Reflections

“Just Unplug, dammit! Do it!”

I had a dream the Monday before yesterday of which I recall very little.  All I remember is a feeling of frustration as I struggled to make sense of what someone was telling me, and a voice yelling at me as I woke up: “just unplug, dammit!  Do it!”

I don’t know about all of you, but when I hear the term “unplug” in this context, I interpret it to mean get off the internet; take a break from all things electronic, including email, cell phone, games, tv, even blogging.  I wondered at the purpose of unplugging, and figured it had to do with tuning in more to my natural self and the rhythms of nature.

Two days later (on Wednesday) a massive windstorm blew through my city (winds of change, perhaps?), taking down trees and power lines and leaving some 200,000 households (including my own) without electric.  For those of us with forced air gas furnaces, that also meant no heat.  And, of course, no internet or tv…  Unplugged, indeed…

Luckily for me, our house has a woodburning stove, functional and useful, though usually only used for “fun”.  In addition, I have quite a stash of candles (because I love them) and flashlights (from my camping days), so it seemed we might fare better than some.  After all, they were going to be out repairing the damage, right?  And I could easily live without the internet and social media for a day or two, so I was eager to prove I could “survive” this test.

My only concern, really, was my phone and keeping it charged, because we don’t have a landline.  But my workplace never lost power, and they allowed me to recharge there.  I also have a car charger for backup, and a friend lent me a portable charging unit just in case.  All was well…  At first, anyway.

But who knew it would take the power company two and a half days just to assess the damage and develop a plan for restoring power?  And that it would then take several more days, and the helpful intervention of crews from multiple other cities and provinces of Canada to actually make the repairs?  Or that the weather would snap back from “early spring” to “dead of winter,” with temperatures hovering around 10 degrees?

For the first full day and a half, my roommate was here to keep the woodstove burning, and though cold, it was survivable here.  I missed my electronics that first night, but then hardly thought of them again, except for keeping my phone charged for emergencies.  By Friday morning, her asthma (aggravated by the fire) forced her to leave, seeking shelter for her and her dogs at her daughter’s.  And while I received many such offers of shelter, none could accomodate my cat, so I chose to stick it out here, with him.  After all, how long could it take with all these extra crews on site?  And I could surely survive another day… or two.

How blindly optimistic of me to assume I had the necessary survival skills, and supplies, to make it through…  Repairs didn’t even begin until Saturday, and it was late on Monday before our power would be restored.  Just in time for the blizzard blowing into town last night, keeping us holed up for the next three days supposedly…

I share all this with you for two reasons.  First to explain my absence and lack of response to comments and emails; being off the grid has left me way behind, and I may, or may not, catch up.  My apologies to you if I don’t get around to acknowledging you here.

Second, I want to share a few things I learned over the last few days of being totally, and literally, unplugged…

*  Frontier style living is hard work!

I know… “Duh!”  But it looks so easy when other people do it.  Yes, I expected it to be physically challenging, especially with my disabilities (severe joint pain in my lower spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet).  But I had no idea how challenging!

Take hauling wood, for an example.  How easy it looks to pile up a few pieces in your arms, carry it in, and stack it neatly by the stove.  The truth, though, is that it is incredibly dense and heavy, with sharp, uneven edges, and the bending, lifting,  and carrying it upstairs taxed me to my limits.  I thought my job was painful on my body, but this was a whole new level of pain…

And when you order wood, and tell them your stove can only handle pieces 12-14″ long, and you mostly use your woodstove for fun, you tend to be content just eyeballing the delivery, and saying, “yeah, that looks pretty good.”  But when your survival depends on it, and you discover that every 3rd piece is too long to fit in the stove, suddenly you wish you’d actually checked before accepting delivery…

Ditto on the tendency to be lax in protecting said wood.  When fire is just for pleasure, maybe you don’t regularly check to make sure the tarp covering it is in place.  But that’s one of the first things you notice when hauling wood for survival; wet wood doesn’t burn well…

Speaking of which…

Starting (and maintaining) a fire is not as easy as it seems, even with modern tools available.  It is a skill that must be learned, and a survival situation is not the best time to start learning how…

I received a quick how-to lesson before my roommate left Friday morning, and I thought to myself, “simple enough!”  It’s about the proper ratio of fuel, air and flame, she told me, and I, being a strong, intelligent, independent woman, thought I could figure it out; sure I might fail at first, but I learn quickly.  Usually…

But I failed to get the fire really going on Friday night, and finally had to give up and sleep, trusting my blankets and cat would keep me warm enough.  They did not.  Freezing, I had difficulty sleeping, and more difficulty getting up.  It was 40 degrees in my house (I will likely never complain again that 68 degrees is too cold…lol!)  Getting that fire going was essential to my survival.  So taking the lessons I learned the night before, I headed out for supplies and a hot meal before tackling it again.

