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The Stars I Don’t Know

The Stars I Don’t Know

Four and a half days later, I now have power, phone, and DSL again. Hurricane Wilma hit us with unexpected force, leaving millions of people without electricity – even now. The estimates they’ve been giving on the news say that for most of Palm Beach County it could take several weeks more before power is restored. So today, Leslie and I tried to check into a hotel that had power and Internet, then returned home (to pick up our things) to find that our power was back on. Leslie says we should just think of the hotel charges as a fee for faster power restoration, which I suppose is better than thinking of it as wasted money.

The county is still under a mandatory 9pm curfew, which is at least better than the 7pm curfew earlier this week. Unfortunately, the store has lost tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for the days we had to be closed, not to mention the days that nobody was buying Halloween costumes because they were getting ready for the hurricane. In addition, I couldn’t work for most of this week, so that’s a bit of a financial downer as well. Still, our house only suffered very superficial damage, and the store had no damage at all, so there are lots of people much worse off than we are.

The hardest part for me personally was dealing with the lack of fresh food (vs. super-salty packaged foods); I’ve been sluggish and the injuries I sustained during shutter installation have been slow to heal as a result. Most annoying thing? Lack of phone service, making us have to drive around for hours looking for things that could’ve been found in minutes on the ’net or with half an hour of phone calls.

I could bore you with further tales of gas lines, hunting for ice, and how you really start to miss all the little things that electricity gives you, but considering how many people are still waiting for power, or who lack homes to even be powered, I suppose it’d probably be in questionable taste at worst, and in any case boring at best. So I’ll focus on the upside instead.

‘Tis an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and as with all hurricanes, there are upsides and downsides both. Sign companies, for example, should do particularly well in Wilma’s wake, since there are so many needing replacement. And Leslie and I ended up spending a lot more time outside, both before and after dark. One night, I saw an interesting triangle of stars in the sky, and pointed them out to Leslie. “You see those three stars over there?” She nodded. “I don’t know what constellation they’re in,” I added. She then cracked up laughing.

I hadn’t intended to make a joke of it; that was just the order my thoughts happened to occur in. But of course she proceeded to make fun of me daily thereafter, by pointing at things and saying “You see that over there? I don’t know what that is.” There’s probably some really deep Zen in that statement, actually. We don’t really know what anything is, after all!

Aside from stargazing, we also talked an awful lot, and discovered new things about each other and ourselves. I found myself several times thinking of those lines from “Summer Slacking”:

They drank all the wine, and they started talking
They found they had important things to say
And when the car broke down, they started walking
Where were they going, without ever knowing the way?

Except that we didn’t drink any wine, and it was the power that broke down, but you get the general idea. It’s really wild how even after 14 years together, you can still discover new depths to a person and transform your relationship with them. During the process, Leslie actually implemented a small “personality upgrade” of her own to match my recent Self 2.0 change, repairing a broken piece of self-concept, not unlike the one I fixed in me. I guess it’s a good thing to avoid OS version skew between machines in the same network, huh?

Over the years, we’ve generally found that in a relationship, if one person upgrades their brain, pretty soon the other person is forced to do a complementary upgrade, although it might not be the same thing that needs upgrading. For example, a behavior upgrade towards more personal independence might also mean that one person is no longer enabling the second person to be dysfunctional in some way, thus giving the second person a “growth opportunity”, as we like to call it. Of course, we always surround “growth opportunity” with finger quotes and say it with an ironic sigh, because in the short run it really means “pain”!

But the cool thing about being together as long as we have is that we’ve come to grasp this process and embrace it – finger quotes or no – and generally handle it with good humor. It is really one of the best things about a true marriage: i.e., an intimate, committed relationship between people who are at a roughly similar level of personal development but want to improve together. The stars I don’t know, maybe you will. Or maybe you’ll just tease me about mentioning them. But together we will see them, and perhaps aim for them as well.

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Cover photo of "A Minute To Unlimit You" by PJ Eby
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