As we hooked up the heater we went over instructions to refresh our memories (to be clear – you are NOT supposed to use these things inside) including DON’T FORGET TO CRACK A WINDOW. You know, so you don’t die of CO2 poisoning… Yeah, this is how we roll in WV folks…
When we were finished, I walked back down to her SUV with her. (Actually it isn’t even her SUV it is her room-mate’s because her own car is a little front-wheel drive model and she couldn’t even get the door open because the snow was too high). When we got to the “big” hill I looked down to see at least six different neighbors doing various things – trying to shovel their driveways, helping the old woman that lives about ½ way down the hill shovel her driveway, actually bringing bags of cat litter out to put on the hill, which had been plowed early in the day but was now again snow covered and icy. I had this moment of WTF?...
See, I remember stuff like this. It was how I grew up. Despite that life lesson from my parents our neighborhood residents were always helping each other out. The adults would check on each other during storms like this, help clear driveways, share food, people would stay with other families if their water froze… Did I misunderstand the lesson? Were there situations exempt from it?
After meeting a big chunk of my neighbors, who were all quite nice and helped Tara get her vehicle out and headed in the right direction, I walked back to my house to start to deal with the night to come. As I approached my own driveway (I am the last house) my “downstairs” neighbors, whom I had written off based on random observation (LOL) stopped me and tell me they will leave an extra propane tank on their back porch should I need it. They, like the couple next door to them, HAVE A GENERATOR. Smart. Wow. Thanks neighbors. Again, WTF?????
It was a long night. I couldn’t allow myself to sleep because you can’t sleep with one of those heaters on (even with the window cracked) plus I had managed to get a small fire burning with the mostly wet wood, lots of newspaper and cardboard but it had to be almost constantly babied and I couldn’t chance it going out. I would fire up the heater and leave it on till the thermostat read 60, then turn it off. Sixty was a high goal yes, but figuring that was the temp in the living room and the rest of the house would remain lower, I had to try and ensure the pipes wouldn’t freeze so I had to keep the heat flowing. I ran water and opened the doors on all of my sinks. I would nap for 20 minutes or so at a time when the heater wasn’t on, not really ever drifting fully off and setting my travel clock on an alarm in case I did. As it was, when the fire would start to crackle less, I’d jolt back to life and tend to it. The animals gathered around the fireplace with me on blankets, each trying to get as close to it as they could. At one point all three of them were laying on top of me. For the first time in their lives together the cats did not fight.
By dawn I was no longer freaked out by the heater and would actually have it on while I tended to the fire with my back to it. I had thought to myself at dusk that if we could just make it till dawn on the coldest night, we could deal with the rest. When dawn came, I really started to think about some things, including:
1. I was really not prepared to deal with this situation. Like the folks of Alexandria I have become quite soft during my years of partnership. I didn’t mean to, it just happened that I started to depend on someone else for certain things. Maybe that is how it should be but when you are alone, that isn’t how it can be… Being raised to “depend on no one” WAS a good lesson. Perhaps I misconstrued it in my brain over the years to arrive at number 2, but in and of itself there was an attempt to teach me to be prepared for the worst in life and to do some planning, take precautions and be smart about what can happen, even in the modern world. The Depend on No One rule was applicable to money, work, happiness, future, and survival readiness.
See, I think that in relationships it is very easy for us to slip into role play. Some women go into relationships that way. They actually WANT someone to take out the trash, mow the grass, do the “man things” that need done. I’m sure we all know some of them and most of us try hard to avoid them at the water cooler. I have never been that woman and have prided myself in the same. However, in any relationship the natural tendency is toward some sort of status quo of each “area of expertise” and logic so to speak. My long-term relationship was non-traditional in that my mate cooked. That is simply because it is NOT my area of expertise LOL. I, however, had trash duty. This was simply because I drive a truck and most days don’t go to work in a suit and the trash needed taken all the way down a 300 foot driveway to the roadside. But, the big stuff – like generators and making sure the furnace worked - I defaulted to the partner with more expertise. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it just IS in relationships. Despite my parent’s lessons in not depending on anyone, I certainly did and my recent situation was dire because I did not take seriously that ability being gone. One should note this is completely different than making a choice to have someone else assist or do something you either don’t have the time or expertise to do. For instance, I could certainly study how to build a porch and maybe eventually actually do that. But, I am making a choice to pay someone to build a porch because I actually want a porch this summer…
2. But, I digress – So, the second thing – the thing that I obviously arrived at in error is that we gain nothing by being stubborn and “independent” to the point of absurdity. I watch this ridiculous show sometimes – Dual Survival. Yes, it is silly and staged and ludicrous sometimes but entertaining. So, on this show, there is always this give and take and sometimes this disagreement between the hunter/gather dude and the retired armed forces dude on how to approach these dire situations. Both ways normally would work. Transversally, NOT doing anything or doing something completely rash and not thought out (either because you are ignorant and haven’t educated yourself or because you are just plain stubborn), is just plain stupid.
Look, it might not take a village but everyone needs at least a few true friends. You know, the kind those Facebook quotes talk about. As I think on the fact that it was Tara who took matters into her own hands and got me that heater, I realize even more the hole that is about to be introduced into my life with her moving across the country next week. It goes deeper than horses. Much, much deeper. There are a handful of people in our lives like that and I tend to shut myself off from most of the prospective ones. Tara got in because we had a very regimented schedule to see each other each week for riding lessons and this went on for years. Throughout that time, we talked more and more, went through the sadness of losing horses and relationships together and a friendship was formed. How a person opens up herself to others without experiencing the very real possible disappointment of those others being less than they present themselves to be is a mystery to me. But, without being open, how will those true friends emerge? This is the difficult one for me, since I have misconstrued the lesson of Depend on No One to become Trust No One, Need No One, etc. I am truly certain, for instance, that had it not been for this situation I would probably never have known any of my “neighbors” ever. I keep to myself probably for many of the wrong reasons and I’m not very good at determining the right ones because it is easier to keep to myself.
3. Just.Stop.Already. I have a wicked sense of humor and a fairly short fuse for bullshit, BUT I am not a glass is half empty kind of person. Negativity bothers me. It really bothers me. It seeps into me and brings me down. I don’t like to be down. I am like that song by Jewel. I really AM sensitive and I’d like to stay that way because if I don’t, then I feel like I’ll have no compassion for the things I DO care about.
So, after this “good chance of freezing to death” incident I was finally able to free myself from the holler and get to the barn. Our two “neggie ninnies” have this habit of sitting in the “lounge” (which is this little room off the hay barn with a concrete floor and some tables and no heat save the tiny electric foot heater I bought this fall), smoking cigs and bitching about everything under the sun, basically. I sit with them for a bit most days because I truly DO enjoy the other parts of them – one is in her 70s and has been riding since she was 4. She is hilarious with her stories of horses and has a ton of knowledge behind her. The other is a bit older than me and works in the same sort of environment as I do, not the public sector but a very similar genre. For whatever reason these two hens took a liking to me when they normally scoff and snicker at newcomers. I’d love to think it is my winning personality LOL, but who knows – maybe they were just lonely? I also sit with them (and interact and try to get along) because they ARE my riding partners. They are some of the only folks that trail ride and, well, I’m not stupid enough to be on bad terms with the people that share my passion. Yesterday though, I was really way too into the look, I’m just happy to be alive and here mode to listen to their wha-whu, wha-whu, whaaaaa-whuuuu…. I have to limit my exposure to such banter. LOL.
A Diary of...
Trying to live well in every way...and sometimes laughing about it later.