The Backup Generator

We had a scheduled power outage today so that the utility company could bring power to a new business in our little town. If you live in a rural area like we do, along with good-hearted neighbors and wildlife sightings, one thing you can count on is the occurrence of power outages, scheduled or not. We have a backup generator in our garage for just such events, and because we knew this one was coming, we were ready. Or at least so we thought.

Before leaving the house to report for jury duty, my husband Tom powered up the generator for me so that it was up and running and I could get on with my day. While I have started it before, I’m still not very comfortable with the process, even though in my camo jacket and muck boots I look like I should be a pro at it. However, even I knew that the noises coming from the generator didn’t sound quite right, and sure enough, it sputtered and stopped. Everything went quiet and dark, and suddenly the day I had planned got unplugged.

No internet.

No phone.

No computer.

And of course, no hot water.

Thinking the propane tank might be empty, I tried to unhook it from the generator, but to no avail. Loading the extra tank into the car I drove to town where a friend who works at the gas station filled it up for me. Enlisting the help of another friend, we drove back to the house and he hooked up the new tank and started the generator. It sputtered and went out again. Poking around he tried a few other things and was able to get it up and running again, although was doubtful that it would keep going. It might be a spark plug issue. We’d look into that.

Thanking him, off he drove and I headed into the house to accomplish what I could until the generator stopped again, which it did. The power was scheduled to go back on again in a few hours anyway, so I turned my attention to things that don’t require electricity. It was quiet and actually kind of a nice forced break from emails, phone calls, bill paying, and it’s always a good day to skip a shower. However, all of this got me thinking about the importance of being prepared for the next power outage. Obviously we need to get the generator in the garage repaired so that can power up and sustain life in the house when we need it. When the temperature plummets in the winter, or a windstorm takes out a transformer, we rely on that generator to shore us up.

When it comes to our lives, having a backup generator is essential too. There are times for all of us when we experience a power outage. When the supply of the inner resources we’ve come to count on can’t keep up with the demand. Some we can plan for, like the holiday season, moving to a new home, or a big project at work. But others happen in the blink of an eye when an unexpected diagnosis comes back, we are hit with a tidal wave of grief, or life as we know it suddenly falls apart. Regardless of the cause of the outage, our backup generators need to be in place and in good working order, and of course, we need to know how to power them up.

People and practices make up my backup generator, and perhaps they do for you as well. For me that means tending to those relationships that matter, addressing issues as they arise, making sure that there is a balance of give and take, and always working to deepen trust and respect. It means nourishing myself well — body and soul, learning to say no to what is not mine to do, asking for help, and staying connected to the Power Source behind everything. 

To all of you who keep me going when my power goes out. Thank you. 

To all of you who rely on me to keep you going when your power goes out. Thank you.  

Oh, and note to self: If you’re going to dress like you know your way around a generator, you damn well better!