10 Lessons from Sandy
On Friday night, Soho pitch black for days with the promise of power returning soon, Sandy had reminded us of what was important, what was necessary, what we needed, and who we are.
While Sandy was still forming, I was having a great time in London, launching my design collaboration with Reebok to international press, leading classes at the Om Yoga Show, making lots of new friends, and successfully launching the UK version of This is Yoga.
Before London, I'd just been to Little Rock to announce an exciting partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. I had met President Clinton. I shook his hand, and we have a photo together.
Life was / is good.
The storm was coming toward NYC and I was set to fly out Monday am, thinking possibly my flight would be one of the last to head for the east coast before a potential shutdown.
I was wrong.
It happened sooner. After several hours on the phone with the airline, I thankfully landed a ticket to Chicago. It was either back to the heartland and visit family, or stay in London indefinitely.
Off to Chicago I went gladly.
Mike drove all night Sunday from NYC to Chicago to meet me. My Dad's silver mini-van pulled up to O’Hare, mom in shotgun, Mike in the back.
The whole gang is here. Now what? We wait. We hope the damage is minimal and everyone is kept safe.
We drove to my parents' house, watched the news, hung out with my brother and his two little girls, danced around, did yoga, and decided to head for the city in the morning.
With a warm belly filled with garden fresh kale and foraged mushrooms (thanks to Mom and uncle PJ), we were off toward the city.
Priya Patel, Strala superstar and all-around awesome gal, let us know that Strala regular Ben was stuck in Ohio. As winds and rain began to kick up, we met him at a rest stop and continued on with our journey. The Strala bus was officially headed to NYC!
Waiting out a few post-midnight hours at a Holiday Inn in PA was the sensible decision. As we approached the city, we knew we were going into darkness, at least in the places we all lived. We didn't know if darkness also meant no water or gas.
We didn't know if the tunnels would be flooded or the streets passable, or if we'd even be able to get into our apartments. But we felt we needed to be there with our friends and fellow New Yorkers as soon as we could.
We rolled in early in the a.m., but the tough dull-grey sky and strangely deserted streets gave us little sense of time.
We connected with Heidi Kristoffer, downtown powerless resident and Strala superstar. (She was able to find a cell hot spot under the Washington Square arch, which soon became the Strala communication hub.)
The three of us were determined to open Strala, power or no power, and get the word out to people who wanted to practice and hang out together as best we could.
We felt strongly that opening Strala was important.
It was our answer to “how can we help?” It was a symbol that together, as a group, we are resilient. It’s what New Yorkers do. We gather and thrive no matter the circumstance. This somewhat wacky sensibility of what one must do is something that happens to you when you live in NYC a number of years. We pull together, gather, support, and go about what we do without making a big deal of it. It’s the badge of steadiness that the city gives its residents over time. You might not know you have it until it’s time to use it. Then it’s there, just like muscle memory.
Heading south from the Lincoln Tunnel, traffic lights stopped around 40th street and the streets were pretty bare. I kept waiting for deer to cross the street.
Navigating downtown was simple. There were hardly any cars on the road, and just a handful of people. We made it. Ben headed to check on his apartment in the village.
A roommate had left a window open so he could get in, and he had a place to stay uptown with power. He might be trekking over some good distances later, but he's pretty tough from all his Strala STRONG classes.
We made it into our place downtown and thankfully we had water: cold water, but water. Hiking over to Strala, no power, no water. We decided to keep one class open per day until electric was restored. Just like Will Smith projected his signal in the movie I am Legend, every day at noon we posted out we'll be here.
Mike led each group up the stairs with head lamps and iPhone lights. It was nice to see whomever could come, and whomever could read the internet to find out about the classes.
As the dark days passed we clicked into a routine. Wake up. Make tea (fancy in these circumstances), eat a few nuts, head to Strala, open the studio for yoga, catch up with everyone, hike over the bridge to Dumbo, charge up our gear through the kindness of our friends Jason and Colleen Wachob, shower at their place, go find real food in Brooklyn where most business continued with the supplies they had on hand, and hike home before it got too late and too cold.
At night we roamed around SOHO in wonder of how dark it was. We hit the hay around 8pm, bundled in hats and sweats and blankets. We were lucky. We had a roof, water, a gas stove, and our friends nearby. So many people are left with a lot less. Sometimes to get that reminder we look far away. This time we just had to look a few miles.
We got into a groove and decided we could last a pretty long while with this routine. We knew the power would come on eventually, and it would be strange how instantly things would go back to how they were. I liked that people weren't buried in their phones as they walked on the street. No internet or texts to look at. People looked at people. People wanted to help.
Kindness was everywhere. A few NYU professors who are regulars at the studio took in loads of kids who needed to charge their phones and shower and rest somewhere warm. We ran into Eli and Nico (pictured on the right), friends and Strala regulars in SOHO, picking up milk and eggs on the street corner, where a local vendor decided to set up a table and give away what would already go bad without refrigeration.
There was a Strala pop-up in Brooklyn courtesy of Strala leader Suzy, where along with Vera, Deb and others she provided some stress relief for the fully-powered but stir-crazy side of the Sandy experience.
People wanted to be together, not alone. Sandy shocked people out of their routines. Things became simpler at the same time as more critical. We were just hanging out and helping each other.
Friday night around 6pm the power came back at Strala. We heard the news while at Colleen and Jason's, and biked over to the building to make sure it wasn't a rumor. Lots of business owners were at the building for the first time, excited, and hoping their equipment was OK.
We got back in, and everything worked. Home was our next stop, and everything here was still dark. The power line ran across Broadway. East of Broadway was lit up. West was pitch black. I didn't care about power at home. I was so excited we could begin returning to normal at Strala. At 4:30am the lamp by my bedside turned on. Sandy's way of saying, "remember me."
We were extremely lucky. Sandy has left me with a few gentle reminders about appreciation, the importance of friends, and community. Sandy has taken lives and homes in an instant, destroyed businesses, and left a lot of work to do.
Please continue to extend a hand, and help those you can.
Here are 10 Lessons from Sandy:
1. Be happy for the power you have and patient for the power you don't.
2. If you have power you should help someone who doesn't.
3. Be happy accepting warm socks as holiday presents over the years. You'll need them in an outage.
4. You don't need ConEd to turn on the power of love :)
5. Buy canned goods and tp gradually over time so you dont' become a scary, last minute hoarder.
6. Appreciate what you have. Realize what you have is temporary. Be here now.
7. Keep good friends who wouldn't be too annoyed letting you shower and charge your iPhone in a power outage.
8. Practice non attachement to your stuff, the lights, your routine, etc. Makes you much more flexible in an outage.
9. Practice cooking with a head lamp on. You will need this skill in an outage.
10. 8pm is a perfectly reasonable bed time!
To learn more about yoga, check out The Complete Guide To Yoga With Tara Stiles.
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