Yesterday afternoon the power went out for more than five hundred people in my town which is, probably, half the people and businesses within the city limits. The electric company sent me texts with links so I could learn the status of the situation but without electricity, I don’t have internet, not even with my phone. My phone company doesn’t have data service in the San Luis Valley. The notice said that it would be 24 hours. I learned from my neighbor that a large tree in the park had blown over and broken power lines.
For the most part, I didn’t care. I just needed to know what to plan for, so I called a friend who checked the link and gave me the info.
I did what you do. I got out the candles, changed the batteries in the flashlight, remembering how it was living in the Southern California mountains where fires were frequent and often caused by sparks from electric lines. The stragedy there was to turn off power to save homes and lives. In those days, I had a little generator, a camping stove — which I didn’t need because my kitchen stove was propane anyway — battery powered lights, etc. I realized yesterday that an electric stove is a major liability mostly because of morning coffee… But there’s tea and hot water, right? At a certain level, it’s not about coffee. It’s about caffeine.
So, I settled in for an evening like that and was relieved of the numerous choices and irritations life with electricity provides. I edited short stories and enjoyed the battery life of my laptop. The days are long now, but when it got mostly dark, I went out to see what my neighbors were doing. All the windows were dark, all but mine. They glowed with candlelight.
But, high winds and a power outage combine to awaken my post-Cedar Fire PTSD and I felt anxious and hyper-alert even though I now live in a town and the risks with which I lived in the Southern California mountains don’t exist here. I was happy to have my stories on which to focus.
I put out a little book of short stories at the beginning of the pandemic just to have something to do that WASN’T COVID0-19 related. I didn’t work on it at all except the minimum of formatting to get it to look like a book. I’ve since read it and decided that many of the stories are too good to be sent out like that, even if only one person ever buys the book (one has <3).
Yesterday I wrote a blog post expressing my opinion about events right now in my country. It was researched and supported. It didn’t come off the top of my head, and it wasn’t just my “feelings” about the world as it is right now. I got trolled in a way I never imagined on WordPress. It was vile. I set the post to private and decided “Fuck it. I’m not doing this anymore.” Christine talked me into still writing, so here I am, but honestly, less interested.
I don’t read many blogs here. I don’t have time. Like everyone else, I read blogs by people who are interesting to me for one or another reason. If I happen on a blog post — even by someone I follow — that I don’t agree with I usually just move on. It’s not that everyone is “entitled” to their own opinion. Opinions are not a matter of “entitlement”. People are just made to have opinions. We can’t help it. I’ve observed that, generally, people are not interested in changing their opinions, and if they are, they’re going to search out the information they need to do that. That’s not my opinion. It’s just how people are. Arguing with them doesn’t avail much. I don’t write blog posts to start inflammatory discussions. I know how to block people.
Right now in this country, maybe the world, tempers are running high and everyone’s a little insane because of the virus and the sudden and not-all-that-pleasant changes it’s brought to all of our lives. But while that is going on the OTHER stuff is going on. People are still losing loved ones to other diseases, fearing for the well-being of their children, fearful that they won’t make ends meet month to month, all that exaggerated now because of the universal fear. I have friends who, in this interval, have lost a parent, lost close friends, faced gruesome diagnoses themselves, have had their spouse diagnosed with illnesses that require long-term treatment, seen the physical degeneration of their loved ones and wondered what to do next.
Fear makes people uncomfortable about themselves, thinking that feeling fear means they are cowards. So, instead of realizing, “Holy fucking shit. I’m terrified!” and investigating WHY, they become angry. Anger is (in our world) an acceptable emotion and fear is not. A belly filled with anger is good; a heart quaking in fear is not. It’s true that fear paralyzes us and anger energizes us, but fear’s paralysis exists to keep us still long enough to figure out what’s going on. Angry, we march forward with a sense of self-righteousness. There is a place for both, but I believe it’s important to realize the source of our anger and, if it’s fear, we need to stop and think.
I learned the utility of fear from rattlesnakes. The first time I saw one, I was scared and ran away. The second time, I was scared, but approached cautiously. My mission, then, was learning skills that I could use to hike in rattlesnake country with minimal risk to myself and my dogs. Fear turned to wariness which turned to curiosity which turned to knowledge. That didn’t stop a rattlesnake from living in my yard and killing two of my dogs, but they stuck their heads in gopher holes. Not the snake’s fault, not my dog’s fault. Justice was served, ultimately, when one of my huskies killed the snake. If you’re a person who understands parables, there’s a lot there to unpack.