Saturday, February 20, 2010

Coming Out On The Other Side

Last in a series.

On Saturday night, even though my car was now free of the snowbank, I opted to stay alone in my house during the coldest night yet. Why?

In retrospect, those 50 hours of focussing on very basic needs like staying warm and safe, having fresh water, and caring for my cough and burn had caused me to regress to a much lower-functioning level.

While it's not surprising that this should have happened, I'm a little taken aback by how quickly it did happen. The truth is, I wasn't really at major risk at any time during those three nights. My friends and family had offered multiple times to come get me. I was a mere phone call away from lots of help.

After I finished parking my Toyota in the driveway Saturday evening, I glanced down the street and realized for the first time that the Oncor repair crew was no longer working on my street. The disappointment I felt was almost visceral. My hope had been that the electricity would be restored Saturday.

I trudged back to the house.

Saturday night was the worst one yet. While I knew I needed to eat, I didn't have a taste for anything, Instead I munched on trail mix and drank hot raspberry tea. My cough was worse, my burn looked bad and my energy level was very low.

As he often does, Bob mirrored my mood. He trailed around behind me like a refugee afraid the boat would leave without him. While he's always been a very vocal cat, that night his whining drove me crazy.

We went to bed early, but neither of us seemed able to sleep. I read for hours, dozing off between chapters. It was freaking cold, and Bob burrowed under the comforter where I could feel him shivering. I put him on my chest and covered him up again, hoping my body heat would warm him. Gradually his shivering slowed and then stopped. He wanted to lick my cheek; I wanted him off my chest. We slept badly.

Sunday morning we were both lethargic, staying in bed much longer than usual. My loved ones called, offering to come by. I turned down all offers, saying I needed to stay in bed, both because of my cold and because I had not slept well the night before. All the males in my life accepted my response.

My best friend didn't.

Jacque announced she was coming and wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Like a gale force wind, she blew in with her husband in tow. They brought a Honda 3000 generator, a spare can of gasoline, a stack of 50-feet orange extension cords, a power strip, two five-gallon water dispensers, and lots of chocolate.

In minutes, her husband Jesse had set up the generator and hooked it up to my refrigerator. In addition to the refrigerator, we ran the extension cords through the house to my microwave, my electric blanket, a space heater in my bedroom and bedside lamp. Jesse assured me the Honda generator would let me know if I overburdened it. He said a can of gasoline would guarantee ten hours of power. I could let the generator cool for an hour and then refill it.

Jacque and Jesse didn't stay long. After giving me hugs, they left as suddenly as they'd arrived.

The difference their visit made was simply remarkable. I crawled into my warm bed in my warm room and slept soundly for the first time in three days. I woke up three hours later with Bob purring happily on top of the electric blanket.

Refreshed and energized, I went next door to check again on Ken and Linda. Their teenage boys answered the door. They said they'd been gone much of the past three days. The reason I had not been able to reach them was because the power loss had knocked out the phone's ringer.

The power returned Sunday evening although it went on and off multiple times over the next two days as branches continued to fall on power lines.

Insurance losses from the storm in Dallas/Fort Worth are estimated at $25 million. Many people have been disconcerted to learn that their home owner policies specifically exclude claims due to snow damage. Fortunately mine does not, although I've had some difficulty convincing the company of the extent of the damage done. It turns out that both my water and gas lines were disrupted, and it will take a backhoe and dump truck to remove the two gigantic root balls. As I write this, things are finally moving along, and I'm hopeful everything will soon be back to normal.

The snowstorm taught me some things. I like to think of myself as competent, rational and willing to address problems head-on. Even when I'm feeling insecure, I do a good job of masking the fear. I face the world with optimism and bravado. I dislike asking for help, preferring to maintain my hard-won independence at all costs.

It was quite humbling to realize how quickly my coping skills could desert me.

Despite years of training and of experience as a crisis intervener, I missed the signals that I was slipping into crisis. The signs were there: insomnia, lack of appetite, weight loss, lowered functioning levels.

Jacque performed a crisis intervention when she and Jesse showed up on Sunday afternoon. Her actions disrupted my downward spiral and restored my ability to cope. I'll be forever grateful to her.

If you've stuck with me through all six posts, I hope you'll learn from my mistakes. Pay attention to what's going on around you, prepare ahead of time for what might happen, ask for help when you need it, and never, ever forget to be grateful for God's grace when it is offered to you.


Sharon said...

I will take your words to heart and learn how to hook up our generator by myself. We've only had to use it once, but what a difference it made when we lost power last winter for two days. I "think" I know what I'd need to do, but now I know I need to be sure. Glad to hear you're out of the woods and all is on its way to being okay.

John said...

Excellent writing Maya, I really enjoyed it. At times I was reminded of my own experience with the blizzard of 1993 in Knoxville, TN. Seven days without power, had to chop wood to stay warm, and several of my favorite dogwoods were killed by four huge pine trees that came into my yard from the woods next door.

You make some excellent points. Thanks again for sharing your experience.

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