In the Storm

The West Coast is bracing itself for a storm of potentially historic proportions this weekend, and here in my apartment I am watching the wind ripping leaves off trees in my yard and bracing for what might be in store. To top it off, I am on call all weekend and am half expecting that all of our remaining clients due in October will come in and have babies with me during the storm!

Earlier today, I donned a raincoat and boots and braved the heavy rains to prepare the yard for the storm. I moved potted plants to where they wouldn’t blow away in a sudden gust, noticing the cold raindrops stinging my eyes and feeling my fingertips going numb as I moved my plants to safety. Already quite damp, I decided that instead of going straight back inside to dry off, I wanted to walk down to where I had a good view of the city. I wanted to see what Seattle looks like in a storm.

I stomped and sploshed my way down the hill, kicking my rain boots at puddles, not caring when I felt them filling with water. I shivered a little, suddenly feeling the ambient temperature dropping. Standing at the top of the hill overlooking the Puget Sound, I planted my feet in the saturated ground and breathed deeply, truly feeling into what it is to be in the storm. I flipped off the rain hood from my jacket and let the sky water me. Each raindrop made a different path down my face, and I tried to follow them one by one. Tilting my head back, I stuck out my tongue, saying to myself, “This is what the storm tastes like.” All of my senses were recruited to tell me every last detail I could gather about what it meant to stand in the center of the storm.

I felt fully present and very much alive as the wind swirled around me and the rain got me soaking wet. When I finally decided it was time to walk back up the hill towards home, I reflected on how much the rest of my life mirrors those moments in the rain today.

I have been in some storms this past year, which picked up speed and intensity over the summer. I lost three friends to death over a ten-day span of time this past couple of weeks (two queer/trans friends to suicide, and a dear mentor to cancer), and I have been navigating some intense conflict and loss in my family of origin after coming out a few months ago. I haven’t blogged very often because some of what I’m processing is more vulnerable than I am ready to be in this public of a space.

That is not to say that I have not been writing. On the contrary, I have been doing more poetry-writing and journaling this year than in recent memory, and each entry feels to me like sticking my tongue out in the storm and tasting the raindrops. It is not lost on me that the wind and the rain have the potential for destruction. I also know that when life circumstances carve deep channels of grief and anger and sadness in me, my capacity for holding more delight, wonder, and joy is similarly expanded. I have been doing my best to show up and splash around in the puddles at my feet, aware that I am getting soaked.

“Let this open you,” my life has asked me on more than one potent occasion, and I feel those whispers again. With rain and tears mingling and coursing down my cheeks, I feel renewed courage and resolve to show up and pay attention, and to taste the storms as they rage around me. I see myself as a force of nature, and offer myself to the wind and the rain, reaching out my hand to invite them to dance with me.

I know that the sun will return, and that the nights won’t always seem as long and dark as they do. And I know that storms can bring rainbows, but I’m not counting on those. I feel into the groundlessness of not being ultimately in charge, and I hold my small self gently as I breathe through the contraction and expansion of it all.

As I wrote that last paragraph, the wind has continued to howl outside my window, but the rain stopped momentarily, and now the fierce afternoon sun has burst through the clouds, and my cat has claimed his spot in the warm windowsill. He is watching the bushes and trees blowing every which way outside, unperturbed by thoughts of what is to come.

I have solid confidence in my ability to weather these storms. That might be the biggest difference I feel between now and stressful periods I’ve endured previously in my life. Each challenge I have faced and opened to has changed me, and I’m not going to sugar-coat things and say that every obstacle I’ve encountered has made me stronger. Some of the things I’ve survived have damn near broken me, and I wouldn’t wish those “growth experiences” on anyone.

Nevertheless, I have grown. Having to learn to survive has taught me survival skills that continue to serve me well when I need them, and also, I am tired of living in a world that people just have to survive in. I will continue to be a part of the work of healing the wounds where I encounter them, including inside myself. As I open to healing, and as I see the enormous capacity I have cultivated, the ability to hold intense emotions without needing to run away from them all the time, I am more at ease in the storm. As Louisa May Alcott said, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

This body, this mind, this life I inhabit is my ship. And whether I am sailing on calm seas, enjoying witnessing the sun set over the horizon, or whether I am navigating over the choppiest of waters, I want to be fully here, living this one wild and precious life of mine (to borrow a line from Mary Oliver). I want to hear the roar of the wind whipping through the trees. I want to smell the petrichlor, to feel each icy drop coursing down my face. I want to taste the storm while I am in it. And when the rain lets up, I will revel in the glory of the sun breaking through the clouds.

 

Note:
This weekend’s storm is just beginning, and while I may be inconvenienced by it (through loss of power, or possibly minor damage to property, or flooding… hard to predict), I am not anticipating any long-lasting serious effects. It is fascinating to me how a different storm killed over a thousand people in Haiti recently (a country where I went last year to work as a midwife), and it has now all but disappeared from my news feed, replaced by projections of heavy wind and rain locally, but unlikely to cause anywhere near that level of destruction or loss of life. The social justice implications of what we choose to talk about are ominous, and I couldn’t close this post without mentioning that silence.

 

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