No electricity breeds creativity...and exhaustion... / by Michelle Cowan

I like to think I'm strong, that I can make it through anything. But hurricane aftermath? That might be my breaking point.

Suffice it to say that I am filled with immense gratitude. My water and power came back on Sunday afternoon. And although my cell phone drowned in a flooded street and my car smells like a swamp, I am blessed with an absence of the incredible difficulties so many people I know are facing.

Still, the backed up traffic brings me to tears. The shortened grocery store hours and long gas station lines make me frantic. Naturally, my shelves were fully stocked before the hurricane, and I continue on without need of anything. But everything has been thrown off, and that seems to be enough for me to break down.

However, for someone who struggles with change and for whom acclimation comes slowly, I did quite well during the storm. Years of awareness surrounding my trouble with non-routine times have made me quite an expert in preparation and coping. I was ready for the storm, and I continue to provide for my needs and those of people who come across my path. Good stuff.

To brag or not to brag? Brag! I made a stupendous apple crisp after the storm once I discovered that the ice cream shop across from my apartment had opened for business. (Baked desserts are only half-complete without a creamy, melt-a-licious topping.) The family who owns the shop still has no power at their house. No wonder they chose to go to work instead of roast at home!

Baking the dessert, talking to the shop owner's family, coming up with a fun way to kill a few hours... That little part of my week illustrates the things I find most excellent about disaster: people get to know one another and people discover their own creative coping skills. I now know more of my neighbors than I ever thought possible. I asked for help in tough circumstances and received it! I discovered that I have a knack for creating fabulous meals from only canned items. I also realized how blessed I am to enjoy reading and other non-electric-dependent activities. I have also learned how to strike up conversations with almost anyone. During the hurricane, my neighbors and I did it because we were bored. Now, I do it because I'm curious.

I love watching people who are able to handle discomfort well. Several folks at my office still without power are chugging along remarkably well. They take it step by step and simply do the next thing that needs to be done. Inconvenience leads to simplification. Just do the next thing.

In the midst of it all, I'm fine. Still writing music. Still planning on doing the half-Ironman (although I must confess that the training for that ranks very low on my list of priorities at the moment). Still calling friends, going to work, and getting outside and enjoying. I still have my endless list of to-dos, but I remain thankful that cleaning up a yard full of tree limbs or salvaging the contents of a flooded house do not count among my concerns.

Gratitude for sure. This life is a miracle, moment by moment.