This time I did get it going, and kept it going, and I felt a renewed sense of confidence and competence.  But after about 15 hours of a strong, steady fire, it was still only 46 degrees in my house.  I had thought that, once going, I could sit by the fire and relax.  Maybe meditate or something similar to take advantage of this down time…

But no…  I had to boil water for dishes and bathing, haul more wood, try and feed myself, and prepare for when darkness settled once again.  And when I did sit in front of the fire, I was fraught with worry every time it faltered.  Not exactly the relaxing time I expected.  And eventually I had to sleep, which meant trusting I could restart the fire on Sunday…

I woke on Sunday to a bed of hot coals, and the fire roared to life when I added fuel and air…  Then it faltered on the wet wood.  I would not succeed in getting the fire truly going again.  Period.  Not Sunday morning before work, nor Sunday night, nor Monday morning.  And, as the temperature in my house continued to drop, and the estimated time of restoration of power kept getting pushed back (until it passed the expected start time of the incoming blizzard), I genuinely started considering other survival plans…  It was no longer a joke or a vacation from the grid…

* Stubbornness is both a curse and a gift…

It was stubbornness that allowed me to haul wood when my body said “you can’t do this!”  It was stubbornness that allowed me to linger on, against hope, believing that I was not meant to die this way.  It was stubbornness that got me to actually use the bathroom when I could no longer hold out (because it was too cold to face), and stubbornness that allowed me to dress and undress.

It was also stubbornness that convinced me it was better to avoid eating and drinking, than to face those dreaded bathroom runs, which allowed me to weaken and become dehydrated.  It was stubbornness that kept me here in survival mode, rather than abandon my cat to seek shelter elsewhere; I abolutely refused to do so.  And it was stubbornness that cut me off from my loving “community,” as they became more vocal and vehement about my leaving the house.

Stubbornness is a double-edged sword…

Philosophy, politics, economics, even spiritual practices (like meditation, yoga, or going to church) have no place in survival mode, but the need to believe in some higher-order Other does…

As the situation developed from bad, to worse, to sometimes seeming hopeless, I found my interest in all things non-essential wavering, and finally dying off.  I no longer cared what Trump and his cronies were doing, or what new disasters were befalling the planet and its inhabitants.  I didn’t meditate, or remember my dreams; only focused on how unrested I felt, as the cold made sleeping difficult, and I desperately needed rest to continue.  I no longer worried about the long-term damage being done abroad, or who was responsible for it; I could only focus on the next thing I needed to do to survive, on what had to be done before the long night, and its bitter cold arrived…

And as my confidence in my own competency wavered, I found myself reaching out in prayer to elementals and the Universe, seeking help and strength to survive.  And it did help, much to my surprise.  Maybe these spiritual beings did not directly intervene, but the asking gave me the strength to carry on…

***  ***  ***

So I’m sitting here today, snuggled with my cat and multiple blankets with the heat working, yet still unable to feel warm.  I ache deeply, not just in the usual places, but in my shoulders, arms, hands and head; and I’m dealing with muscle cramping from dehydration, yet am still unwilling to drink a lot (lol!).  I am trying to take this momentary reprieve to consider what I’ve “learned” from being unplugged, and discovering that much of what drove me before still feels irrelevant.

I’m so far behind in emails and reading, not to mention catching up on others’ blogs and comments, but it doesn’t seem to motivate me.  Instead, I’m staring out the window, contemplating the increasing snow and wind, wondering what I need to do to prepare in case the power goes out again.  So laundry is going while it can.  And I’m trying to talk my way out of the pain I feel, knowing that the arduous task of shovelling out is looming…

And keeping my phone charged, of course…

And it occurs to me that survival trumps all other motivations, and renders everything outside my immediate world irrelevant.  And I wonder if all my sense of self – my confidence and independence, my compassion for others, my “enlightenment” and understanding of the world, even my ethics and morality – aren’t just distractions, “false flags,” perpetuated by my own ignorance of what truly matters.  For I have discovered that, as survival gains primacy in my life, all else falls to the wayside…

I think I may actually be “unplugged” now.   Dammit!  😀

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4 thoughts on ““Just Unplug, dammit! Do it!”

  1. Hi Lisa
    I do hope the weather turns about in your favour.
    You’ve done remarkably well, and your experiences show how WE have become adapted to the Life in much is taken as the normal which even a few generations ago would have been luxuries beyond imagining.
    For me Weather is always a salutary reminder of how fragile our grip is on this planet. Whatever extreme it might be the forces brought are formidable.
    I always remember the words of a fellow-worker ‘Survival Is Good’ (the context was very different, but the message is always true).
    Take care.
    Roger

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t complain today. The warmth in the house has finally sunk in to my bones, so I don’t feel that deep chill anymore. The cat spent most of the day sleeping on the heat register, which he’s never done before (lol!). And I finally got some deep, dreamless, anxiety free sleep. Life is good again… 😀

      Outside a blizzard is happening, but tomorrow is soon enough to deal with that disaster…

      And I get what you’re saying. So much of our modern lives really are luxuries… We speak so flippantly of “survival” sometimes, as in “I survived that relationship,” or “that awful vacation” experience, etc. I’m thinking now that “survival” is just another word for focus, as in whatever we survived was our total focus for a while…

      It’s truly amazing to me how small the world becomes when we are truly driven to such focus on immediate things; all else becomes distant, even trivial, though certainly it is not. We, as humans, appear to be hard-wired for self-focus above all else; everything else seems tangential and entirely circumstantial…

      But there I go philosophizing again! I must be in a better place. Lol!

      Liked by 1 person

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