Every childhood spring in the Midwest brought the very real threat of tornadoes. I used to dread the white “W” in the upper right of the TV screen and the scrolling blue ribbon on the bottom. When thunderstorms loomed, I hid in my bedroom, assuming I would die. As much as tornadoes themselves are devastating forces of nature to be reckoned with, I was scared more than anything else of the wind. The wind had the unlimited potential to blow houses, cars, and people away. The idea of instability frightened me beyond comprehension.
I got over those tornadoes, but there were more storms a-brewin’.
I grew up in two, really three, households. Extremely different, you might say conflicting, households. From what I know about weather, the worst storms develop when a cold front meets a warm front. Let’s just say I got used to standing at the exact intersection of these fronts, and in essence, I had to endure the strongest of storms. When they loomed, I continued the habit of hiding in my bedroom, afraid for my life. More than anything else, and in so many ways, I wanted stability.
The weather patterns started shifting when college began. I could have let the storms go, but instead, I replaced those actual and metaphoric Illinois tornadoes with cyclones of my own. I got so grounded in instability that, once away from it, I needed more.
I’ve often dramatically referred to the ensuing three years since I dropped out of grad school in 2011 as a “whirlwind” period. That’s actually not far from the truth. A myriad of prescriptions, relationships, jobs, and addresses have seemingly waxed and waned like an intense microcosm of the lunar cycle. I (still) consider a new life path every week, and my interests come and go at the blink of an eye. I have gone on dramatically big road trips, day trips, and night rides, and I have lived on countless couches and beds that are never my own.
Tornado season is at its peak back home. You might think I am far removed from it out here in San Francisco, but I’m actually deeper in the heart of Tornado Alley than I’ve ever been before.
I still desperately seek stability. But if that’s the case, why can’t I stay in one place? Do I have a confused notion of what stability really is? Let’s cite some experts on the subject.
The famous philosopher “Curtis” wrote this two weeks ago:
“I want to anchor myself in flux, in impermanence, in transition. I don’t believe in permanence. We are human, and by definition, our worlds are ephemeral. Most people, including myself, seek stability and certainty; we sign contracts that provide us with the same mornings, afternoons, and nights, and we stick things out longer than we should for the sake of not having to go through the whole tedious process again. Yet no matter how hard we try to stand on solid ground, nothing is ever completely set in stone. Everyone experiences change, and so many things we do on a daily basis are in a state of flux. What I’m really looking for is a dogmatic stability in the midst of turmoil, if that makes sense. I am only looking for a place to spread out, not a place to stay.”
The notorious author known as “Curtis” wrote this just days later:
“The wind blows free and unrestrained through the opens fields of my dreams. It is not required to stop at the edge of the cliff. The wind I used to be most afraid of is now the wind I most closely associate with.”
I have been looking for stability in transit because that’s all I know. I don’t like hiding in my bedroom afraid, so I tend to do the opposite of that.
In so many ways like last year, everything this year seems to end on June 1st. What will I do with the complete freedom I (yet again) find myself with? What I am slowly learning, and what I hope to put into practice, is that I need to subdue the tornado. In my mind, it’s okay to want to blow as freely as the wind. After all, as the quote from Curtis goes, “the wind is a mighty force that enjoys exceptional freedom in moderation. The great and powerful wind that blows in the most formidable of storms does not have to become a tornado.”
Looking back, it is pretty clear that I became completely desensitized to tornadoes. This storm is not stopping anytime soon, but if I do not practice restraint, the solid structure of a body I live in will get blown to smithereens.
I’ll leave you with a dramatic cliché:
Unleash the tempest!