Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Tornado, Part Three

What is eerie about spring storms in the Midwest is the calm that is left after they blow through: a soft rain and wet streets shimmering under the street lights; the sound of crickets; a gentle breeze that gently swings the blinds back and forth against the pane, its plastic tip-tap-tapping.

I vaguely remember my father getting home after the storm passed and walking down the basement steps, laughing. In fact, his arrival seemed to coincide with the exact moment the storm went away, as if he chased it away himself, when, in fact, it had calmed a good twenty or so minutes earlier, but we were still in limbo. I had never been so happy to see him. I truly felt as if a super hero had come to rescue us from an evil villain. My father has such an unshakeable confidence about him. As a child, I believed everything would be OK if he was around.

While the house was left intact, the emotional damage was devastating. In that two-hour span of time, I faced death and cowered in fear, my only refuge a green metal ironing board and some rope attached to nothing. I was not comforted by the idea of meeting my Creator or His Son or His Mother, for that matter. I questioned why we were only born to die and what the purpose was of being born at all if heaven was so great and our ultimate destiny. The internal fire of anger, guilt and confusion from these burning questions still smolders.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Tornado, Part Two

“We’re going to die. Tonight we're going to die. Get ready to meet Jesus. Tonight, you’re all going to meet Jesus,” my mother wailed, gripping the weather radio as we children cried in terror, tied together under that flimsy, avocado-green metal ironing board.

I was in sixth grade. I did not want to die, nor did I want to meet Jesus. I am not sure which I dreaded more – dying or meeting Jesus. 

Even though I was raised in a strict Roman Catholic household, I found Jesus very scary. 

He seemed mean and played favorites at the end of the world. I did not understand why I had to go through him to get to God. It seemed far more practical to go straight to the Source, and his Father - with his long white hair and beard, looking a lot like St. Nick in a bath robe - seemed the friendlier of the two.

As I write this, I am amazed at how when I first encountered Buddhist meditation in my thirties, it seemed like such a new concept. Prior to the discovery, I associated meditation with sitting frozen in a cross-legged position and trying to breathe naturally while seeming like you weren’t breathing at all. Meditation actually goes beyond merely focusing on the breath and involves retraining one's mind to pierce the illusory nature of our sense perceptions. Disciplined meditation leads to liberation from suffering: it leads to deep and unshakable peace and joy, even in the midst of chaos. 

Raised a Roman Catholic, I was quite trained to meditate on biblical teachings, but this training hardly brought me inner peace

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Tornado, Part One

By A.M., Spring 2006


Douglas Adams, in a collection of his short works entitled Salmon of a Doubt, shares one hilarious experience involving his trousers at school that he labeled mind-scarring. I wish I could say I only had one terrible, mind-scarring experience, and I wish it was about something as mundane as clothing. In fact, my entire childhood was a terrible, mind-scarring experience. I don’t even know where to start, but I must start somewhere, as the purpose of writing is to heal these scars once and for all.

I grew up in Kansas. Need I say anything more about the title of this vignette? In fact, need I even write anything more? And, no I never met Dorothy or Toto, though I nearly became Dorothy, and I am convinced this ordeal contributed to the profound mental confusion I experience as an adult. In fact, tornado is exactly what my mind looks like most of the time.

We moved to Kansas when I was seven. When you go to school in Kansas, you not only have fire drills, you have tornado drills, because it is tornado season roughly between March and September (even though they have been known to strike year-round) and because tornadoes can strike anywhere at any time of the day or night and have been known to hit a few schools.