Retiring the Gatekeeper

At 4 a.m. on December 23, I awoke to the sound of something hitting the house. Sitting up in bed and staring at the exterior wall, as if I would see the culprit through the drywall, insulation and vinyl siding, I realized it was very windy. In the fog of sleep, I still managed to remember that it was December, not April or May, and the chance of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes was very slim. I lay back against my pillow and tugged at the blankets, pulling them up to my chin as I shivered. Suddenly, the weather radio that we keep in the kitchen went off. A line of severe thunderstorms was heading our way. And as if to confirm the announcement, the power then went off.
My son appeared in our doorway. His room is on the south side of the house and the wind seems to threaten to push the walls down on that unprotected end. So I suggested he get the blow up mattress that we’d just purchased for the Holiday Season and our children that would be spending the night, and sleep on the living room floor. About the time he put the mattress down, covered it with blankets and grabbed the pillow, the electricity tried to come back on. But it was a weak strand running through the lines, causing the television to click, click, click, as it tried to gather enough energy to either turn on or off.
My husband rolled out of our bed to turn off the main power, as he feared the electrical surges might damage appliances. (But at that time, I thought he’d just pulled the breaker for the living room.) He proceeded into the kitchen, looked out the window and stated, “That’s a nasty looking sky.”
My seventeen-year-old son stood in his boxer shorts and T-shirt in the living room with an edge of the blanket in his hands draping down, as if he’d stopped mid-motion and was debating on which way to go – up or down.
“Well, maybe we should just take that mattress to the basement,” I stated. “Then we can just go to sleep and not worry about it.”
So my son and I made our way to the basement and made our bed on the floor of the work out room. We lay there listening to my husband walking about, looking out windows, and opening the sliding door. He’s not a light walker anyway, but lying underneath his footfalls, one would have thought that an elephant was in the house. My son and I laughed at how loud he seemed. Finally, I yelled for him to settle somewhere, so that we could possibly try to go back to sleep. We were on Christmas vacation, and neither of us wanted to miss the opportunity to sleep in. Even if we had to force it.
At about 7, I awoke with a great urgency to use the bathroom and headed up the basement stairs. I tried in vain to be quiet, as in my early morning sleepiness; I was a bit clumsy.
Once in the kitchen, I tried the light switch to no avail. A shiver ran down my body and I checked our indoor temperature to see that it was only 62 degrees in the house. Luckily, we have a ventless gas fireplace in the living room, so I lit it, went to the bathroom and then decided to sit in the recliner with a blanket and listen to a guided meditation.
The phone rang and I bolted from the chair to get it before it woke my sleeping beauties. As I talked with my brother, my husband arose and flipped the main breaker. I had to laugh, as I had been walking around as if we still had no power. Funny how I am so used to just making due with whatever situation that presents itself that I didn’t think to look down the road to see if the neighbors had power.
Life seems to have handed us a few uncontrollable situations in the past month. And I think I finally get the bigger picture. After two weekend ice storms, then one weekend snowstorm, then my father being in the hospital fight for his life for a month, I am learning to not worry about things I can’t control.
I’ve always tried to fix it all, make it work, find the solution. This person is the Gatekeeper, the one who takes it all on and feels responsible for anyone and everyone’s happiness, welfare and safety.
When our plans had to be cancelled on those treacherous weekends, the helplessness and then ensuing guilt at not being able to “make it all better” left me feeling nervous and fretful. When my father had to have two surgeries in the past month, my stomach turned itself inside out. The Gatekeeper inside me kept stomping her feet telling me to do something. But there was NOTHING I could do. I made a vigil of visiting my father, praying constantly and making sure my mother was safe, fed and watched over by my dog. (Each night when she arrived home from spending the day with my father, I took my dog over, spent a little time with her and made sure she had something to eat or that she’d eaten.)
I see nothing wrong with watching out for the ones you love, but through all the torture that I put myself through in the past month, I realized that I was also beating myself up and putting a lot of stress on myself for not “fixing” it.
I’m finally relaxing a bit. My stomach is starting to heal and feel a bit better – well, a lot better, but not completely better. But the main thing I have learned is that sometimes life is going to hand you situations that you just have to sit back and wait out. You can hand it over to God and let that inner voice of wisdom guide you or you can torture yourself, making a mission out of praying every second of the day and organizing your time and other people’s time to try to make it all better. But sometimes, things just can’t get better.
Not thinking to turn the breaker back on was actually a good sign to me. I think it was a sign of acceptance. Shit is going to happen. And sometimes we just have to wait it out and trust that the lights will come back on.


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