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.

 

Writing Tip: Reduce to Revise

Revising an essay? Try this:

Underline the most significant sentence in each paragraph, one that evokes that section’s central meaning.

Or pick the sentence that is the most striking (in terms of imagery or ideas; you decide).

In a separate document, write the chosen sentences in order, creating paragraphs as (or if) needed.

This new piece is stark, with all the frills stripped away.

Now that you have the essence of your narrative, you can re-introduce passages that are absolutely necessary. Or, maybe this version is exactly what you were getting at all along!

In a five-minute freewrite, reflect on what emerged for you as you chose the sentences or read the stripped-down version of your original piece.

This exercise can be helpful when revising fiction or poetry, as well. 

Keep writing!

Listen

Taking into consideration Trump’s cabinet and advisers and understanding the direction in which our country is going, you might think that this is a time in which people of color, poor people, women, just about anyone except rich white males, have been silenced. And let’s face it, while there are many people protesting through demonstrations, letters, phone calls, blogs, etc., there are people who are afraid enough to be silent, and for good reason.

Consider this: Folks don’t try to shut you up, or shut you down, unless they are afraid of the power of your words.

No matter what your particular stance on the current situations, it is unlikely that you are neutral. These days, anger, frustration, fear, and even despair frequently permeate dialogues, blogs, poetry, fiction, essays, music and other forms of expressions. Whatever your viewpoint and whatever your artistic form, remember that your words have power.

Speak your truth. Know that others are speaking theirs. Listen.

Keep writing!

Ruth

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Register for my upcoming course, Joyful Inquiry, at this link.

Ready to work with a coach or editor to finally finish that book? Contact me at 802-377-3001 or rfarmer@gmavt.net.

Embracing the snow

The snow is hip deep around my house. It started falling at eight o’clock on Tuesday and didn’t stop until Wednesday evening. On Tuesday I shoveled my deck and around my doors twice. The driveway was plowed twice. Within a few hours, the snow had barricaded the doors again. The deck looked as smooth and white as if I’d done nothing. The driveway was almost completely filled in.

I moved from wonder to frustration to despair to irritation when I woke up on Wednesday morning and witnessed even bigger flakes falling, saw the smooth undisturbed landscape. The snow had gently resisted human attempts to combat its quiet relentless power.

I adjusted my Wednesday morning ritual:
Meditated on flakes falling.
Gave thanks that I didn’t have to leave my house.
Sent prayers out to those who had to venture out.
Snowshoed around my house and on my deck, while shoveling here and there (no hope of really clearing anything).

The relentless snow reminded that there are things beyond my control. Embracing its presence, I finally felt a sense of peace.

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.

New Perspective

As I was driving from town to my home, I saw the houses, streets, landscape in a different light. I didn’t recognize the house where I buy gladioli throughout the summer. Without the table and colorful cut flowers perched in front, the place looked abandoned.

Looking up as I continued my drive, I noticed the multicolored mountains capped by a strip of clear blue and nestled by a blanket of gray cotton.

There is a green house behind the local school that I’d never seen before. It is accessed by a private lane, like so many houses in this area, including mine.

The luscious leaves that come in spring and delight in summer, and the brilliant golds and yellows of fall are so beautiful they blot out everything else. Sometimes I want to freeze the moment, forestall the cold white that is inevitable.

Today, rather than seeing fall as a prelude to winter, I notice what is revealed after the leaves have floated away. The land is new.

Look up. Look around. Notice what you’ve not noticed before.