I don’t consider myself to be high maintenance, but after a week of dealing with the obstacles that Snowmaggedon 2021 dished out, I’m reconsidering that statement. Not only did this unprecedented winter event teach me a lot about my personal level of reaching my limit, it also made me keenly aware of the similarities and differences of the experience as related to others.
And let me tell ya something: Comparison truly is the thief of joy.
When I returned to work this past week, we all began sharing our “war stories” and how we survived the storm of ’21.
I recalled our on-and-off-again struggle with power, and how, just as our electricity came back on, we discovered a water leak coming from the main line in our yard. This new development added another dimension to our “week without the use of modern conveniences,” as we began schlepping out to the back yard, scooping up snow (to melt on the stove when we did have power), so water could be added to the toilets. Good times.
At one of our lowest points, when the electricity came on after sixteen hours of being a no-show, I quickly attempted to heat up a cup of water in the microwave (this is when we still had water) and make some hot chocolate. Before I could accomplish this easy task, the electricity went off again, and left me weeping in the kitchen with a mugful of tepid water and undissolved lumps of hot chocolate mix, which savagely billowed over the sides of my cup.
All I wanted was a cup of hot chocolate, for crying out loud! And even that wasn’t within my grasp.
Stupid, hateful, beautiful snow…
After dramatizing my experience, one of my co-workers said, “Well, you don’t want to hear about my week. We had water and power the entire time, and it was wonderful.”
My response was, “You’re right. I don’t want to hear about it.”
I laughed, of course, after making that statement, but I really didn’t think it was funny. It was a hard, cold, relentless week filled with struggles, worry, and problems.
Don’t get me wrong, I think snow is pretty, but I’ve never been a fan. And as big a fan as I am of Lorelai Gilmore (from “Gilmore Girls), I’ve never understood her love for snow:
I’m not sure what Lorelai was talking about when she commented that the clothes were great and everything looks pretty. She certainly didn’t see my get-up, or go-to-uniform during our snowy week. I was the unequivocal example of a fashion “don’t,” as I donned a pair of workout pants (worn under my jeans), an A&M sweatshirt on top of a “Mays School of Business” t-shirt, with the collar ripped off, some thick pink, blue, and green striped socks that have “PEACE” written on them (an accessory for “Crazy Sock Day” during Red Ribbon Week), and a pair of tan colored Uggs, circa 2008, which I had clung to just in case of a rainy—– rather, snowy day. I was anything but well put together.
But, I was warmed by a fire, had food to eat, and water to drink.
I won’t lie. Meeting these basic needs was difficult, and this struggle reminded me of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
At times during my life, I’ve actually felt as if I was close to the level of self-actualization. Perfect by no means, but aware of who I was, and who I hoped to be. But the torrential snowfall and its aftermath temporarily changed all that, and I clumsily fell back to the bottom of the pyramid, faced with the challenge of fulfilling our most basic needs: food, water, clothing, shelter, and sleep. And I began to ponder about what was really needed to feel safe and secure in the general sense.
Clearly, I knew we were much better off than so many others who were without warmth and sustenance. This brutal snow, which sucked us in with her beauty, then wreaked havoc on our lives, caused me to gain, or re-gain a deeper perspective about the things that truly matter. I was ashamed of the selfish, looking-out-for-myself-attitude I had adopted as we viewed the world from our own little snow globe.
And then it all began to make sense. I was once again reminded that it is when we give thanks for EVERYTHING—-the good, the bad, and the ugly, that we are covered with blessings, and we become a blessing to others.
In this time of distress, when I gained a new appreciation for Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Shining,”—-when the claustrophobia and isolation kicked in, and we resorted to roasting wieners over the fire, and we had to deal with and face head-on the withdrawals from not having our morning coffee, I became more aware of the many things we did have. The things that don’t go away when the lights, and water, and warmth disappear. We were lovingly covered in a blanket of security, thankful we were safe, as were the other members of our family.
I recognized the little things that we often overlook in our busy, convenient, instant-access lives, and I thanked God for our dire circumstances, for family, for friends, and for the gift of compassion. We were uncomfortable, but safe. We were weary, but alive.
And on the eighth day, there was light, and we were blessed with food and water.
Our clothes were clean, and so was the house.
My mother was with us, and she was safe and warm after days of being cold and without water. A “Blue Bloods” marathon was on TV, and Mother knitted, while Brian napped, and I relaxed on the couch. There was a knock on the door, and it was our neighbor Bob. He was delivering a Christmas gift from his wife. He told me they were sorry it was so late, but she had really been struggling lately. She suffers from chronic pain, and other issues, and rarely has good days.
He said, “She re-wrote the card three times because she wanted it to be perfect.” Along with the card, he handed me a cup, and inside the cup were “buckeyes” candies. Homemade. By Mary. Who is in constant pain.
I thanked Bob, and watched him walk away. And then I looked at the gift, and read the card, where Mary apologized for this being late. And she talked about next year, when her granddaughter would come help her bake five different kinds of cookies, which would be shared with family and friends. She spoke of her battle with poor health, and ended with this statement, “Although I’m in constant pain, I am thankful to be alive.”
I studied the cup, which I quickly claimed for myself. You see, I’m a “cup snob”—–when translated means I’m very picky about cups I drink from. This cup was not only beautifully decorated in bright primary colors, but the handle was the perfect fit for my hand. It was easy to hold and didn’t feel awkward or fragile.
In a week of hardships and inconveniences, this cup became a symbolic, tangible reminder of God’s love and how it flows from neighbor to neighbor, and town to town, from state to state, and country to country. A small ripple of kindness that changed a week filled with obstacles and negativity. The cup was visible proof that as far apart as we all are, we are mostly the same.
In all honestly, the snow did a number on me last week, but I shouldn’t have let it steal my joy. I am guilty of this even when the weather is sunny and the skies are blue. I let the devil in, and believed his lies—-that I’m not worthy, or that I don’t measure up. Just last week, I allowed a comment made by another control my thoughts, and attitude. I let unkind words shape my days, and began questioning my abilities and talents.
And then Mary sent me a cup filled with sweet treats, and love. An example of kindness and effort amidst personal pain and struggles.
This solitary gesture magically erased the memories of a tiring, destructive week, and turned my thoughts to gladness, and joy, and thankfulness, and friendship, and the simple truth that life isn’t about material things and creature comforts, but rather about connections. And cups. And homemade candy. And putting others before ourselves.
As I begin to mentally and physically thaw out from the storm, and as I see Spring peeking through the clouds, and flowers starting to bloom, and warmer, kinder days, I will remember the Great Snow, not for the difficulties we faced, but for the goodness we found.
And as I sit in my comfy chair, sipping my hot chocolate, watching TV (determining which female news anchors and/or celebrities have hair extensions and which ones do not— a skill I taught my husband during our snow week) I know that “surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”
And my beautifully colored, perfect cup, without a doubt, will be overflowing…