When I woke up on Monday morning, I added layer upon layer to take the dogs out for their morning walk. I stepped outside and the ground was white, light white flakes were still falling from the sky and the sun was out. It was gorgeous outside and frigid. The dogs were wearing their sweaters, as ridiculous as they may have looked in Christmas themed dog sweaters, it was necessary.
I walked to the end of my drive to find the gate stuck closed, must be frozen shut I thought. We walked around my townhome community, making the first foot and paw steps in the snow for the entire 90 units that morning. Careful not to slip on the fresh snow, making its way towards ice. I was wearing two sets of gloves, I had on long johns under my hiking pants and a long john shirt under my fleece and a knit had with the logo of my niece's soccer team on it. I was bundled, and I was freezing.
I started to notice that my joy in the beauty of the snow and sunlight and the awe of this never happening in Houston starting to fade when I felt my bones shiver. I walked back inside, fed the dogs went back to my room stripped off the 5 layers of clothing and crawled back into my warm bed, inside my warm house.
I could feel the anxiety creeping in.
An hour later when I decided to get up and make my first cup of coffee for the day and start making what I refer to as my burnt eggs (they are delicious), 30 seconds into my ritual, the power tripped off. I waited, as with every storm, my power comes back on pretty soon after that. But it didn't.
I brought the huge fleece blanked up to my ears and snuggled in on the couch for what I thought might be a few hours, but I didn't know was what was coming.
I was stuck at home, literally. The gate wasn't frozen closed, the power had kicked off at the front of the complex 3 hours earlier. The streets were covered in snow and ice, I couldn't drive on it. It's not only that we were not made for this weather, we don't prepare for it individually. I don't have chains for my tires and I wasn't sure that I had enough table salt for the sidewalk either. I could leave through the walking gate and the only other people we saw were out with their dogs, walking casually through the middle of the empty street taking selfies. It was picturesque, except for that heaviness barring down on my chest.
The day turned into night. I put on my flannel pajamas, carried my sweet old senior dogs upstairs with me in their sweaters and put them on my bed, covered them in a blanket as I layered blankets on me too. I would worry about pipes bursting throughout the night. When Tuesday came, I couldn't keep my eyes open. My body begged for me to lay and rest. And I did. For the heaviness in my heart was becoming almost too much.
I have a fireplace, but the last time I closed the flu was because 2 birds flew down the flu and around my house for hours 10 years earlier and I was terrified to find out what had flown or crawled in there in the 10 years since. So I didn't light a fire, but I had layers and dogs to keep me warm. I couldn't work, my cell service was spotty and clearly I didn't have wifi. But I still had a job and the guilt added to the weight.
I spent 4 days worrying about pipes bursting that never did, cold in an otherwise layered state and getting paid when I wasn't productive. There were people who didn't have any of those luxuries. I kept thinking of them, I felt anger for them. I was mad, still am, to be honest, at our politicians and our regulators for not protecting them, for failing us. For jumping on a plane to Mexico and only questioning his decision after he sat down on the tarmac. For blaming the green deal when the green deal wouldn't have prevented this from happening. For conspiracy theories and outlandish unproven statements like if they had not done this, it would have been this much worse. But it is still worse. For assuming Texans would rather freeze for longer than join the federal regulations, but was this from the warmth of their expensive hotel rooms while the ones who were freezing were in old homes, tents or shelters? For not wanting to join the federal power grid but asking for federal aid because they weren't prepared to handle the repercussions of their decisions.
It goes on, but I think you can see where the optimism left. It was overshadowed by that survivors guilt, even after 50+ hours without electricity. It was overshadowed when I felt alone, even though I could sit at my sister's house for a night and get warm by the laughter of my nieces. My exhaustion was from worry and my body hurt from shivering, but yet, I was still able to warm up with the layers and my car when I would sit in it for 30 minutes a day to thaw out my hands. I had luxuries accessorized by guilt, exhaustion and worry.
I went for a run and felt tears on my cheeks for all of it. I felt overwhelmed by everything. I couldn't run the joy back into my face or my heart. I needed to do something to help me rid myself of the anger, to help me find optimism in frigidity. After signing up with a few different organizations, I found one that needed my help immediately. Packing meals, using my logistics experience would come in handy, doing something for people who didn't have the luxury of extra blankets, a car or two old senior dogs to warm them up. As I stood outside for 9 hours packing meals, laughing with strangers, counting and recounting boxes, the darkness started to lift. Strangers helping strangers, this is what my soul needed to repair my broken heart and see lightness in the dark. And when I went home, once again, I couldn't keep my eyes open and for the first time in 7 days, I feel into a deep hard and long sleep.