Winter has been cold this year!! Brrrrr…… “Stay warm” seems to have become the universal salutation around here. Staying warm is not something which we normally have to worry about inside the house; however, a few weeks ago we had an emergency at home which took out our heating system with one big crash in the basement.
We live in an old house with an ancient hot water radiator system. It’s a low maintenance system that does a pretty good job keeping the house warm even with our drafty windows. There’s not much we have to do besides bleed the radiators occasionally to release pockets of air that collect at the top of each radiator. If enough air builds up, heated water cannot freely flow through the pipes and the radiator’s heating may be sub-optimum.
The big crash came from the overflow water tank, which was hanging from the ceiling in the basement above the boiler, tumbling down and taking out some of the pipes in the process. Water proceeded to drain from the radiator system and flood the basement. By the time the boiler/heater repairman arrived, temperatures in the house were slowly dropping on a late Friday evening. It was about to get really cold inside the house.
Once the overflow tank was remounted and the broken pipes replaced, the entire radiator system needed to be refilled with water. This sounds simple enough, but without a convenient fast-fill valve, the process literally took more than a week and lots of clever “McGuivering” to force as much water into the system as quickly as possible. People in the house probably thought that I was crazy with my setup of tubes and buckets and siphoning of water into the air release valves of a couple of radiators upstairs. But it worked.
Besides adding water to the system, we had to make frequent rounds throughout the house going from radiator to radiator to bleed trapped air out of the pipes. Too much back pressure from trapped air would prevent water from continuing to fill the pipes. No water in the pipes equals no heat. It was exciting when water finally came gushing out the air vents as I bled each one which felt like a minor victory indeed.
When describing the entire situation to a friend, a thought came to mind. Sometimes life requires the regular release of built-up pressure to allow for freedom of thought or movement. That built-up pressure is a lot like physical or mental stress. With mental stress, the “air bubbles” which get forced to the surface are like emotions which erupt. Releasing those emotions a little bit at a time when the back pressure begins to build allows us to maintain an equilibrium so that we don’t get stuck on one emotion or thought and have it explode.
Last fall, I began meeting with a counselor to help me get a handle on an increased level of anxiety which had been brewing beneath my emotional surface for quite some time. During our sessions, it became apparent that I was mentally stuck and felt powerless to make some significant changes to my physical environment.
Although I needed to make actual physical changes in my home, I first needed to address my mental needs. In working with the counselor, I began traveling through my mental house and releasing pent-up emotions, allowing small bits of anxiety to escape into the atmosphere. LIttle by little, I was able to focus on making changes that greatly improved my emotional well-being. In the process, my mental home became much more livable.
Fortunately, the physical pipes in our house did eventually refill with water. The trapped air was finally released and heated water now flows freely through the radiators. With temperatures in the low digits, I am thankful we have heat in the house. I am also thankful that the environment in my mental house is much more pleasant and calm. Sometimes you just have to look for the trapped air so that you are able to let it go.