This morning I had a unique quarantine experience – a power failure in my neighborhood. About 8 a.m. I heard a loud pop and the electricity abruptly went out. I recognized the sound of an exploding transformer – something that you always know when you hear it.
It only took me about five minutes to fully realize that the lack of electricity meant no WiFi and by extension, no way to power up my laptop and connect to my work servers. In better days, on a work-from-home day, I would have packed things up and headed to a nearby café to grab some coffee and use their WiFi.
Clearly, during a quarantine when practically everything is still closed down, there’s little or no chance of finding any kind of place to set up a laptop to work. I suddenly felt stuck. My only connection to the outside world (aka, the internet) was through my cell phone, but I forgot to plug it in last night, so my battery was down to about 50%. That meant that I had to be very conservative with my usage since I had no way to recharge it once it died.
At first, I had a moment of anxiety. Just a moment – a very brief moment. Then I heaved a great sigh of relief and thought, “Hooray! I now have a perfect excuse to unplug entirely from everything until they restore my electricity.”
I shot off an email to the people who needed to know at work and essentially said, “I am off the grid so if it’s an emergency, text me, but otherwise I am down for the count today.”
This is the first and only time something like this has really happened to me. In the past, there were always plenty of options: drive to work, head to a café or bar, go to the Art Institute member lounge, head to the gym. All of those would have given me the option to take power cables and recharge things and access WiFi to stay connected.
Today, none of those were an option and I felt so incredibly relieved. Then I had another thought.
“Why in the hell did it take a power failure for me to feel like I actually have permission to unplug and take care of myself?”
Really, the thought hit me hard. I realized that despite all of my internal work, my spiritual awareness, my focus on keeping work and the rest of my life separate – despite all of that I still had some kind of guilty negative voice saying, “You have to stay busy. You have to stay productive. You don’t have permission to just stop and walk away without advance permission and a plan in place to take care of things in your absence.”
Ouch! I hate hearing that voice. Where in the world did I pick up this dysfunctional concept that I somehow belong to someone or something else – that other people or institutions control me and that I don’t have the ability to make independent decisions?
Frankly, nothing is happening at my job right now that requires my attention. Nothing. I don’t need anyone’s permission to stop and take care of myself. After all, who is more important to me than me?
So today, even though the electricity has now returned and I am reconnected to the internet and am indeed sitting in front of my work laptop, I am getting ready to power it all down again so that I can go curl up and read a book for the first time in eons.
It took a power failure to remind me that I have been giving my power away to others for far, far too long.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.