It's a funny word, powerlessness. The sibilance of the word alone coils around me, and can either choke me, or set me free.
Many of us are feeling powerless these days in the aftermath of Sandy, the superstorm that rocked the East Coast. Homes were lost, lower Manhattan was flooded, parts of Long Island and New Jersey are gone - and the lights flickered out in my home in Northern Westchester on Monday at 6:30pm and remain . . . out.
Yes, I am grateful that temporary loss of power is the worst of it, and that my mother can give us shelter now that it's getting cold, but I have to admit that I am grumpy.
Is that okay?
I walk around in my life, thinking that I am in control of so much. Having routines, getting the kids off to school, going to the gym, writing, teaching. Both structured and unstructured time with family and friends. Sure, things don't always go my way and I often have to do things that I don't want to do for the larger good, but that's part of being a grown up, right?
And spiritual sages say that the key to happiness is to accept our powerlessness over other people, places and things. That our only real control is over our attitudes and the way we feel.
But I seem to be feeling particularly out of sorts this morning, so that's why I am writing - struggling with the shoulds: I should feel grateful, I don't have it that bad, etcetera - not giving value to my feelings of %^&&^.
Valuing my feelings shouldn't be the same as giving into them as I did when I was in the throes of adolescence when I let my feelings consume and control me.
It's a delicate balance, isn't it? If I feel disgruntled and depressed about a bad situation, that doesn't mean I am spiritually bereft; it reminds me that I need to honor the negative feelings that I have in order to let them go.
I take comfort in the fact that I'm not alone in my frustration that our "power" is in the hands of one electric company that has a monopoly on us. We had time to prepare for the storm: Con Ed was ready to hit the ground running, but our company, NYSEG, wasn't. We have seen more NYSEG trucks in Connecticut than in New York. They have cooked their books and are reporting to the press that more people have power than they actually do. They have been unresponsive to local government.
But then there's the spiritual adage to practice principles before personalities. Hmmm. How can I apply this here? Do I pray for the people at NYSEG to get their #$%^ together?
I am grateful for our local government standing up for us and for our local Patch team keeping us informed all along the way. Some power in town has been restored: I was able to run three Writopia Lab workshops in Katonah yesterday and get some delicious hot soup from Noka Joe's - celebrating with the people who got their power back and commiserating with others who didn't. We are all trying to get back to some kind of normal.
But the kids want to know if they will be able to go to school tomorrow, and we still have no word on whether or not that will happen. It lies in the hands of NYSEG. In this case, it feels as if the sibilant s's in powerlessness are trying to choke us.
Still. Powerlessness. Taking actions and letting go of the results, let go, let go, let . . .
Commit to doing the best you can in any situation and the new normal will be an increased gratitude, and a new awareness.
(And possibly a new electric company?)