Gale Force Winds

They say you can feel a storm coming deep in your bones. Or that the hairs on your neck stand up. Or you get that pain riiiight there, you know the one. But some of us, we are always creaky and on edge. Some of us always have that dull ache just behind our eyes.

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"This storm is you. Something inside of you...There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones." (Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore)

In the past--well, and if we're being honest here, also in the present--I have on occasion been a tornado. I have roared through life, making a terrifying growl and destroying everything in my path. Let me choose my own path and I will tear your porch off, toss your belongings, fling your shingles, and leave you quaking in a corner in your basement. I have jumped to conclusions sixty miles wide, and onlookers glance away at their own peril. As I zoom from one decision to another or one path to the next, others are left scratching their heads at a view that is suddenly altered with nary a familiar landmark to be seen. Not infrequently, that trailer park I upend belongs to me. I carefully tend the paths and the flower pots, and then in one fearful moment I rip it all to shreds. I tell myself that I never liked that double-wide anyway, that the color was wrong and it didn't get enough sun, and I move on.

I didn't grow up to be a fixer of things. I don't know a Phillips head from a socket wrench; I don't see something broken and dream up a way to repair it. Sometimes my spur-of-the-moment whims pay off: sure, I'll run up a mountain; why, yes, yes I will buy that motorcycle; who wouldn't ride a camel through the Casbah? But at least as often, they are nothing short of harebrained. (Hey, remember that time I packed up everything I owned and drove to San Francisco? Oh, or maybe that other one when I burned all my dissertation and book notes in a dumpster behind my apartment building? Did I mention that I now have an only gently used motorcycle in my shed?) If a girl can't patch a hole or sew on a button, then things can only be functional or disposable. If something doesn't work, even if that something is me, I huff and I puff and I blow the whole bleedin' joint down. No second tries, no embracing the learning curve. And don't let the stagnant air of indecision fool you. As any meteorologist will explain, before the winds shriek and bellow there is a calm, when the air is moving vertically up into the heavens.  What you perceive as clearing skies may simply my intake of breath as my erratic powers gather force, soon enough I will puff out my cheeks and blow.

I'd like to calm the winds a bit. I'd like to be able to tinker. I'd like to stop being so afraid to fail that I move from reaction to reaction. How lovely to enjoy an ocean breeze, or a softhearted stirring of the treetops, or the kiss of a wind just barely strong enough to lift my tangled hair. What a relief to feel the headwind shift a bit, maybe even provide a gentle push from behind me every once in a while. I may not be able to step outside the storm entirely, but I wouldn't mind a good long nap tucked away in the eye of it. (Oh, I think that's a hurricane rather than a tornado, isn't it? Note to self: get a fact-checker.)

I have this friend, he's quite extraordinary in this way, really (though he'll deny it if you say so, believe me). When offered an opportunity, he doesn't summon the furies, or wave his arms in the air. He just gives it a shot, and if he doesn't do so well at the thing he just tries again, and again, and again until he gets it. And fuck if he isn't smiling the whole time. I wish that kind of courage was contagious; I would rub up against him like a kitty until I could squash these insecurities of mine like so many catnip-filled mice. 

But my winds also blow away the dust and the outdated conventions. To a storm-chaser or adventurer, I offer the chance to throw arms wide and listen to the wind whip the laughter right out of one's mouth. To those at a slightly safer distance, I can upend spooky trees and remove unsightly power lines. Perhaps I must follow the paths set for me by unsettled temperatures or varying mists in the air. Maybe I can surround myself with just a few people game to roll up their sleeves and rebuild our town again (and again) and even to gussy up the band shell or the town hall a bit. Maybe I just need to ride it out. Maybe I have to saddle the winds and just put a shit-eating grin on my face and see how it goes. 

"And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about.”