The Frozen Days

Valentines Day of 2021 will not soon be forgotten in Texas. That was the start of a winter storm, the likes of which is rarely experienced in these parts. We were frozen for the better part of a week and we found out how ill prepared we were for such prolonged cold.

Power was lost at our house late that night. We were told that there would be rolling blackouts. The reality was that power would not return for more than 3 days. The next morning water pressure was much lower than normal. Drawing on our experience of a catastrophic flood in Iowa back in '93 that took out the water treatment plant, I knew what was coming and immediately filled our bathtubs up. When the water flow inevitably stopped, we at least had something on hand that could be boiled to drink or used to flush toilets.

We were fortunate. No burst water pipes. Our house was cold for those few days, but not intolerable. We huddled under blankets and had rations of soup that we heated with our gas stove, along with a loaf of bread and peanut butter. We had plenty of flashlight batteries and candles.

Our preparedness could have been better. The pantry needs to be better stocked and a good supply of drinking water needs to be kept at the ready. A generator to keep our gas heat, refrigerator, and a few other essentials running is going to be a near term purchase. We know we should have been better prepared and failed to follow through. Still, in perspective, we were only inconvenienced for a few days. So many, too many, did not do so well.

I wrote about the pandemic year of 2020 a while back and how my big take away for the year was a feeling of gratitude. The experience of the big storm certainly brought about that feeling again. I also felt a sense of peace, oddly enough. Sure, I was stressed at times and frustrated by the governmental failures that ultimately led to the collapse of large part of the Texas power grid. However, my readings in Stoic philosophies helped temper my reaction to the events that unfolded.

In the days prior to losing my convenient access to clean water from my faucets, I had been practicing a bit of the Stoic mindset. Part of that is contemplating everyday things in terms of a “last time.” What if this is the last time I do this thing, like turning on a faucet to get a drink of water or flicking on a light switch to read a book? By contemplating the hypothetical loss of something, a greater appreciation for that thing can be realized. I've also tried to cultivate a sense of awe in my everyday experience. Isn't it remarkable that I can simply walk to my kitchen sink and get a glass of water from my faucet? How awesome is that and how many people in the world don't have that luxury?

I hope not to repeat the experience of the big Texas freeze, although I have a feeling it won't be the last in my lifetime. Storms in life will come. That much is certain. The unpleasant experience did bring a flood of gratitude, perspective, and humbleness. There are a great many things that affect my life which are beyond my control, but I can control how I respond. Maybe I can even take away some things from the very things that take away from me.