As I type this post, I have another browser window open to track the path of Hurricane Florence due to make landfall in my area sometime later this week. Though I now live a few hours inland, I grew up in a coastal town, so I know how unpredictable storms like these can be. It’s entirely possible that we will get a bit of rain and wind and nothing else–and it’s just as possible that we’ll be spending quite some time without power. I pray that the latter is the absolute worst of what we all endure here.
In preparing for the storm and potential power outage, I was reminded of a time about a year ago when I was returning home after dropping off my daughter at school. As I approached the first stoplight on my route, I noticed that it wasn’t working. That’s odd, I thought. I drove on, navigating through another half dozen malfunctioning traffic lights before arriving safely back home only to discover that the power was out there too.
I used the little remaining battery life I had left on my phone to check the estimate of when our power company would restore service: two hours. No problem, I thought. I’ll get out my fully charged laptop and I’ll chip away at my to-do list until the power comes back on.
Not so fast. As it turned out, I hadn’t downloaded a single document that would be useful in accomplishing anything work-related accomplished. Without internet access, I was stuck. As a self-described productivity junkie, this situation was frustrating, but it was completely out of my hands.
In the midst of feeling annoyed and restless, I heard a voice inside me say: this is your moment to do something just for you. I remembered that several weeks prior I’d checked out a novel from the library I’d been wanting to read but hadn’t made time to open. Now I had two straight hours of nothing to do but read for pleasure. What an indulgence.
Just as I was getting deep into the first chapter, I was startled by the obnoxious high-pitched beeping sounds of numerous kitchen appliances being reset at the exact same moment. The power was back on. And to my surprise, I didn’t feel relieved. I felt sad. Disappointed. There went my guilt-free reading time, I thought. I dutifully turned my laptop back on and got to work.
I’ve often thought back on that day and what it revealed. Deep down there is a part of me that yearns for that kind of disconnection, even if externally imposed, from the sources that feed my need to be constantly productive. I have this unmet longing for permission to relax, enjoy, and play–to reconnect with parts of me that I neglect in favor of work.
As I watch the storm make its way across the Atlantic, I’ll admit that a small part of me hopes for a little disconnection as we wait for it to pass.
Let me be clear: we have all seen how hurricanes endanger the lives and well-being of people in far more vulnerable situations than my own. I would never wish harm on anyone. I also recognize access to shelter, food, and water are basic necessities that I take for granted and that many live without. My prayer is first and foremost for the safety and well-being of the people, animals, and nature in its path, especially those along the coast.
But if the hurricane must come, I pray also that it would serve as a reminder that there is so little that we actually control. That there is a certain freedom in riding out the storm. That there is opportunity for light to shine in the dark.
I’ve got my book and flashlight ready.
Rev. Katey Zeh is an ordained Baptist minister, a nonprofit strategist, writer, and speaker at the intersections of faith and gender justice. She is the Executive Director of BrightDot Academy, a personal and professional enrichment initiative of the performance consulting firm Crouch & Associates. She is the co-host of Kindreds, a podcast for soul sisters. Her book Women Rise Up will be published by the FAR Press later this year. Find her on Twitter at @kateyzeh or on her website kateyzeh.com.