Following “Storm Alfred,” it became clear that these coping-with-living-on-Earth editions are necessary. In the aftermath, so many were quick to criticize CL&P, the governor, the mayor, and pretty much anyone who was thought to be remotely responsible for the power not being on right this very instant, and frankly, Connecticutians sounded like spoiled brats.
Some of this, no doubt, was to mask real anxieties — like funding a replacement roof after the existing one was tackled by an Oak — but some of this was because many Americans feel entitled. So, when people in one of the wealthiest states in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet are upset because they are temporarily living without the amenities that their poor brothers and sisters go without daily (there are schools around the world that operate without ever having electricity), it’s hard to feel very sympathetic; moreover, it points to something else: a need for people to check on their emotional health. Of course, if you tell someone who is clearly experiencing emotional unwellness that you think this might be the case, they freak out.
Let it be known, this is not something that those with power have invented to mock those without. The Red Cross has literature on keeping emotionally healthy during disasters. Read it, particularly if the way you coped with the power outage was to whine via social media because you did not get your electricity turned back on within twelve hours during a time when it was not even cold enough to require turning up the thermostat.
Some people are really skilled at making a stressful situation unbearable for themselves and for all in earshot. The Red Cross also has useful information about “sheltering-in-place” and how individuals should try to remain informed, but be careful not to allow themselves to be over-saturated with information. Obsessively watching the news or clicking “refresh” on an outage map are unhelpful things for a person to do during an emergency situation.
Losing power does not need to mean losing perspective on the reality of the situation. And, the reality is that we can plan, but nature is powerful. The reality is also that when over 800,000 people in the state lose power, someone has to be the last to get it back, and that might be you. Growing up in a town where we lost power during almost every storm, and where we were never a priority, going days without a reliable power source was something with which we learned how to cope. A lot of the needs that we think we have are not needs at all.
Here is some perspective: About 4300 people were homeless in Connecticut in 2010 at any given time. Although some were in shelters or crashing on the couches of family or friends, some were also without shelter. In any of those situations, the homeless person does not have the security of knowing where she will be sleeping from day-to-day, whether or not she will be in a facility with electricity, when she will get to shower next, or even where her next meal is coming from. Of those who are homeless, 18% will experience what Ending Homelessness calls “chronic long-term homelessness.” Nationwide, it is expected that 74,000 people who have not experienced homelessness before will in the next three years. If you were one of the people to lose power during Hurricane Irene, Storm Alfred, or any other incident in recent years when people have seemed more prone to quick complaint, acknowledge that it is likely you are coming from a place of privilege; you might be miserable for a few days, or even a few weeks, but almost every single person will be returning to the almost-indulgent degree of comfort that has become the norm in first world countries.
For this edition, I have placed emotional wellness up front because that is as much of a concern as physical wellness.
Now, for the other stuff: Continue reading “How to Live in New England: Winter Edition”