Lessons from the power outage

From 1:11am Monday, October 30th through 11:35 am November 2nd, my generator provided my house with electricity. A massive wind storm devastated many areas of Vermont, knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes.

Having a generator allowed me to cook (which I did), and even watch TV if I wanted (I didn’t). As the generator hummed along, I got work done. Then my internet service and landline went out. Though I could text and make calls using my cell phone, this was too much for me. Ninety percent of my work is done online. Once that was impossible, I tried to work offline. Then I began to obsess about when internet service would return.

I packed my bags and drove to town. Thank goodness, our local library – Lawrence Memorial – was fully functioning and open. Sitting with others seeking internet, solace, and company, I calmed down and focused on bringing “normality” to my day by working.

Still, I couldn’t help but listen to conversations among folks who came by to drop off books or seek something to read. Some had electricity and others didn’t. The outages were widespread and seemed random.

At home when I wasn’t feeling frustrated and helpless, I felt grateful that I’d invested in a generator. It had been a huge expense I hadn’t planned on but I’d already experienced a lengthy power outage and didn’t want to go through days without electricity again. More importantly, I was grateful that I’d had the money to make the purchase.

The outage reminded me of how fragile our connections are. Electricity is needed for most of the work that we do. When it is not available, we can become totally cut off from essential activities and each other.

I learned that I have the capacity to accept what is happening without feeling like a victim. I periodically contacted Green Mountain Power and Green Mountain Access for updates, making sure that I spoke with someone, and I asked them lots of questions. It took all my restraint not to resort to sarcasm and anger as I tried to glean why our area still had no power. Customer service representatives were helpful without promising anything, and they were very polite. Eventually, I put myself in their shoes: Probably hundreds of unhappy customers were calling them, many of them angry.  How difficult their jobs must have been during this time.

And when I felt really low, I texted or phoned a neighbor or friend to see how they were doing. I let them know they could shower or cook at my home should they want to do so. After all, I wasn’t the only person being inconvenienced.

Ultimately, the outage helped me to practice gratitude, patience, compassion, and kindness. It helped me to realize that I am rarely as alone and helpless as I think I am. Looked at from that perspective, it wasn’t that bad.

 

Sustaining an idea over a long piece-an Example

Ta-Nehesi Coates’s piece in the Atlantic is an example of writing that starts with a provocative premise and does much to support it. He does a fine job sustaining an argument over a very long piece. This is an excerpt from his new book, We Were Eight Years in Power. His book Between the World and Me is also one of those exemplars if you are interested in writing about provocative issues, such as race: The First White President

Keep writing!

Ruth

Joy in Creativity?

I subscribe to a couple of – okay, several – blogs.

Seth Godin’s is my favorite because he writes pithy pieces containing useful ideas. I don’t always agree with him, but I always read what he has to say.
 
In “You’ve arrived,” Seth writes:
There’s no division between the painful going and the joyous arriving. If we let it, the going can be the joyful part.
It turns out that arrival isn’t the point, it can’t be, because we spend all our time on the journey.
 
I take this to mean that going and arriving are so intimately connected, there is no point in trying to separate them. The journey is the point.
 
Where are you going in your writing or other creative expressions? Do you receive joy from the process? Or is joy suspended in anticipation of the product to come?
 
I am exploring these questions this evening.
 
What about you? Do you take joy in your creativity?
 

 

White Hot Truth: Review

Danielle LaPorte is the anti-guru guru and her latest book, White Hot Truth, fosters her primary philosophy: Go with your gut. LaPorte refutes the “Do This and Everything Will Be GREAT!” attitude that pervades the motivation industry. Instead, she exhorts us to do our homework, be discerning, trust ourselves, and create and honor our own light and wisdom, as we journey toward transformation and fulfillment.

She writes, “You think you need an architect, but you are already a temple.” We’ve heard this philosophy before from many teachers of seekers. White Hot Truth serves as a reminder, while sharing stories of the author’s shortcomings and successes. The author assumes that, on the road to finding our True Selves, most of us wonder:

What is wrong with me?
What can I do to fix me?
Which teacher or belief system will provide The Answer to my questions about life in general and my life in particular?

