Powerless! The Unsettling Effects of Power Outage
Dear Nicholas, The power came back on at my house 36 hours after the start of the weekend winter storm. Now I feel like a complete person again. It was only a day and a half– hardly a blip. But effects of power outage are a psychic shock, much more than simply a sudden inconvenience. It shouldn’t be such a big deal, but it is.
These few hours without heat, water, dishwasher, or properly frozen popsicles should not have felt undermining. For one thing, I recently weathered nine days without electricity during Hurricane Florence and several more days during Hurricane Michael a few weeks later. (Maybe outage fatigue is the problem.)
It’s ridiculous that continuous electricity should be so important. I feel rather entitled in feeling I have to have it.
When the house goes dark, I feel suddenly struck by a batch of disabilities.
I can’t do what I’m used to doing. The power outage feels like a physical insult. like suddenly needing to manage with one eye or one leg. And there’s no telling when power will return.
Because Bob and I live in the country and have well water, the pump ceases when the power goes off, so no bathing or flushing; instead piles of dirty dishes on the counter, etc. Also, we’re on a dirt road off a dirt road. These two-rut passages are winding and hilly and undriveable when there’s ice.
We have a fireplace and a lot of dry wood and we kept a hot fire going. We could view the experience as a cozy rustic mini-vacation, and forget about longing for electricity.
I did enjoy the fireside experience, but it was hard to stop thinking: WHEN WILL THE POWER COME BACK?!!!
It’s not knowing how long the situation will go on that’s most aggravating, most unnerving. It’s a matter I have absolutely no control over. And without it I feel incomplete. I don’t know how the temporary household loss can have such a strong effect.
Can’t Do Some Things, So…
Won’t Do Anything
I could have done some chores by flashlight–like logging my business expenses for all of 2018. But no. I didn’t. Instead I let myself be paralyzed by darkness, unable to do anything but lie by the fire and read by flashlight and eat peanut butter out of the jar–and ask myself how long this situation was going to go on.
I could have done my physical therapy exercises just as easily in the dark. But I didn’t bother. After all, this was a special occasion, my excuse for any lapse.
Lapse of Familiar Disciplines
Obviously, when there’s no electricity, one should be free to eat any food in any quantity.
A box of melting popsicles? Must Eat Fast! And of course, the reward for dealing with any difficulty, a Cherry Coke.
When The Lights Go On, I’ll Be a Different Person
In the dark, I have so many good resolutions: clean up the kitchen, restore order. It’ll be fun.
That changes quickly.
Now the power’s back. The hunger I felt in the dark to straighten and clean–while it was safely impossible–has ebbed dramatically.
When Power Outages Are Routine
There were many many power outages in the three months I spent in India researching Sister India. Breaks in the power in that time and place were normal, part of the deal. Typing on a manual typewriter at night by candlelight felt almost romantic, a bit adventurous, very Hemingway.
That’s not how I view the inconvenience at home, where I have routines and more responsibilities.
Tricks to Coping
What would help is:
*to put aside the sense of waiting
*to relish the fun parts
*maybe remember I still have some power to act, choose, and control even without overhead lighting
*think of the Puerto Ricans who went ten months without power after a storm
Our Carlo has no problems enjoying a power outage. I think I should follow his fine example.
Am I the only one who feels semi-dismantled by “powerlessness”? Perhaps less focus on “doing” would make the difference?
Tags: complete person, cozy rustic, flashlight, how long, Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael, inconvenience, India, lapse, lie by the fire, no control, outages are routine, paralyzed by darkness, power came back on, power is back, power outage, power to act, powerless, psychic shock, sense of waiting, Sister India, winter storm