Saturday, October 8, 2016

Gaining Control, Losing Connection

So we survived #hurricanematthew. As a native Floridian, I wasn’t particularly scared by the dire predictions of The Weather Channel, after all Jim Cantore never showed up on my doorstep. We live in a rural neighborhood far away from the ocean and a safe distance from any rivers or tributaries. Our three acres are heavily treed, but we took care to plant all the trees a safe distance from the house for storms like this.

My well-balanced philodendron before Matthew

When I was nine months old, Hurricane Dora, a category 1, hit St. Augustine—the one and only direct hit in our area. Our last major tropical event wasn’t a named storm, it’s known as the ’04-05 season—Bonnie, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne--those are just the ones that hit Florida. There were so many storms that year they ran out of names and started calling them by letters of the alphabet.

If you look on a map, Jacksonville is tucked away in a little curve of the coastline. Hurricanes typically sail past us at a safe distance on their way to wreck major havoc in places like North and South Carolina. So Matthew didn’t scare me. It concerned me—this was definitely coming closer than anything else. There would be wind, possibly stronger than the tropical force winds of 2004, and rain, and, the biggest fear of all—an absolute given with that much wind—power loss. When would the power go out? How long would it be out?

My husband, the Dale in Dalyn, worked for our local electric utility for 32 years. So I know those guys work hard for long hours with very few breaks, but still, it can take days at the very least and historically has taken weeks in some areas to get power fully restored. Downed trees have to be removed, flood waters have to receded (in case you didn’t know, water and electricity DON’T mix). Sometimes the problem isn’t as simple as re-hanging the downed wire. But I digress…

The point is I KNEW we’d be without power. So I scrambled to find flashlights, lanterns, and batteries. Since we’re on a well and septic system, our water source relies on power. We already had plenty of bottled water and we filled a garbage can in the garage with gray water to flush toilets (helpful hint: water leaks out of tubs). We had a generator and gas for long-term use after the storm. The generator wouldn’t run everything, but at least we wouldn’t lose the food in our freezer and we could switch it around to different appliances as needed.

And I was prepared to be in constant communication with my friends and family. I kept my cell phone plugged in so it would be fully charged whenever the power went out. My laptop battery would last for a few hours and then I could switch to my tablet with 4G. I could open the garage door and recharge my cell phone in the car. The TV was on the local news station to monitor for tornadoes and damage in various neighborhoods. We were PREPARED!

Except, we didn’t lose power. The wind blew so hard, I expected the power line outside the window to snap at any moment. The rain fell in sheets, blowing sideways at times. My poor philodendron is permanently lopsided. The whoosh of air down the chimney caused the walls to vibrate and the house creaked and groaned in the strongest gusts. The lights flicked and the power actually went out a few times, you know that off/on, off/on, where you hold your breath wondering if this is it. But it wasn’t. It came back on and held.

Broken and mangled by Matthew

What we lost was communication – no cable, no internet, no 4G. Completely cut off from the news, friends and family. I couldn’t post to Facebook or send a text and I was getting nothing in return. I was fine, but what if a family member was trying to reach me? What if my friend had a problem? I wouldn’t know and they would think I was ignoring them, or worse, worry that I was in trouble. That’s when I realized COMMUNICATION was what I was afraid of losing, not power. I had a plan for how I would continue to power my devices so I could stay in touch, know what others were going through. So what I suffered through the last hours of the storm was a lack of connection.

I had plenty of books to read. I had a lantern that was as good as electric to read them by, if I needed it. But I kept picking up my phone and wondering—is everyone else alright? Was someone trying to reach me? 

All of this, of course, made me think of relationships. When we’re fighting for control, maybe it’s not to retain power, but to gain connection. The funny thing is, in the power struggle we can lose the very connection we seek.