‘Hey Donna, have we ever discussed getting a generator?’ “Yes we have on many occasions.” ‘And what came out of those discussions?’ “I don’t know the lights came on.” At the moment of this conversation neither of us we’re in a laughing mood. My exact position at the time had me laying flat on my back on our living room sofa. I was wrapped, mummy like, in a myramid of house blankets. Donna was close by looking for candles in the kitchen that adjoins the living room. Outside the temperature hovered around zero. The early morning isolated ice storm that wrecked havoc throughout Ulster County was displaying its damage. In my numerous years of residing in the Hudson Valley I had not witnessed this kind of apocalyptic look to the landscape. I was not feeling in the mood to break any records (my personal nevers) of never staying in a house overnight that was experiencing a power outage. There were large trees down across just about every road in Kingston. There were also wires hanging on trees and laying in our neighbors lawns. This mess created by electricity meeting fallen ice from the sky was for sure to create a very extended outage. I am a dreamer yet I recognize reality.
I was still not moving after my exchange of words with Donna. She had already headed up the stairs to crawl into her self made bunker protecting her from all the hazards that lurked beyond its’ reach. I was alone with my multiple personalities…… and I mean alone. ‘What do we do now? O.K. first move let’s catch up with facebook. Reel through some posts and see what is happening around the town. Maybe I’ll send out a few messages. Eww, on second thought no, that’s so desperate. Come on Rich, haven’t you sunken low enough? The lights, T.V., internet, and my trusty Miss Pacman machine were all out of commission. I mean talk about a Friday night with zero options. It appears to come down to two choices: I can pout, think about how low can life go. I can think about how cold it is inside the house, how numb my toes feel. I can do the full “woe is me”, what will I eat, how will I ever survive the night. This was no time for self pity. What is my other option: I can admit that I am a classic procrastinator who will search high, low and everywhere to find distraction instead of purpose. The time had come to take the first step to recovery; admit to yourself you have a major problem with procrastination.
In these instances I do not make final decisions immediately, but tonight I took very little back and forth in making a call. I was going to get off of this couch and be productive. I was in a place where I knew it was time to give myself an ultimatum; I must will myself out of my hopeless position lumped on the couch. I must get out of this malaise right now, get pen and paper to scrawl a short story about the “Ice Storm”. If you don’t execute you’ll know for sure you lack both the drive and the ambition to better yourself. Live with that fact Jack. So get out of your cocoon of blanketry and jot a fun story about what you learned from this most extraordinary weather event that had just occurred. It couldn’t be a more perfect night to tell a story. There is absolutely nothing in the way. All I need to do is focus on what I’m writing. Once you go to your chair and sit down you cannot get up until you have written the first word right through the last paragraph. Now my inner me was talking: ‘ You know darn well you have never sat down and written for more than an hour straight. You know you can’t focus that hard for that long. You know you’ll get a grand idea, write a few words, and say that’s enough.
Yeah, I have another inner me that will argue with inner me # 1, and that voice was making itself heard: It is time for you take a test young grasshopper. Let’s see if you still have something to say. Let’s see if you can still challenge yourself. If you are going to prose about the Ice storm it will be much better if it is written in the midst of the event. I often play minds games with myself as a motivational tool. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, in both cases I am the winner and the loser. But tonight all systems pointed to only victory. The stars were aligned, and all the icicles were still freezing the internet lines. It was a perfectly strange night. This was the first time I was roughing it through a power outage. Call me lucky, or understand that when our children were growing up if there wasn’t power we went directly to a hotel. I wrap the blanket around me a bit tighter as I write away. Donna is bunkered in her kind of heaven: peace, quiet, and a good book. I am alone downstairs only able to see within a three foot radius while scribbling under a makeshift lantern. It wasn’t many generations ago that tonight was a typical winter occurrence in the northeast. There was obviously plenty of time (I am finding out tonight) to read, write and build closer relationships with your family.
The reality is I have always enjoyed my distractions. I am a spoiled American who loves baseball, apple pie, the flag, and my 84″ flatscreen television. I spend too much time on facebook and there is a Miss Pacman machine in my basement that I am far too good at. None of this is any kind of apology, simply my truth. There is nothing wrong with distraction if you can avoid excess. While that is easy to comprehend we all know it is easier said than done. The crackling trees outside were still popping and breaking on the icy ground. The temperature inside the house was dropping. For the first time since sitting down I turned on my phone to discover it was 9:44. Typically I would be preparing for ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’. But of course, that was not an option tonight. One of my inner voices alerted me I was losing my outside voice and should return to my inside voice. The only sound I can hear is the trucks whizzing along the New York State Thruway.
‘Where will I be showering tomorrow? When will I have my beloved technology back? lol. How much damage will this record breaking Ice storm have caused when all is said and done. When will everything be back to normal? If we live long enough time gives us the answers. As I begin working on the final paragraph I am feeling pretty, pretty good about myself. I have successfully completed the gauntlet I laid down for myself. Completely out of options I have sat down and met the challenge. I was breaking so many “Never before” records: First time roughing it through the power outage, first time sleeping with four layers of clothes on and first time sitting in a chair writing a short story to completion without indulging in any distractions. I had seen opportunity and pounced. When I had finished congratulating myself I heard Donna yelling from her tundra shelter: “Are you coming upstairs?” ‘Yeah, I am just finishing up?’ “Finishing what?” “A story that was suppose to be about the Ice storm.” ‘What is it about?’ Oh boy I thought to myself that’s a tough question. ‘Hard to say….. man vs. technology, finding purpose, discovering opportunity in adversity.’ “Sounds boring, good night.” Donna went to sleep, the story was done, and a lesson was learned.