One of my biggest pet peeves in life is being cold—I hate it with everything in my being.
Cue the ruthless torture of Mother Nature.
I grew up in Texas and embrace the triple-digit temperatures we often get in the summer. In fact, when I lived in Southern California for almost two years not too long ago, I used to think some of the days I spent at the beach were a little too chilly. And don’t even get me started on the nights there—if I didn’t have a jacket or hoodie with me at all times, it was disastrous.
As you likely know, Texas recently experienced weather that we are certainly not used to and that we were nowhere near prepared to handle. I’m not going to get into all of the logistics or play the blame game, but because of the increased demand for energy caused by the single-digit temps (and negative feels-like temps), rolling blackouts were scheduled throughout certain areas of the state. In my city, some people experienced no loss of power at all, others went through actual rolling blackouts, and then others didn’t have any power for extensive periods of time. We were told that these power outages would last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, but mine ended up being about three days.
Three very cold days.
The first night without power, it occurred to me that the food I had at home was all food that needed to be cooked. A microwave needs electricity to work. So does an electric oven. Even though I have an aversion to gas-powered appliances, perhaps they would have come in hand in this instance. Regardless, I had Wheat Thins and Starbursts for dinner that night because that’s how you crush life. And, no, I could not thaw anything out because it’s rather difficult for food to thaw in a condo that is in the 30s or 40s inside.
The next morning, I went running in the snow again like I had the day before, and I was reminded why I don’t like going on winter vacations to the mountains. Running in snow is unpleasant. And cold. And slower than normal. When I got home, I was really excited about taking a hot shower. That excitement was quickly squelched when I stepped into what can only be described as water straight from the North Pole. I’m surprised it was in liquid form and not ice. I wanted to cry and die at the same time.
Even though school was canceled, I still had freelance work to complete and was able to do so by using the hotspot on my phone for computer internet, though it was spotty at best. I would then have to go to my car to charge my phone since the use of the hotspot drained the battery, and it was nice to get some heat while I was in there, too.
I went over to my friend Piper’s house for a few hours one day when she welcomed Dash and me into her home and also went to my sister’s so that I could take a shower with actual hot water. They both had functioning electrical outlets and central heating systems, so that was a plus.
Those three days felt more like 12, and I missed watching sports. I’d like to tell you that I didn’t sit in the dark with a flashlight talking to my dog about my life, but I would be lying. Those were some rough nights, my friends. I slept in multiple layers that included my winter coat that I bought at the Costa Mesa Target for only $20 when it was on a major markdown because there really isn’t a huge need for such clothing when you live in Southern California. There also isn’t a huge need for it in Texas most of the time, but hey, 2021, am I right?
I started to feel guilty for feeling miserable. There were millions of others in the state in similar situations, and there were also individuals who were in much worse circumstances. I knew that I should be thankful and not complain to my dog and the air about being cold and not having luxuries I’m used to for a few days. I was feeling way too many feelings, and I don’t necessarily like feeling all of the feelings.
When my power finally came back on whatever night it did—all of the days ran together at that point—I rejoiced but also didn’t want to get too excited. It didn’t feel real, and I wasn’t sure that it was going to last. I ventured to the grocery store the next day, and it felt like the beginning of the pandemic. It’s weird and interesting to me that bread is always the first thing to go. Maybe situations like these cause people to abandon keto and gluten-free meals. I’m not sure. I just know that Lunchables and cauliflower-crust pizza were basically the only things left. I don’t like either, but I bought a Lunchables because it came with a Pacific Cooler Capri Sun. I ended up eating some chicken that had been in my freezer during the three days without power, so I’m honestly surprised I’m still here.
I also ran out of dog food for Dash. I had ordered it over the weekend, but the delivery was delayed because of the blasted snow. I had to feed him some Wheat Thins and animals crackers one evening and then some turkey sausage that was cold and that I’m pretty sure hadn’t gone bad yet as a result of the lack of power. Then, I bought him some other type of dog food to hold him over until his arrived, but it made him sick to his stomach. My friend Jenny came to the rescue and offered to give me some extra food she had that always helped her pups, and he was back to his crazy self in no time.
My mom called me to make sure I had bottled water because she had heard that parts of Dallas had a water-boil notice. I had never heard of such a thing, and of course I didn’t have bottled water. When I found out what a water-boil notice is, I knew that I couldn’t adhere to it because I don’t even own any pots in which to boil water. I don’t think my part of the city was actually under that notice, but if we were, it was too late for me at that point.
I know that I’m very fortunate, and I know that many other individuals in this world are in much more dire conditions every single day. I don’t ever want to take for granted the things I have. I want to be grateful every time I see and run on a clear sidewalk without having to worry about slipping on ice patches. I want to be grateful for hot water. I want to be grateful for the silence at night that isn’t interrupted by the persistent and irritating sound of a dripping faucet. I want to be grateful for the fact that I have a home and can control whether it’s warm or cool inside. I want to be grateful for sunshine and days at parks without worrying about frostbite or how many layers I need to wear. I want to be grateful for so many things in so many ways.
Every Wednesday, some friends and I take part in what I call “pink gratitude Wednesdays.” We share what we’re grateful for that week—sometimes significant things in life, sometimes smaller but still meaningful things. I have all of my students in all of my classes share what they’re grateful for each week, as well. I love this tradition, and I’m going to keep it alive until the day I die. But I also want to make sure that I’m making this a daily occurrence in my own personal life. I want to take time every single day to recognize the blessings that I have before me—whether it’s an ice-free piece of pavement or something that seems more monumental.
Most of all, though, I want to be grateful for people. And I want them to know that I’m grateful for them. I saw so many individuals helping others—strangers showing love to strangers—and it’s a beautiful sight to see. But I honestly wish that it didn’t take extreme situations for this to happen. Whether there’s a pandemic or massive winter storm or not, we’re all fighting our own battles on a daily basis. I don’t know many people who have it all completely together, regardless of what you might see on the surface, and it’s not good when we add to people’s hurt. Let’s love each other when there isn’t a disaster going on that brings us all together. Instead, let’s love each other because we’re all people who need love.
It’s really that simple.