So I haven’t had power at my house since Sunday morning. (Ummm, please excuse my lack of posting!) I live in Brisbane, which according to those in the meteorological know, is currently undergoing an ‘extreme weather event’. This means we had days and days of it raining cats and canines, then flooding in selected areas, lots of power outages, and now there’s a chance the water grid might be running dry.
I am in one of the little pockets in suburban Brisbane that still doesn’t have power. I live on a hill, so we were not in danger of flooding, but the streets down the bottom of my street were. They all flooded last time too. Which meant that in 2011, we saw entire streets of people, starting just 30 metres away from our house - some who we knew, some who we got to know – lose almost everything that they owned. My dad – a couple of more streets away from us - flooded last time too. He ended up living in a shipping container for a few months (it’s a long story!), then a caravan for about a year, before finally moving to a new house.
Last time, we spent the week after the floods covered in mud, trying to do something – anything – to help the people near us who had not been as lucky as we had. As someone who was only adjacent to the situation (neighbours and Dad effected, no power for a week), it was actually surprisingly (guilt-inducingly) traumatic. I can only imagine how it must have been for those actually affected. For ages, I would get teary whenever I went for my usual afternoon power-walk around the neighbourhood, even months and months after the event. Because even though life went back to normal pretty quickly for me, the evidence of other’s continuing struggles and pain was all too obvious.
So I have had no power this week. It is, of course, highly annoying. No hot showers, no lights, no fridge. No stove, no computer, no internet. The worst has been no fans, because it is bloody hot and sticky here at the moment. I have trouble falling asleep because the air is uncomfortably thick and can feel oppressively, claustrophobically cloying.
But I am trying to maintain a grateful graciousness regarding the entire situation.
But I am trying to become aware of my tendency towards frustration and crankiness and self-righteous angst (“but why is this happening to me?”) and dismiss it at the earliest possible awareness.
But I am trying to remind myself how endlessly effing lucky we are living in this country, for so very many reasons.
Last night I was trekking to a few different stores to try to buy bottled water cos it had all sold out and the news had made me slightly panicky. It was a hassle, and I was hungry, tired and annoyed. ‘But,’ the sensible voice inside my head sounded, ‘this is how some people live every day. And they ain’t driving to get no bottled water, they are walking to a damn well’.
This entire event has been an exercise in humility. Because really, if this is the most trying thing that happens in our lives – a measly few days without power – then how humbled we should feel. How embarrassed we should be by our riches.
I feel like I need to re-state here that I have absolutely been cranky and pissy at points – sometimes hours – over the past few days, before I am jolted back into awareness again. I have failed miserably on numerous occasions. Usually, my wake up call happens when I am speaking to someone else. Because it is much easier – as with most things in life – to notice another’s fault before your own. Seeing the speck so easily in their eye can sometimes wake one up to the massive log-of-failure in your own. And there’s a lot of blame and anger and angst out there at the moment.
I particularly don’t understand the blame. I am firmly of the belief (as I was last time) that this is nobody’s fault. Seriously. I don’t think my discomfort is the fault of the politicians or the power company or the peeps with electricity. I believe that in circumstances such as these, everyone is making the best decisions that they can with the information that they’ve got, and people are doing the best they can with what they have. In another variation of the blame-game, I’m also not champing for a pay-out (I don’t see why I would deserve one for such a trivial misfortune as losing the contents of my fridge and freezer. Not because I have oodles of money to spare – I don’t – but because I am acutely aware of how small a price it is to pay).
So this is my small treatise on dealing with these unusual circumstances. I’m aiming for graciousness, failing frequently, but still shooting for that peaceful star. Whilst writing this, I just got word from my neighbour that Energex has now said power will not be restored to my area until Friday – another pertinent exercise in presence and awareness. So for the next few days, I’ll keep on charging my phone at work, I’ll keep on showering at my sister’s place, and I’ll keep on reading my paperbacks by candlelight every night. I will also endeavour to allow peace to perfuse my powerlessness. And hopefully, more than occasionally I will succeed.