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I love 4:30 a.m.
It never used to be my time; I wasn’t a morning person. And then, about a year ago, in the midst of a “dark night of the soul” moment, I embraced the dark.
What used to be painfully difficult became my solace. In that space before dawn, I didn’t have to be anything. I found the comforts of journaling, meditation, yoga and reading. After days filled with feeling all the feelings around me — other people’s anxiety, pain, fear, uncertainty, grief on top of my own — I was able to sleep it off, then find myself again in those dark, quiet moments.
My routine might seem eye-roll-worthy (it’s taken me years to actually implement The Miracle Morning), but it works for me.
Drink a glass of water.
Fill the cats’ water fountain.
Fill the diffuser and add some essential oils.
Roll out my yoga mat.
Light a candle.
Practice yoga; meditate.
Take a shower; wash yesterday’s energetic residue away.
Make my coffee and smoothie.
Make my second coffee.
Now I’m ready to face the day — put on the clothes, the makeup, listen to the news or a podcast, answer emails and eventually talk to other people. Be a productive citizen, a grown-ass woman, a leader, a friend.
When the power went out around 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, I wasn’t alarmed. It was almost my bedtime anyway — early riser, right? So I lit a candle, made my way upstairs and called it a night. By midnight, I was sweating and journeyed back down to the couch.
When 4:30 rolled around, there was still no power. “No big deal,” I thought. Embrace the dark like you have all year.
But should I be using water?
The fountain isn’t working, so I guess I’d better get some water bowls out for my babies.
No yoga teacher or meditative music in the background.
No coffee or breakfast.
At this point, I gave up, got dressed, called in a latte order with an extra shot to pick up on my way and settled into my air-conditioned office, glad that I could charge my phone.
The power stayed out for 65-ish hours. I spent one night at a friend’s, grabbing a shower in the morning, then heading home to try to re-create my routine. It didn’t cut it. I contemplated booking a hotel the third night, but what I was actually craving was my routine. My home. My morning lets me be human by the time I get to work. My yoga, my cats, my coffee, my journal. The things that soothe my soul and give my mind the space to function.
Throughout the week, I’ve been publishing blogs for a campaign at work focused on fair and affordable housing. I couldn’t help but think of one post, which asked, “what’s the difference between ‘where do you stay?’ And ‘where do you live’?” This week, as I was “staying” on couches, the importance of having a place to live hit me like a ton of bricks.
Because I own a home and pay for a security system, I feel safe. Within that safe space, I have comfort: air conditioning, a bed to sleep in, TV and internet to stream my favorite yoga classes, espresso machine, “good” coffee beans, a subscription to Daily Harvest, which lets me put a few good nutrients in my body every day.
This (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime power outage threw me off for a week. I found myself in a bad mood, irritable, short with others and I just couldn’t think — couldn’t get my head on straight.
What if my seemingly impaired self during this disruption was my baseline, my normal?
Imagine you’re someone else. Someone whose place to stay isn’t stable. Someone who never really knows if the heat or air will be on when they get home. Someone who’s had the experience of coming home from work or school to find their things in garbage bags on the front lawn — evicted. Someone who actually doesn’t know where they’re going to sleep that night . . . not because it’s too hot in their own home, but because they’re not sure they have a home to go to. Someone who may or may not be able to hit that personal reset button every morning with a shower and a cup of coffee.
I wasn’t my best self during the power outage because I’ve become accustomed to taking care of myself in a certain way. Let me be clear . . . the point I’m making isn’t that I can afford to stay in a hotel or have a weekly meal-order subscription.
Privilege is 27-year-old-white-lady-clueless-me getting pre-qualified for a home loan (and the equity I’ve built in the years since buying my house).
Privilege is bringing my best self to work most days because I have my self-care routine.
Privilege is being able to make the decision not to sleep in my safe, secure home because I have a more comfortable option somewhere else during a power outage.
Privilege is having a safe space to embrace the dark, which lets me bring my light into the world.
Kelly Andrew is the chief development and marketing officer at ACTS Housing.