Today's Post is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She also writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. Find out how you can be a guest author.
You Don't Know What You've Got Til It's Gone
Sometimes adversity becomes a gift -- if we choose to view it in the right light.
Joni Mitchell's lyrics from her recording, Big Yellow Taxi, reflects, Oh you don't know where it goes, and you don't know what you've got until it's gone. Those words came to mind repeatedly over the last 4 days --while we had no electric power in southern New Hampshire, devastated by the effects from a horrific ice-storm.
During the first 24 hours without power, I did indeed feel like I had lost something... mostly my mind... as I repeatedly hit light switches in vain. As two days without electricity grew into three, my thoughts settled on the enlightenment that I had gained from this so-called lightless experience. I discovered that I had more time to get the important things done, I was relaxed and less frustrated, my relationship with my husband deepened, and life seemed simple. Let me explain...
Make Hay While the Sun Shines
Because the sun sets in New Hampshire by 4:00 pm in December – which means it starts getting dark in the house by 3:30 – I had to complete many tasks before dark. No time to ponder or plan... what needed to get done became crystal clear. Installing fresh batteries in our flashlights, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide monitors, and the radio was first on the list. My tasks were driven by what I could see during the daylight, while preparing for the lightless evenings. I put frozen and refrigerated food in coolers out on the back porch (nighttime temps were in the single digits). Surprisingly, I spent more time than usual preparing food. We have a gas range which I can light with a match, and since I didn't want any food to spoil, we ate like kings. I organized and picked up around the house during daylight hours so that we wouldn't trip over anything in the dark. Artwork could be done near a window during the day... and writing, well... back to the old notebook and paper routine.
We could access the local news via radio. The state of New Hampshire and surrounding states' infrastructures were brought to their knees. The national guard was called in to assist folks in the hardest hit areas - especially those who had no heat. Over 400,000 households and businesses were without power in NH alone. In my town, there were no working traffic lights, the post office was closed, and gas stations' pumps were dead. Interestingly, the only two buildings that had power (from generators) were the police station and Dunkin' Donuts. I figured that the police had made sure that the donut business was up and running since they'd most likely be working around the clock.
Insight Gained from Limiting Resources
Normally I get my daily news from the Internet.... thinking I'm saving time by not having to turn on the TV. During those four dark days, I resorted to listening to the radio for updates. Ironically, when I get all my news from my PC, I tend to follow up each time I read it with checking out my bookmarks and email. Futhermore while online, my appetite for information is never satiated - one page leads to another with no end to my page clicks in sight. With radio, however, producers determine how much I hear. Plus, while listening, my hands are free to cook, read, write, and do a multitude of other tasks. When my eyes are not glued to a PC monitor, they are also free to roam around the room, meaning that I spend more time looking at my husband's face and our art collection.
Without electricity, I worked with focused efficiency. While it was dark, I could only illumin one task at a time -- whatever I could actually see by candle or battery-supplied lantern. The rest of my world was “out of sight, out of mind”. I had fewer things to do in the evenings because I got all the important stuff done during the daylight hours. Here's a real plus: Without bright lights, I became sleepy by 8:00 pm -- going to bed earlier and rising with the sun.... sleeping more soundly than I have in years.
Seemingly important tasks fell away from my consciousness. My mind was reoriented – clearly understanding which tasks were truly important and which were falsely important. By falsely, I mean that more than half of the things I think need attention during normal days, no longer seemed crucial. I could live quite contently without them. For example, I had no Internet for 4 days; I didn't miss my checking bookmarks, email and twitter. Now that the lights are back on, I'll most likely miss my fireside chats with my husband.
That harried feeling of never being able to catch up or missing out seemed distant. I could hear and think my own thoughts instead of constantly feeding my brain online with the thoughts of others. I admit that I'm being hypocritical here because you're reading my thoughts right now, but my wish for you is that you consider how spending some time out from gadgets, TV, and other electrically powered forms of information, might lead to a more disciplined and simple life.
Now that I've experienced life without electricity, I am quite determined to avoid succumbing to my former habits. I refuse to be daily sucked into an online life. I will not panic at the thought of missing out on some tidbit of information, email or forum entry. I will concentrate on daytime responsibilities and work, so that my evenings can be spent with people I care about in quiet conversations... where when the conversation lulls, I'll hear the tick of the grandfather clock.