, seeing friends, buying batteries, driving around to charge my cell phone and his DVD player.  But, it felt like the two of us (my husband Marc was working) against the elements.  By night, after we ate out dinner (despite a night dining by flashlight....not big on candles with a child), we'd snuggle in bed and watch a DVD.  He slept with me, since he's afraid of the dark, and Marc slept in his bed.  Granted I didn't often sleep well since he's restless and kicks or pokes, but it was worth it.

One day, Seth made a really poignant comment.  He was eating ice cream and we talked about how fast it was melting.   He said that "time melts away too."  I asked what he meant.  And, he said he didn't want to get big too fast.  I asked why.  And, he explained he wanted to play with his toys for a long time.  It was such a tender moment, as I realized that while part of me hoped the time would pass quickly so we'd soon regain our power, I've never liked the notion of wishing time away.  My son is already 8, and third grade started this Tuesday.  He's becoming a big boy before my eye, and even though I felt "powerless" with the lack of power, we have the power to control our thoughts, and what we choose to focus on, and relish the memories we create.

I will always remember Seth and the hugs we exchanged in the darkness, when his little arms reached out for me as his protector.  And, while he didn't know it, he was a source of strength for me as well.  There was one day, when I felt so particularly drained, that I was on the verge of tears.  Because of Seth, I fought them back.  While he has seen me cry before, in this situation, I wanted to be a rock for him.

While we couldn't see each other fully at night in the dark house, our hearts were together, as I hope they will always be as the years drift by.

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