Survivor’s Guilt And The Texas Tragedy

Survivor’s Guilt And The Texas Tragedy February 17, 2021

My survivor’s guilt ramps up a notch. I want to go somewhere, feed someone, wrap blankets around someone else, bring in firewood somewhere. All ridiculous.  At my age, just walking on the snow/ice carries great risks.

survivor's guilt: the beauty of the snow before the Texas Tragedy hit
The beauty of the snow before the Texas Tragedy hit, leaving me with survivor’s guilt

The Scandal of Texas Politics

I have electricity, food, water, and enough heat for reasonable comfort as long as I dress in multiple layers. The dog has figured out how to pee and poo in the icy weather and unfamiliar snow. I have the comfort of no frozen pipes, and a working gas fireplace.

Therefore, what I write now is not a personal complaint or lament, but just a description of this strange liminal time where millions hold their breath, hoping, mostly in vain, that in the next moment or two their power will be restored.

I woke this morning with my soul pierced by the anguished screams of those who have lived for days without power or with such intermittent power that they can’t even begin to take the chill off before hope is snatched away again. Food scarce, children afraid, the elderly and ill at severe risk, housing, such it is, at near-freezing temperatures.

I hear about the frozen pipes, some already breaking. I worry about those without adequate insurance because the aftermath, when the water starts running again through those broken parts, will lead to flooding and nightmarish repair bills.

The desperation grows and, alongside it, a great deal of reasonable anger. What has happened here might be somewhat expected in a less prosperous country with poorly developed infrastructure, but to happen in the US, and especially in the State of Texas, which prides itself on its business acumen and energy expertise?

Completely unacceptable. And a complete betrayal of their constituents.

The people have been cheated and they are suffering—and some are dying. These deaths should rightly be laid directly at the doorways of those people who made the “money-saving” decision not to adequately insulate powerplants or make sure that the wind generators had been sprayed with de-icing materials.

Nope. Cheaper to let people suffer.

That’s Texas politics for you. And you may be sure of this: not only will those decision-makers get off scot-free, but they’ll also probably get a bonus. Hey, it was likely poor people getting hurt—fewer people on Medicaid!!! A win for the state!

My survivor’s guilt

But, back to the personal. I’ve shut off as much of my house as possible. Those lovely, wide-open floor plans with soaring ceilings and expansive, uncovered windows, great for normal hot Texas weather, prove to be miserable for this situation.

The rooms I can shut off have towels taped in front of the doors to keep their increasingly frigid air inside. Every possible air leak has a another pile of towels in front of it. I close kitchen cabinets on the outside kitchen wall the second I have retrieved the items I need—they are freakishly cold.

We stay in one room to offer one another warmth and share the light from one lamp. The dog has been banned from using his beloved doggie door. He must now request permission to go in and out. He’s depressed over his lack of freedom—but how does one explain such things to a dog?

Laundry piles up—I refuse to do any when too many can’t even flush a toilet. I prepare food using as little energy as possible. I do run the dishwasher when it is extremely full, as that uses much less energy and far, far less water than washing by hand.

Disposable plates are no solution: we likely won’t have trash pickup for the week and there is no sense in adding more to our landfills if I can avoid it.

I make myself do routine chores, just for my peace of mind. Each night, we strip the bed and bring the bedding into the den with the fireplace, both for warmth and for safety. Each morning, I carefully remake the bed, decorative pillows and all, to try to find some normalcy.

I brush my hair, put lotion and a bit of makeup on my face, and, as always, don earrings. I order the bathroom and closet each morning, pick up the dog toys, tidy the kitchen after use, and fold the throws we use for warmth when we are not, albeit temporarily, using them.

When necessary, I walk through the darkened bedroom, shades drawn, all lights sleeping, on the way to the bathroom. The only pipes on outside walls in the house are here, so I check to make sure there is a tiny drip. The bathtub sits full of water, just in case.

I keep a close eye on that luxury of our lives, the swimming pool, which we use almost daily year-round. I hope we get through this without something many of our neighbors have already experienced: a power outage long enough to freeze the pool and do extensive damage to the equipment.

My survivor’s guilt, present from the time I realized our house, unlike many of our neighbors, is apparently on an electrical grid with a nearby nursing home and rehab hospital, ramps up a notch. By law, this particular grid cannot be subject to revolving blackouts.

I want to go somewhere, feed someone, wrap blankets around someone else, bring in firewood somewhere. All ridiculous. My exit from the house, even if I could get the car down our steep driveway, would end up draining further other resources. I would likely need to be rescued at some point. At my age, just walking on the snow/ice carries great risks.

Many of those in our extended family live in Texas and every single one of them is suffering from either complete power outages for days or enough of them to cause extreme discomfort and damage to their residences. Survivor’s guilt again, but, as my husband reminded me, the best thing they can know is that their parents are safe and can manage without help. They’ve got enough on their plates without worrying about us.

The lessons of history

And so, I sit. Tempted to stress eat, but not wanting to pay the price for that afterward.

I pray almost without ceasing.

I remember the history I so often devour in my reading: suffering is far more normal than not to the human condition.

I think of the Jews and the Holocaust, the privations of nations at war, the displacements, rapes, and murders of innocents when power-mad leaders without workable consciences promulgate wars and invasions, oppress their own people and enslave others.

I think of the slaughter of Native Americans with the arrival of European settlers. I ponder what it would be like to be sold into slavery, to have worth only as a body that might breed babies or plant cotton.

My guilt at having the heater on, even as low as we keep it, gnaws at me. I am up to four layers of clothes.

I am lucky. I am not “blessed” to have electricity, as I’ve seen one too many times on a social media post. God doesn’t have some special eye on me while blinking at the suffering of millions of others. That’s sick theology.

I’m just simply lucky. Yes, this is a once-in-a-generation weather event, but those “once in a generation” events are actually becoming more frequent. What is happening in the “great” State of Texas is the result of gross incompetence, stupidity, and greed.

Time for real honesty and serious accountability. And, just perhaps, for some in elected office to be removed as soon as possible. Those in power now have violated the public trust in the most egregious of ways.

Time for a change.

And thus endeth my snow-cold-ice-bound rant.

Photo: © Christy Thomas, all rights reserved.

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