For the second time in 2010, this week the people of the Washington, DC-area have had to cope with some major power outages. This time we're not battling the snow and ice, piling on layers and layers of clothes to stay warm; this time we're sweating it out, learning how to cope with extremely high temperatures and no air conditioning. I'll admit, it's been pretty unpleasant, but I'm taking this as another great lesson from Mother Nature, teaching us who have so many comforts in our lives to be grateful. There are so many things I constantly find myself taking for granted. Things like lights and air conditioning and a solid internet connection. And television. God, I never like to think of myself as a TV watcher (I'm much more of a book-reader, I swear), but life without the sound of the television and some of those beloved characters can be pretty rough.
When I'm sitting in my oven-hot apartment and I start to think about the lack of power (and the uncertainty of when it will come back on again), my mind bubbles with annoyance and irritation. I ask questions that I want answers to: When will the power be back on? Why must it be so hot? How can I possibly survive an entire evening without my computer? And what am I to do with myself when the sun sets? Without lights and television, what can I possibly do to entertain myself? My mind is racing and I find negativity creeping in stealthily from every corner. I remind myself of the blackout that took place during the cold, bleak month of February and I force myself to see the reasons why this blackout is better. And yet... frustration overrides all rationalization and I find myself slumped on the floor, back against the couch, complaining about the heat and the lack of constant mental stimulation. I'm bored. I'm hot. I'm irritable.
After finding ways to pass the time that first night (thank god for my iPad, episodes of Modern Family, warm enough weather to walk Bella and witness a beautiful sunset I probably otherwise would have missed, and a boyfriend who's willing to unfold the Scrabble board and pass the time crafting words and tallying points with me), and making it through that first fitful night of sleep without air conditioning, without a fan, and with the consistent panting coming from the overheated dog, I woke to a new day -- a day without power, but a new day nonetheless. And, without warning, I felt an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. Sure, I was drenched in sweat and had no idea how I was going to ready myself for the day in my pitch black bathroom, but I was happy. I realized just how lucky I was to actually have all of these electricity-drive amenities. Even though I might not have had them at the moment, I was incredibly thankful to know that, generally speaking, I have all of the conveniences a privileged life has to offer... I am grateful to have these things, even now, when they are starting to seem like a distant and wonderful dream.
. . . I am grateful to have lights that allow me to enjoy my time and post-work activities long after the sun has set.
. . . I am grateful to have air conditioning, which allows me to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
. . . I am grateful to have traffic lights, the green-yellow-red that makes driving so much easier than I realized.
. . . I am grateful to have refrigeration, an amazing concept that keeps my food and drinks cold (and safe!).
. . . I am grateful to have a television, which may seem silly to some but provides me with endless entertainment.
. . . I am grateful to have the internet, a force that has changed and enhanced my life in so many ways.
. . . I am grateful to have outlets, little homes for my chargers and appliances to store energy so that I may use them.
. . . I am grateful to have a dishwasher to keep my dishes clean with minimal effort on my part.
. . . I am grateful to have an oven and stove to (hope someone else will) heat and bake my favorite foods.
. . . I am grateful to have a fan, which cools my bedroom and erases external noises so that I might sleep soundly.
. . . I am grateful to have the freedom that comes with being able to plug something in and have it come to life.
Truth be told, it really sucks not having power. It's uncomfortable and unfamilar and nearly everything requires extra thought and preparation. However, it's actually been good for me to experience being without power a few times this year because it's really brought into focus how easily I take advantage of the "givens" around me. I assume, as so many do, that it's a given to have lights and food and water and a safe place to lay my head. But it's not. It's a privlege, not a right, to have these things. Spending so much time with my lights and TV and internet on, I often forget just how lucky I am to have all of these things. This week, the loss of power has brought me back to that point where I can see the benefits of electricity through new eyes and realize how incredibly grateful I ought to be for the things I so often use and think little of. Though I wasn't entirely ungrateful before (after all, the trauma of the blizzard-related outage is only a few months in my past), this week I've learned to really take a good look at the things I have in my life and learn to truly appreciate them. The power outage really made me realize that, no how negative a situation seems, something positive can be taken away from it. This week has served as great reminder that no matter what kind of darkness comes along, there is always an opportunity to find the light.
What aspects of your life are you finding the light in?
How do you cultivate gratitude in times of darkness?