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Chop Wood, Carry Water

Learning a few good lessons from a loss of power.

You can learn something new about yourself constantly, if you pay attention. I thought I was a tough mama. I thought breaking up a sibling fight before bloodshed, mastering the laundry pile, interpreting toddler speak and balancing work with a smile on my face established me as a superhero. I figured I could handle anything.

Following hurricane Irene, I discovered something. I’m a spoiled brat. Take away my power — my computer, light, flushing toilets, a daily shower, the ability to vacuum — and I throw a diva-sized fit.  

I was relaxed when the power went out on Sunday. We were prepared. A tree fell in our front yard, but it did so quiet nicely. I still had cell service. I could still access the outside world. Slowly, slowly, as the days dragged by, my attitude went downhill.

We lost cell service. Repair trucks were nowhere to be found. I was tired of eating barbequed food and take-out.  My “” was turning to a whiney mess.

I reached my limit on Thursday. I turned off of RT 133 onto Obtuse South to see a caravan of trucks — clearly repair trucks — heading away from our neighborhood. The kids were cheering, assuming the trucks has finished restoring our power and were moving on. I told them not to get their hopes up, though I was secretly hopeful. When we arrived on our street I moaned out loud at the unmistakeable sound of our neighbor’s generators.

Twenty minutes later, I had the car packed. An hour later, at my mother’s house, I heard that we were finally scheduled to get power back. .

Rage. Rage. More Rage.

See, I’m a spoiled brat. I didn’t want to hear CL&P’s excuses. They weren’t prepared this time. Come to think of it, . I wanted them to shut up and get a move on.

Maybe they heard my screams all the way from New York. That night, I was informed by a good neighbor via Facebook and simultaneously that power had returned to our little spot of heaven.

Joy has returned. It is so easy to have a good attitude when you have internet access and running water. Still, the trials of this week have taught me a few things.

  • I cannot cook pancakes on a camping stove. Brewing coffee is as far as I go.
  • I cannot wield a chainsaw and I don’t look cute trying.
  • Carrying water from the brook in the back yard to the bathroom to flush the toilet (it requires three trips per flush) is man’s work. It may sound sexist. I don’t care. Sure, I can do it. I don’t want to do it. Chop the wood, guys. Carry the water. Kill the bugs. Change the oil in my car while you’re at it, please.
  • I typically pretend to not like routines of any kind. I actually love them. I can’t wait to get back to my normal routine. 

I have not been fully enlightened by this experience. I haven’t reached a state of clarity over which is worse during a blackout — the stench from the refrigerator or the bathroom. I still feel a bit of rage when I think of CL&P. I have yet to make peace with myself over the junk food consumed out of necessity. And I cannot figure out why it looks like Irene hit the inside of my house.

At least I can genuinely smile now, late into the night, with sufficient light to see myself clearly. Taking away my power may have brought me to tears, but I am so very thankful to have it back.

Amy Landisman September 03, 2011 at 12:32 PM
A babbling maniac is exactly what I turned into! Thank you for keeping me updated on Facebook. :) Taking water from the brook was Dave's idea. I never would have thought of it in my panicked state!
Amy Landisman September 03, 2011 at 12:35 PM
Thank you, Carol. I tried to tough it out, really, I did! I hope you and yours are powered up and doing well! :)
Susan Ludwig September 03, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Loved this column Amy. Camping is fun when you choose to do it, not so much when it's forced on you. Glad you didn't have to wait until next Thursday for your power to be restored.
Amy Landisman September 03, 2011 at 05:00 PM
Thanks Susan! I agree it can be fun when it isn't forced on you. This week was tough also because of the other things we were supposed to be doing - school, work, etc...
Steven DeVaux September 03, 2011 at 05:07 PM
Can you imagine if we went to gas rationing like in 73-74 and 78-79?! Wow.

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