When The Heat Goes Out
Sat Nam and blessings.
Since Thursday of last week, thousands of people in the state of New Mexico have been without natural gas. Which means living without heat, or a way to cook or a way to heat water - depending on how the house is built. This gas shortage began during the coldest week that New Mexico has had in the last 50 years.
It's been strange living through this - and being in the part of New Mexico that will probably have our heat turned on last. But it's also been a very fascinating experience in terms of lessons learned.
So - for whatever it's worth - here are some insights that I've gained from living through this experience that I thought I'd share with you.
Cold Can Dehydrate You
Just like the body needs more water when it gets too hot, the body needs more water when it gets cold, too. For about the first 7-8 hours after the gas went out, I didn't have any space heaters in the house and I was walking around in my winter coat - except for the kitchen where I had the oven on. It was surprising to me that I got spaced out from dehydration. It took me a day to realize that I had to drink a lot of extra water to deal with the what was happening.
Carbs and Protein Are Your Friend
Lots of carbs = a lot more energy for the body to use to stay warm. Breads, brown rice, flour tortillas, chocolate chip cookies. Lots of lots of carbs. If you're dealing with a colder than average environment, they go a long way. Eating good protein is also important because it helps the brain keep functioning with clarity. Especially in the midst of....
Yes, Sitting on Your Couch Waiting for the Heat to Come On Can Be Stressful
There's something about the regular routine of life being disrupted that can throw the body into stress. Even if the disruption is happening in the most contained and graceful way possible. The neuro-net of the brain has a regular pattern to life that gives a sense of security. When the pattern gets interrupted, stress is the natural result. There's a certain psychological weariness that can set in: when is life going to get back to normal? Or - what do I need to do to cover my bases today? What I found helpful: good meals with protein, trying to keep whatever routine I could keep, staying informed, keeping in communication with other people, and all the usual spiritual stuff I would do anyway.
It's Great to Have Something to Share with Others
Even though I don't have my heat on, I do have hot water. One of the healthiest things I've been able to do to stay sane in all of this is to open my home to other people who have needed a hot shower. When you have something you can give to someone else, it creates a sense of gratitude and empowerment in you. Giving always comes from a psychological position of strength and plenty. There was a beautiful inspirational saying that I remember from my childhood. "Share thy little with another." Even in the worst moments, if you have something small to share with another person, it creates a sense of joy and happiness, and helps battle the mental fatigue and stress of the situation.
Let Yourself Receive
No man is an island, and there's nothing like a crisis to show it. I couldn't have managed on my own these last five days, and feel grateful for the network of people in my life that helped me when I needed it the most.
My Italian Genes are Showing. When there's an emergency, cook a lot of food
As funny as it sounds, the first thing I did when I found out that the heat was going to be out for an extended period of time was to go to the grocery store, buy food and then come home and cook for 3 hours. My brain did something like this. "Well, we don't know if the electricity is going to go out, too. So I better make sure I have enough food for a few days if we loose electricity. And I better make sure that I have food for other people besides me who might need it." Lemon-rosemary tofu, a pot of vegetarian chili, a pot of brown rice, and a pot of kala chana. Five days later, I still have food left and have had the chance to share some of it. Don't know why my mind acted like that, but it's a good lesson for me to always have plenty of beans and rice on hand for cooking. If the electricity HAD gone out before I got any cooking done - well, that would have been another story. It makes me think about investing in one of those camp stoves for the future. Just in case.
The Body Likes to be a Certain Temperature. You Can't Really Avoid It
The difference between one space heater or two. The difference of hanging a blanket to block the hallway so the heat stays in one room. The difference of having a warm pair of socks or an extra blanket. Ultimately, it's the difference between being uncomfortable and unhappy or being OK and just mildly annoyed by the whole situation. And we're really talking just the difference of a few degrees. In the difference between the room temperature being 56 or 64 is a whole universe. I've had lots of interesting musings this last week about the nature of human evolution - and how much it has depended on our ability to keep ourselves in that ideal 6o's temperature no matter what environment we live in. In the middle of a heating crisis in winter - we don't change our evolutionary heritage. It's all about how to get back to that temperature "sweet spot."
You Can Take It If You Have To
We've just experienced the coldest weather in NM in the last 50 years. This is what I know. Worst case scenario, I could stay in my house under a bunch of blankets and live through it just fine. The house, itself, is a great protection from the cold. It wouldn't be pleasant, or preferable. BUT I wouldn't freeze to death, either. That's actually quite comforting to know. That you've seen the bottom and realized - oh yeah - that would really suck, but it wouldn't kill me.
Global Communications Are Completely Amazing
It's fascinating that I can sit in the middle of rural New Mexico, without heat, in a state of emergency - and still log onto Facebook and my blog and share all of this with all of you. Watching TV and playing around on the Internet has been the most stable, normalizing activity that I've done to keep a sense of routine since all of this started. You can't send me heat or food - but you can hear what's going on. And that is actually really nice.
Well, maybe something from this essay will stick in your mind and will be helpful if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.
With Divine Light and many blessings,
Ek Ong Kaar Kaur