Finding balance in a chaotic world

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Blackout

CandlesSo picture this, early on a Monday morning in the dead of winter, I hear a loud crack outside our window. I get up to look out and see that an ice storm has passed through during the night, not unusual in Oklahoma. The ice has so thoroughly coated my neighbor’s tree in his back yard that limbs are starting crack off of it. I dully hope that none hit my fence and go back to sleep for another 30 minutes before I have to get up and get ready for work. During that 30 minutes, I keep hearing the sound of cracking wood all across the neighborhood. You know how amplified sound seems when there is snow or ice floating in the sky? Add to the sound of wood giving way and you have a pretty surreal moment while you are shaving.

Luckily for our house, we only have one tree in our front yard and it isn’t too big, so I’m not concerned about damage to the house and I just continue on with my morning rituals. Right as I’m brushing my teeth and getting ready to head out the door, the power in the house goes out. Not entirely unexpected and I’ve pretty much finished everything I needed to do so off to work I head. The roads are suprising clear, but everywhere I look, I see tree limbs on the ground. It looks like a bomb went off all around the neighborhood. Throughout the day I talk to my wife, the power is still not on in the house and now her parent’s have lost their power. It becomes rapidly apparent that this is no ordinary ice storm. It is one of the hardest hitting storms in the city’s history, at least in regards to damage to trees and powerlines. At the height of it, over half the people in the Tulsa metro area (with a population of 500,000+) will be without power.

Quick calls to the various hotels around town reveal that all of the rooms are booked up or the hotel is out of power. So we decide to head out and stay the night at my in-laws house. The kids would have a lot of fun doing it and they are slightly better prepared than we are to sleep at night in the winter with no heat. First though, we need some food, so all of us pile in the Suburban and look for an open restaurant. Now the way the power went out was pretty strange. There were pockets of the city that had power here and there. One of those pockets happened to have a handful of restaurants, so we ended up at a pizza place. The wait was amazingly long and they only were serving pizza. By 6:30 PM they had closed themselves from new people coming in because they could barely keep up with the demand.

Full of pizza, we headed back to the in-laws house, lit some candles, and got out extra blankets for the beds. The kids were having a ball through the hole thing. They loved walking through the candle-lit house and just embracing the uniqueness of it all. I, on the other hand, just wanted the power to come back on and get back to a sense of normalcy.

Around 10:30 that night, my in-laws power came back on, keeping us from freezing during the night. My spirits were raised and I couldn’t wait to get up and head back to our house and normalcy. Unfortunately, the power was still off at the house. Still the hot water heater was gas and was working fine, so I took a shower in the dark. I had a cold breakfast and headed off to work.

For the next 4 days, I repeated the exact same process, each time hoping that this would be the morning we owuld have power. I watched the temperature in the house slowly go down each day until it hit the low 50s. Yet still I showered at the house and changed clothes. I actually looked forward to going to work because they had power and internet and I could get back into a routine. Poor Amy had to deal with staying at her parent’s house and the kids the whole week. The kids, continued to have a blast and hoped the “‘lectricity” would never come on.

By the second day, I was drained emotionally and physically. I was out of my element, there was no telling when our power would be back on, our one tree peeled like a banana, and my in-laws cable was out (ironically thanks to our satellite, if we had power we would have had TV). I was going to bed by 9:00 each night from exhaustion. I wasn’t despairing, because I knew that the power would come back eventually, but I was definately feeling opressed. I knew we had it good compared to some people. Heck, my friend Mike and his wife had just had a baby a couple of months before. They were shuffling from house to house as power came and went. It was almost a month before they finally returned to their house. And still the kids loved it.

The Friday when the power came back on was one of the happiest in my life. I got the heat going, collected the candles from around the house, and started to return the house back to normal. Amy and I had gotten into the habit of just leaving things where they lay since the house was dark most of the time we were there. Now we had to pick things up and get back to normal. We had transeferred and unbelievable amount of stuff over to my in-laws to keep the kids entertained and it took a couple of trips to finally bring it all back home. The kids were sad that the campout at Grandma’s had to end. It was the first time all week they were sad.

I find myself pondering what that experience taught me. On a practical side, we could have survived fairly well without our in-laws, if necessary, however we did not have very much cash on hand. This could have become problematic so I’ve decided to keep a stash of cash readily available just in case. Can’t use a debit card if there is no power. Emotionally though I feel that I failed somewhat. Well not really failed, since this was a new experience I was able to take away from it some important lessons. Unfortunately for me, the lesson was right there every day and I did not notice it until my life returned to normal.

Through the entire ordeal, my wonderful kids kept balance. At no point were we in any danger and truly we were only mildly inconvieneced. I was too busy wishing for what I had and missed the ability to appreciate what was currently available. This is a very common failing of mine and something I will continue to attempt to correct. Stress often comes from unrealistic expectations, such as the fact that my power should be on RIGHT NOW. Instead of setting these unrealistic expectations, I need to isntead enjoy the experiences that are right in front of me. I feel mastering this skill will lower my stress levels immensly and help me lead a more balanced life.