If the Grid Goes Down

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A few months back, I linked to an article about a guy who experienced an unexpected benefit after Hurricane Irene knocked out his power for several days: he started sleeping much, much better. Instead of staying up late on the computer or with the TV blaring and going to bed at the usual 11:30 or midnight, he found himself yawning around 9 PM and getting to bed at 10. It was the best sleep of his life, and even better – the effects persisted even after the power returned. He had effectively entrained his circadian rhythm to the natural cycle of light and dark. This is basic stuff to you guys, but bear with me.

Just last week, a reader named Melissa emailed me with a similar story. She lost power for three and a half days after a Connecticut snowstorm took out power all across the state. Instead of panicking, she rolled with it. Instead of freaking out over the fact that there were sub-freezing temperatures, no heat, and no water (it froze), she made a fun snowball fight out of a snowstorm. She took it as an opportunity to get “unexpectedly extra-Primal.” I like it. I remember those New England winters, and I can’t imagine a better way to deal with them than to accept the challenge and make the best of it.

That gave me an idea – why wait for the grid to fail to have all that fun? Why not willingly experience all that good stuff without the threat of cannibal hordes and Xbox-live starved teens beating down your door?

So, now, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to spend a weekend – two full nights, minimum – living under a self-imposed intentional power outage. Even if you live in a sunny climate and even if you’ve got a generator hooked up for worst-case scenarios, I want you to completely disconnect from electricity. We’re going to find out what it really feels like to turn off and drop out.

That means:

  • No computers, smartphones, or Internet.
  • No e-book readers.
  • No TV or radio.
  • No lightbulbs or flashlights.
  • Thus, you should be:
  • Stocking up on candles.
  • Splitting wood for the fireplace (if you have one and it’s cold enough to warrant it).
  • Grabbing some good books (no Nooks or Kindles, though).
  • Bringing out the board games.

To give you an idea of what to expect, check out exactly how Melissa got more Primal (in her own words) going without power:

  1. No hot water, so I was a little more “natural” smelling than usual!
  2. I mostly lived off of the rest of my salad greens, tuna with olive oil and dried tomatoes. Also a filling little mixture of coconut milk and whey powder. A bit of beef jerky and almonds, too.
  3. With very limited artificial light, my sleep rhythms seem more natural. Sleep around 8:30 or 9 pm (instead of my usual midnight), wake up when it starts to get light.
  4. A mile+ each way trek through the snow to get to a Target I heard was open so I could stock up on tuna and the like. Haul it all home in a bag over my shoulder.
  5. During the day, when it was nice and sunny, spent more time outdoors to take advantage.
  6. Nice leisure time spent with the cat, knitting and reading (what else but The Primal Blueprint!).

All that in a little over three days.

To those I would add a few other things it’ll allow (force) you to do:

Unwind, Completely and Utterly

It’s one thing to tell yourself, “Don’t check your email after 7 PM” and have your laptop staring at you all night, power light winking seductively. You can still hop on and log in. There’s nothing stopping you but your own will. It’s another thing to be physically unable to check your email. When the power is out, you can’t use electricity. You physically cannot access email (until the battery dies, at least), and this makes a huge difference. I’ve promised myself that I wouldn’t go online after dark only to “just sneak one last peek” before bed. Sometimes it’s good to remove temptation entirely so that you have no choice but to unwind. Removing electricity will remove temptation.

Spend Quality Time with Loved Ones

I mean really spend quality time with loved ones. Not sitting on the couch watching TV with the gang. Not Skype-ing each other from separate rooms in the same house. I’m talking look each other in the eye and exchanging words, telling jokes, playing board or card games, telling stories, laughing about old times, as well as engaging in more intimate pastimes characterized by unintelligible vocalizations. Face time, not FaceTime.

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