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Facing our difficult truths

True meaning of the season

Yielding to a higher self

Good things come in small packages

Not seeing the forest or the trees

Coping with a computer crisis

Going under cover in Monaco

My miracle on Larvotto beach

If I can help somebody as I pass along

Taste of village life in Monaco

The Water's Edge: A fishy tale

Why I choose to be involved
"...I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up."
--Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Like Thoreau, I love the simple life. But while he  left a bustling city to move to the woods, I have taken the opposite route. I have given up life in a tiny town on the edge of the Canadian boreal forest for work that takes me to luxury-loving Monaco, the most densely populated nation in the world. Thoreau spent two years, two months and two days at Walden. I'm giving myself at least three years for this experiment.
--Celia Sankar

Coping with a computer crisis

When I dropped off my computer at the repair shop, I thought the column I was going to write about the episode would be on how my PC stalled precisely on the day I had to hand in a crucial funding application, and how I resigned myself to a week's delay before getting the pesky machine back.

Compared to reality, that would have been describing a state of bliss.

About an hour after I dropped off the tower, the technician called with good news and bad news. The good news was that my computer was working and I could pick it up that afternoon. The bad news? When I had tried to do a system restore before bringing in the machine, all of my data everything I had slaved over for hundreds of hours these past months, and for thousands of hours going back about six years had been wiped out.

Yes, it was all gone. Vanished. As in, no amount of rattling of that black and grey box would bring even one byte back.

"My computer is reborn! I get a chance to start anew," I chirped to a couple of friends, in whose office I wound up in a daze.

What else could I do, other than try to find humour in the situation? I had to find some way to offset the vision I had of myself scrambling unsuccessfully to pull together literally thousands of work and personal files from various data CDs, jump drives, and my online backup.

Actually, this was a moment I had to pull out every coping trick I could think of.

As I took my disemboweled machine home, I began signing. Happy hymns. "Leave your burdens, down by the riverside..." and "Jesus took my burdens; he rolled them in the sea..." and "This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it..." That may sound silly, even childish. But by blocking out everything else from my mind, I allowed myself to be transported into that gleeful state to which we are magically carried when we sing. As I lived in those moments, there was no reason to be unhappy.

I also sought to put things in perspective. Yes, the situation was tragic: some of the emails and files were crucial and irreplaceable and I will face hardships down the road because they are lost; and as for the others, I now confront a huge setback in trying to reassemble them or create them again from scratch. But this was about bits and bytes of information lost from a machine. I did not lose an arm or a leg. I was physically fine. "It's your computer that's got amnesia, not you," I joked to myself.

I looked at other people I passed on the street, among them frail seniors shuffling along. And I thought of how each one of us was facing challenges. Some had problems with a straying partner or a rebellious teenager; some may have lost a job or were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy; some were ill and crawling along in physical pain. These were not my challenges. All I had to deal with was more difficulty at work than I would have wanted.

From that came a natural progression to feeling grateful for what was good about my life. I had health. I was in a place I enjoyed, doing work I loved. All of my family were alive; even though miles and oceans separated us, I knew they loved me and were rooting for me, just as I loved them all and was rooting for them as well. And I had a Christian family here in Monaco. Among them were two very dear friends; this couple have seen me in some of my worst situations, and yet they still seem happy to speak with me.

It was in their office that I had wound up, mourning my loss. This is another coping skill I've learnt. I didn't pretend there was no problem. I allowed myself to feel and grieve the loss and I acknowledged yet more pain was to come in the days ahead as I tried to rebuild all my work. But I embraced the situation without the useless hair-tearing, or slamming of fists on desks, or wailing at the top of my lungs, all of which I confess to having done in past moments of crisis.

One other coping skill I applied was trying to see how this painful experience was beneficial.

Fist, it reinforced the need to backup every day without fail as I head into some of the most important work I've ever done. I used to back up my files occasionally by copying them onto my laptop. When that computer died a few months ago, my frustration made me more lax, rather than cautious. I thought, what's the use in making all that extra effort. Now I know.

Second, through the experience I can share a technical tip that may save somebody extreme grief. I'm not sure how many brands other than Compaq this applies to, but you should never sign on as the default user on your system. Create a separate user profile to log on and do your work. Otherwise, even if you read a message on the computer assuring you that a system restore will not affect your data, you will lose everything like I did.

Third, I observed my reaction to this crisis. And, actually, I was amazed to see that I could handle calamity with equanimity. Yes, I have grown. And I need to grow even more. In coming to this place and in taking up the work I've assumed, I've said to God, "Here I am, Lord. Use me." There is much work ahead of me. Greater responsibilities mean greater challenges. And that calls for a presence of mind to handle whatever is to come. This was a very painful way to learn I had it in me. But, I guess, there was no painless way to learn such a thing.

Fourth, and most importantly, I appreciate more now what is truly important. I had devoted an enormous amount of time over the last six years to creating what was on that computer. In a flash, all of it was nothing. There was an analogy in there for life itself. In a flash, one day, this life I have will be over. I was reminded that no matter how important my work is, it is actually the love I share with people in my life that means the most to me.



Comments to date: 2. Page 1 of 1.

Bertha P.,  US of A

Posted at 3:57pm on Sunday, October 21st, 2007

When will people learn that computers are not infallible. You must never put your life in the hands of a computer.

Leslie,  Ontario, Canada

Posted at 9:52am on Friday, October 19th, 2007

A friend of mine has used a digital camera since her baby was born and never bothered to print pictures. Her computer crashed this year, and she has no pics from her son's first 3 years.


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Celia Sankar

by Celia Sankar

Beaches Resorts - Jamaica-Turks & Caicos.