If the Austin Snowpocalypse of 2021 taught many of us nothing, it certainly taught us to show gratitude for the things we have.
By Mindy Henderson, Photo by Vanessa Todd
There is nothing like a little discomfort to pull you back into a place of gratitude.
Feb. 15, 2021 at 3:30 a.m. That was the moment I knew the day was going to suck a little. I woke up and realized the power was out and the room was freezing. Enter…Snowpocalypse! (Simulate ominous music).
I burrowed deeper into the covers until around 7 a.m., when I couldn’t avoid the inevitable any longer. The day had begun, with no power and no heat. We had seven inches of snow outside our windows. I’ve lived in Austin for about 30 years, and I have never, ever seen anything like this. This doesn’t happen in Austin, y’all! Mid eye roll, I looked at the ceiling and the walls protecting us from the elements. A wave of gratitude washed over me.
My limited mobility further exacerbated the problem. I rely on my personal care assistants to show up every morning to help me get out of bed and into my wheelchair. “Not today,” I thought. Bummer. But then my husband was there and could help me. What about those with no one by their side and no one who could get to them? Then I felt the gravity of my own good fortune.
It Was Cold…Really Cold
Eventually, I was out of bed, bundled in tall boots to keep my legs warm, my nightgown with a huge sweater over it and a scarf. I know how to rock the fashion amidst a crisis. My next thought was, “Coffee.” Not today! No power means no coffee pot. Ugh. Except we have a gas stovetop we can light with a match or lighter. Hello, cup of piping hot black tea with a respectable amount of caffeine! Again, I was so thankful as I wrapped my frozen hands around the mug.
The thermometer in our house (inside, y’all!) read 42 degrees. It was cold. But I found the perfect spot to spend the rest of the day. I sat as close to the fireplace and the roaring fire as I could without being inside of it. I was so happy to have it to keep us relatively warm.
What to do next? My laptop was dead, and I had no way to recharge it. My work schedule was on my laptop, so I had no idea what meetings I had that day…also no way to join a Zoom call. So what did it really matter? I couldn’t use my phone any more than I had to because I needed to conserve the battery. No TV. No DVR. No Netflix. No eReader. What the actual hell did we do before all these conveniences? In my mind, I paid homage to the pioneers who froze and carted buckets of water and made their own fun. I had a new respect and a new appreciation for the things I take for granted every other day of my life.
The day dragged.
Ten minutes felt like at least an hour. I watched kids and families and dogs out our front windows, sledding and running through the snow. No way I was going out there. But their joyfulness made me smile. My husband took all the food out of our fridge and freezer and put it all on the front porch to stay cold. Thank goodness our food wouldn’t spoil (more gratitude). He cleaned out the refrigerator…because he could. We talked and laughed at our stupid jokes.
The heat and power came back on 20 hours later. Twenty hours of freezing, discomfort and boredom. Oh, then our water went out for the next five days. But we had heat and power. Can you say, “Grateful”? So many others experienced much longer outages, and I am keenly aware of that. I know how much worse all of this was for so many others, and that is humbling.
The Meaning of Gratitude
With every ounce of truth in me, I can say that the only thing this experience made me feel was gratitude for all I have every single day. So many things in my life never get acknowledged, and that is a shame. From the moment I woke up and realized everything that would suck about the day, I’d expected to be miserable, to feel sorry for myself and obsessed with how cold and uncomfortable I was. I had braced for the worst. Instead, gratitude presented itself, and that made the day bearable.
As a kid, whenever an opportunity arose to feel sorry for myself, my parents used to tell me, “Count your blessings.” The blessings will usually outweigh the challenges and can become the life raft to keep you afloat.
Mindy Henderson lives in Austin with her husband of 17 years. They have a daughter at Texas State University, a puggle named Mr. PapaGeorgio and a cat named Birdie. Mindy currently works as a speaker, writer, coach, host of “The Truth About Things That Suck” podcast and is a guest contributor to We Are Austin. This column is a tool she is excited to use regularly to help us all uncover those sucky but surprisingly beautiful circumstances. Connect with Mindy on Instagram at @mindyhendersonspeaks, or on LinkedIn.