I have to admit that when I saw her FB post, I was envious. I coveted the very thing that was finally in her grasp. I told myself I was happy for her and her family. She was very generous with sharing her boon with us. She knew how I felt as she was in my position longer than me so there was no “rubbing it in” and I was trying hard to be happy for her because she does deserve this wonderful gift.
Enter the green eyed dragon.
I wanted what she had as soon as I saw that picture of that glowing light bulb in her house. I too wanted to flick a switch and have my light turn on. I wanted to have ice in my drink. I wanted to batch cook again and freeze meals. I wanted to have leftovers in a fridge. I wanted to not have to go to the car to charge my phone.
I wanted to watch Netflix. WAH!
We take for granted the little things that electricity affords us.
We use the term “power” when we talk about electricity.
“My power is out.” “Do you have power yet?” “When will you have power?”
It’s an interesting thing. The word “power,” at its root, means “the ability to act or do; strength, vigor, might.”
Yes it’s true. We can’t do a lot of things. Sigh.
Last year, I did a whole block on what power means with my then 14 year old as she enter another 7-year cycle. We used Mary Beard’s book “Women and Power,” “The Mother of All Questions” by Rebecca Solnit – particular her essay entitled ‘A Short History of Silence’ – and “Muscle and Bones” by Charles Kovacs.
We have to be more reflective about what power is, what it is for, and how it is measured. To put it another way, if women are not perceived to be fully within the structures of power, surely it is power that we need to redefine rather than women?”– Mary Beard, Women & Power: A Manifesto
― Mary Beard, Women & Power: A Manifesto
The feeling of power is also related to the feeling one has when they stand up straight. The posture they assume. (This is why we also studied anatomy and physiology.) How you move in the world is definitely related to whether you can or can’t do something.
Reframing power in this way, I know that I have been able to do so much more this last year without electricity.
I have learned so much about myself and my family living without it: how candlelight changes the mood in the evening and we all tend to speak softer and it inspires contemplation and more compassionate conversation; how planning meals for a large family is an art so we always have just enough since we have nowhere to put leftovers; and how grinding my coffee beans every morning at 5:00am is no longer cute for me.
I have also learned how low the bar I have set for the kids’ wishes just like how I would be the best mom ever if I bought them a large hot chocolate to share – split 5 ways so that means each of them only got a sip in the end – when they were little because I NEVER bought them treats. I had no idea the bar could be even lower than it is now. I hear them say things like:
“You know, when we have a fridge, I just have to do one big shop at the market.”
“Oh and laundry! We could do it when we actually need it!!”
“I miss cold drinks.”
You get used to it especially when your closest neighbour is in the same boat. You share tips and tricks on how to keep your cooler colder a little longer or which solar lights work best.
Then one day, you take your dogs for the morning walk and the sound of her vitamix without a generator reminds you of what she has and you don’t. There’s also the litres of bone broth that you make for an ailing husband and then you forget you don’t have anywhere to store it.
Back to slouchy posture.
Thank goodness for her generosity – I can store the broth in her freezer and because she is the best neighbour in the world. We also save money on food as nothing goes rotten in the back of the fridge. In fact, we stay very present when it comes to food, what we can and cannot do in various lighting scenarios, and what constitutes how we live.
We don’t depend on power.
Let me rephrase that.
We don’t depend on external power.
Standing tall with my shoulders back is a choice. How I define power is also my choice. Questioning current power structures at large in the world – yup, my choice.
I am leaning into the relativity of this word more so than a static definition. Our independence of electricity this past year, as we celebrate our 1-year anniversary without it today, has been an exercise in relative power. What I can’t do translates into a what I can do.
This is the thinking one has to take on when living in the jungle.
I source a different power. A more reliable one. The power of creativity and resilience. The power of team work and community. The power of choice.
**Shout out to our community for having each other’s backs navigating life in the dark – literally.