The Perfect Storm: Living with Less isn’t Always Easier

Shoveling Snow During the Storm

We begin with two facts:

1) Three days before a Nor’Easter dumped a record thirty-three inches of snow on the little city last week, I gave away our snowblower.

2) I haven’t had a flu shot since 2006.

Decluttering the snowblower would have been ironic, had I been able to start it, but I couldn’t get it to turn over and we hadn’t used it in years anyway. Thus, it was only ironic in an Alanis Morissette kind of way. Similarly, since the last time I recall having had the flu was seventeen years ago, and the flu shot always made me sick, this also seemed reasonable.

I’d originally purchased the snowblower when I lived in Syracuse, where lake-effect snow is a way of life. After suffering through my first winter of home ownership wielding only a shovel, I made purchasing a snowblower a top priority for the next winter, and it was a good decision. When we moved out of lake-effect country, we quickly realized that it snows significantly less here than in Syracuse. In twelve winters, only once did we get more than two feet of snow in a single storm, during the 2007 Valentine’s Day Nor’Easter. This was so unusual that the whole town shut down, and Dr. Math’s employer was closed for three days while they struggled to clear snow from the parking lots on campus. In the ten years since, we’ve never had to clear more than a foot of snow at a time, if that. Those ten years coincided with my increased environmental awareness and my getting in much better shape than I had been in 2007.

At this point in my life, I prefer to do as much as I can under my own power, so I choose to shovel instead of using the gasoline powered, air-polluting machine. I get exercise and fresh air, it’s less expensive, and I make a much smaller impact on the environment. Like the treadmill, the snowblower had become a large hunk of machinery just taking up space in our lives, and we were happy to see it go to a new home. As for the upcoming storm, I had a plan. I wasn’t scheduled to work on Tuesday or Wednesday, which meant that I would be home all day to shovel, and I could simply go outside regularly and stay on top of the accumulations, which were forecast to be between twelve and eighteen inches.

Digging out from the storm
Digging out from the storm

Getting nearly twice as much snow as forecast was not part of the plan. Nor was getting sick.

I shoveled for close to four hours on Tuesday, in five different sessions. It started out well, but by midday, I was starting to feel really, really tired. By the time I went to bed that night, I was exhausted. I woke up the next day with a headache, slight fever, congestion and a significantly elevated resting heart rate, not to mention a two foot wall of snow at the end of the driveway, and four feet blocking the walkway to the porch (and mailbox.) We could live without mail for a few days, but we both had to work the following day, and we needed to be able to get out of the driveway.

So out I went, to try to clear the driveway. One small shovel full at a time, I hacked chunks out of the snow wall, then shuffled up the driveway to where the pile was a little less high and did my best to toss it over the top. After half an hour of this, I still hadn’t cut an opening wide enough for a car to pass, and I knew that I needed to stop and rest. It was at that moment that we were saved, in the form of a neighbor offering the use of his snowblower. In another half hour, I had the driveway and walkway completely cleared. I went back inside and spent the next week trying to recover from what I quickly realized was the flu.

So, you might ask, what exactly is the point of this post? Well, first, I wanted to explain my absence for the past two weeks. As I am still not feeling my best, it is also my excuse for the quality of this post. The real point, however, is that life does not always go according to plan. Sometimes the once-in-a-decade snowstorm drops a record amount of snow on you on the same day that you succumb to the once-a-decade (or two) illness. Does that mean I regret not owning a snowblower? Not at all. Unless it starts snowing significantly more around here, it’s not worth the cost, maintenance and space required to own one. When not sucker-punched by the flu, I actually prefer to shovel.

Living with less isn’t always the easiest in any given moment, but it’s a long-term process with long-term goals.

As for the flu shot, I may reconsider that next year.

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