These questions are problematic, according to LaPorte, “Because here’s the sacred paradox: transformation begins with the radical acceptance of what is.”

In fact throughout the book, LaPorte critiques the motivation industry, urging readers to beware of poseurs, imposters, misguided teachers, and out and out dangerous folks telling people how to fix their lives (and charging lots of money to do so). She tells numerous stories about the good and the bad encountered on her truth-seeking missions. She pokes at herself as a seeker and as a motivational writer and speaker:

I’m in the make-your-life-better industry. And it is an industry. My business engine is fuelled by my many “lists” of subscribers and online followers. My social media feeds are a steady stream of #Truthbombs and how-tos. And every once in awhile, I tell ya, I get so sick of hearing myself telling everyone else what to do.

Has your coach, consultant, therapist, teacher, or guru ever said anything like that to you? What would you do if they did?

She encourages spiritual people to stop ignoring the dark. After all, how do you know there is light if there isn’t darkness? I am reminded of Ursula LeGuin’s wonderful story “Darkness Box,” in which a king traps darkness because he cannot handle what its presence will cause to happen. Ignoring or fearing the dark doesn’t make it go away. Facing what frightens (angers, frustrates, …) us can teach us what we are made of, and what skills we need to develop, and it can bring us into the company of others who will journey with us.

There is darkness and negativity that needs to be faced and dealt with from the micro to the macro levels of society. And I want an army of warrior angels to have my back and to be prepared to slay. I want to see depravity where it is, keep an eye on it, and then deliberately choose to work for the Light with every single thought and deed. Every day.

I could quote passages from every chapter that are wonderful, irritating, or wise and they would all come down to this: Don’t bow down to Danielle LaPorte’s – or anyone’s – ideas. Wrestle with and learn from multiple concepts, and incorporate them into your own developing wisdom.

I wanted to hear more from LaPorte about the class dynamics in the motivational movement. Paying tens of thousands of dollars to a coach or traveling to another country for a spiritual retreat isn’t possible for everyone. A weekly yoga class will help someone gain physical and emotional strength only if they have the money to partake of what’s on offer. LaPorte asks “How can we turn these blessings into the basics for everyone?” Because she explored other topics in great depth, I expected a more profound analysis of the motivational / spirituality movement. Instead, she skimmed the surface.

I disagreed with much that she said in the chapter on suffering, particularly the piece about Soul: “I believe that, from the Soul level, we choose our pain.” She eventually acknowledges that it is unreasonable to think that people bring on some of the terrible things that happen to them. However, she highlights exceptional individuals as examples of how folks grew through their suffering: Elie Wiesel and Nelson Mandela are two. I found that section particularly troubling and wrote this note to myself:

And yet, Danielle, it seems awfully “coincidental” that those who are in these extreme situations seem to always fall into particular categories: groups ostracized and killed because of their race or ethnicity or gender. On this planet during this time, these horrors far too often happen to the dark-skinned, the poor, to women and children. So have these folks made a group soul contract, to suffer?

LaPorte does critique the abundance manifestation mentality, noting that a person’s lack is not necessarily because they don’t want something badly enough; it’s because there are some who have far too much: “There is enough pie for everybody on the planet, but there are a lot of pigs eating too much pie.”

If you are looking for The Answer, White Hot Truth is probably not your kind of book. Danielle LaPorte is not your guru; you are. There are a lot of questions in this book, as there are in life, and they are integral to the journey toward transformation and acceptance. If, however, you want to read a loving missive from one seeker to another, pick up White Hot Truth.

Moments of Gratitude

I love the light and the dark.

This time of year lends itself to contemplation. There are fewer daylight hours. It is cold. Life slows down, giving you time to appreciate the simple things.

Yesterday, I stopped writing midsentence and dashed outside because the sun was shining so brilliantly.
A few nights ago, I was drawn to go onto the deck, to stare at the moon, the stars, the stark, leafless trees and the shadows they made on the land.

I am grateful for sunshine and moonlit nights and the long periods of velvet darkness that lead to self-reflection.