The New Envy

Counting your blessings takes on new meaning in the wake of loss.

Our Voices from the Storm series shares personal experiences during mega-storm Sandy. We hope you'll be cheered, comforted, and enlightened by these perspectives—and that you'll consider donating to storm recovery. 

Story by Janet Carlson

Life here makes me feel like I'm in Little House on the Hudson River (or in a Jane Austen novel as I carry around a candlestick to light my way around a 43-degree house), but I do have a gas stove that functions, and hot water somehow!

My priorities have shifted dramatically. I'm managing comestibles, hunting for ice, trying to not use gas, organizing candles and teaching my daughter about safety, hunting for more ice, calling an elderly friend to check on her. All this takes the place of my usual work routine and it feels totally bizarre.

Because of no Internet or TV or gas, neighbors are meeting in the street to pass along information (the good old days!) and one neighbor gave me an idea. He referred to a new kind of envy, as in: envy of anyone who has a fireplace, or a gas stove. We stood there and added on until we had a whole list, including a down comforter; a full tank of gas; hot water; cashmere; a headlamp amid the camping gear in the basement; batteries; lamp oil...And neighbor Bob quietly added a last item: "a house."

There was (perhaps unintended) poignancy is his final word for this list of things to envy. In our neighborhood alone, in this little village, you can see houses with big holes through the roofs. My sister brought out The New York Times that I'd missed all week and I saw the photos of homes destroyed in NJ, Staten Island, read of people killed in their dens by falling trees.

The real losses always have the final word in any conversation on the street or at a friend's fireplace party. And this keeps us all from complaining when we see the Mayor who lives next street over, or the fire chief who drives by to check on us. Yes, we all want our power back. But in this context of loss, you could say we do have all the power we need!

Janet Carlson is a magazine writer, Huffington Post blogger, and author of a memoir, Quick, Before the Music Stops: How Ballroom Dancing Saved My Life. She has written articles for O, Real Simple, Elle, Redbook, and Departures, among other publications. She lives in Hastings on Hudson, New York.

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