The other night, Mother Nature pulled a joke on my area. It was supposed to rain, but it had been gorgeous all day—sunny, hot, and humid as it always is here in the summer. The day was almost over, and not a drop of rain had fallen from the sky. Until, of course, the matter of two quick seconds when my quiet and peaceful house was suddenly enveloped in a crashing, utterly torrential downpour.
Now, I like the rain—that’s not a problem. Summer rain has a very cleansing, refreshing effect, especially post-storm. The problem was that directly before the storm began, I heard a crash. And, lo and behold, 2 minutes into the storm, the lights feebly popped, struggling-ly spluttered, and finally failed, plunging me into evening darkness.
I hate the dark—I always have. Yet even more than I hate the dark, I hate feeling out of control. Losing electricity, for me, is not only frustrating and bothersome because of the simple fact that I don’t have light, but also because I can no longer control the things I do. Oh, you want to take a shower? Hope you like it cozy and ice cold! You want to watch TV? Hahahaha good luck. You want to read a book but the reading light ran out of battery and there are no replacements in the house? Guess that’s a non-option. You want to leave the house? Better not try and use the automatic garage door! The list goes on…
Yet, as with most things, losing electricity doesn’t come without its positives, if only they are looked for. Yes, we can wallow in self-pity and eat all the ice cream in the fridge so that we don’t waste it as it slowly melts away, or we can look at our situation with new eyes and see how, actually, losing electricity every once in a while is okay. In fact, it can even be fun (did I just say that?)!
For every loss there is a gain—that is something I truly believe in. Let’s do a case study on the other night, and look at how replacing lost electricity with gained enthusiasm can allow us to relax, enjoy life’s unexpected curveballs, and continue living in color (even if it’s too dark to see it).
Storms are a fact of life. Obstacles are a fact of life. Challenges are a fact of life. A power outage? That’s a fact of life too, but it’s just an example of one innocent obstacle. As we’ve seen though, in life the most profound lessons come from the most seemingly insignificant events, if only we look at them the right way.
Look beyond the black and white, beyond the electricity or no electricity, beyond the lost keys or the found keys, beyond the rush hour traffic or late night empty highways. Saturate them in color, and delve into them with enthusiasm. You will be amazed by the result and the lessons learned. Remember the things that you used to do as a child, and hopefully still do in times of frustration, that you maintained positivity about. Here’s some of my fondest—the funny, the quirky, and (yes) even the disgusting (just wait for it) traditions during outages.
As always in situations like this, I return to my childhood memories. Seeing as I live in New England, the unofficial land of hurricanes, blizzards, and freak storms, blackouts frequented my time growing up. When we would lose power, it became a family day, and I look back fondly on the activities that we did together—small things, yet little traditions that still make me smile.
As a child, the power going out meant one thing: breakfast at the hospital. My mom works at the health center in the hospital, so for us, it was only natural to truck down to one of the only buildings in town with guaranteed emergency power and lighting to enjoy a breakfast in the cafeteria. Let me tell you, I still dream of those pancakes. And not just because they were delicious—because every time I ate them, I was with family. We were making the best of a bad situation, and we were spending quality time together.
Use the excuse of no power to spend your time with others—if you’re miserable from lack of sleep or dark houses, at least you’re miserable together. Bonus points if you can find a great stack of pancakes in your area!
That was what we did outside of the house. Inside? That’s another story. In my family, we would hunker down in the basement with all the pillows and blankets we could find, as well as every single flashlight in possession, and make pillow forts to sleep and play under. We held flashlights under our chins and told ghost stories, and tried to make shadow animals on the walls. We took the darkness all around us and lit it up with positivity and enthusiasm, flipping a less-than-ideal situation into a fun and memorable one.
Simply allowing yourself to relax and enjoy the small comforts of your home and family will put a smile on your face and break the darkness around you. It may be a break shaped like a lopsided hand-shadow bunny rabbit, but even lopsided rabbits are enough to make your brain remember that maintaining enthusiasm is priceless.
I’ll conclude (as promised) with one final blackout memory: The Time I Threw Up. Or, rather, The-Time-We-Went-Out-To-Dinner-And-I-Got-Food-Poisoning-And-Then-Spent-The-Night-Cleaning-Out-My-Guts-Without-A-Shower-Or-Heat-Or-Visibility-While-Snow-Piled-Up-Outside. Need I say more? At the time there wasn’t much chance of enthusiasm on my part, but I will certainly never forget that night, and I can now look back at it with a chuckle and (some) good humor.
Thunderstorms are a prime example of how enthusiasm and positivity can beat a cloudy, inconvenient struggle. They come on hard and fast, sometimes long and sometimes short, but always sudden. They drench life with water, leaving people to run for cover to save their perms or sit in a house without power. But once they’re done, the sun most often comes out, and with the sun, we can usually see a rainbow.
Even if you can’t see the rainbow in the moment (literally, if you had had the opportunity to view my vomit), you travel along it later in your thoughts. You color it in yourself, filling in the lines with laughter, good spirits, and joy. Like ever-enthusiastic Dolly Parton says, “If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” Take a time of difficulty and turn it on its head, so that when the rain lets up, you are smiling already, enjoying the freshness and color of life around you.
Gotta love those power outages.