I don’t mean to be afraid of thunder, lightning, and heavy rainfall. I don’t want to be nervous about sharing this detail of my emotional life. Superstition snakes in, telling me that spilling my thoughts will give them form and we shall soon be swallowed by the earth, or buried in rubble that would be the remains of shattered structures. Mental health experts would strongly suggest I challenge this irrational fear by writing outloud anyway. Here I go…
Clad in his Batman pajamas, my dear seven year old levitates monkey style, a matching shriek accompanying his athletics, with each sky clap. If I were one to say everything that is true and not be selective for wisdom’s sake, I would shout, “For Heaven’s sake child! You’re spasms are giving me fits!” Yeah, that would help… neither of us on this dim, wet afternoon.
My children are old enough to build shelters in the hallway when need be (thankfully not today, but this did happen a few years ago) before I have a chance to blink twice, partly fueled by excitement, mostly determination to be prepared- Piglet, Kitty, Marcus, Lamby, five pillows, a fully made up make-shift bed, books (including one about tornadoes, ugh!), a flash light and a bottle of water for each of us – old enough to ask questions like, “Are we safe here?” I have no answer, at least not one they would like.
I grew up in Chicago. Emergency vehicle sirens, traffic’s hum, car horns, all kept my world from being quiet (ever), and thunder during a rain storm blended right in. Back then, I was not afraid. We never took shelter in the bathtub or basement. I only heard storm sirens being tested every Tuesday morning at my desk surrounded by 25 other children, hands pressed over our ears; a predictable, “if ever needed” but never needed, call to take cover. The first time I heard tornado sirens for real, I was living in central Illinois, a young mother, used to quiet for the first time ever, and therefore completely shattered into fragments of terror with each whirling wail of alert.
We all ran down to the basement, my husband trying to sound soothing, putting together words meant to calm my fears. Holding tight to our two year old son, not looking where I stepped, my right foot slipped into the sump pump hold. I faltered, but quickly regained balance. “Wake up!” I heard internally, my leg still dripping water I could not see in the low light, “Your fear is more dangerous than the wind that has not come.”
I married a kind man. He could have been angry at my carelessness while holding his beloved child. He only sighed as he led his family back up stairs.
This afternoon, thunder rumbles in the distance, rain is heavy, then light, followed by heavy again. Our sky is white and gray, lighted from behind a blanketing mass of clouds. I expect we’ll go about as planned, heading into town with our laundry, fresh baked cookies, and a bread maker for a friend. Until we pile into the truck, my children will continue to play, discuss, debate, and spin out tales whose main characters are Pokemon creatures, my youngest wandering into the wet outdoors now and then, and I will practice breathing with intention, intent on keeping a balanced perspective; that I never do truly have total control over the safety of our external environment. I only have domain over my reactions.
“It doesn’t matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years — we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on.” – Sharon Salzberg