Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lightning Crashes....

For those of you who read my very first blog post on this site, you are already aware that I am prone to....spontaneous adventure.  From illegally scaling the rocky cliffs of the Turks and Caicos (and subsequently battling a small shark...) to launching myself into a ropes course carrying a $10,000 camera, I don't exactly repel excitement.  Often times, my "electric" experiences come from within the minutia of my everyday this week's case, walking across the parking lot to my car at the end of a work day.

If you live in the Tampa Bay area, then you know that, up until today, things have been rather...damp.  Even now, the atmosphere is heavy with humidity which I am told should be remedied by Saturday morning.  (fingers triple crossed!)  Monday was especially rainy, with storms that offered up tropical storm force winds and lightning which, if harnassed, could have likely powered all of St. Petersburg for a month.  Maybe more.

As luck would have it, said storm rolled in just about the time I was about to leave the station and make my way across town to Ybor City for my weekly film screening.  I stood in the hallway outside my office until I believed the torrential downpour was lessening, then ran across the building only to find the deluge kicking back up just as I was looking to exit.  I waited again...this time for only a few minutes before I decided it was better to just toughen up and brave it then to sit idly waiting.  Having left all three of my umbrellas in my car, I approached my husband who works on the other side of the building about borrowing an umbrella.  He had made the same mistake I had that morning, yielding zero umbrellas indoors....and four of them out. 

Luckily, a friendly colleague offered to loan us hers, but the issue arose of her needing it back later on in the evening.  So, my husband decided that it would be very romantic to walk me out to my car then return with the umbrella...problem solved, and quality time together spent. 

As we stepped outside, the liquid assault intensified, and lightning flashes could be seen no more than a couple of miles off to the north.  We clung together and headed for my car as quickly as my heeled feet would allow given the parking lot's slippery conditions.  Our backs were being thoroughly saturated, but until we had only about 3 feet left to go, that was our only real issue.  We were sure we were home free.  Then, Zeus clearly became displeased with our efforts to traverse his maddening storm because he sent a lightning bolt in our directions that nearly knocked us to the ground.  It couldn't have hit more than 10 or 12 feet away. 

I screamed.  My husband ducked.  My head became exposed, and my husband, in a flurry of panic, closed the umbrella and took off running for the building.  I don't blame him one bit - but there I stood, becoming more and more drenched as I endeavored to shove my giant work bag into my car.  The thunder that followed the lightning strike was so loud, I could feel it inside my body, and I was shaking wildly, making the use of my key fob much more difficult that it should have been. 

When I finally managed to climb into the driver's seat, I took a few moments to breathe.  Rivulets of rainwater flowed from my hairline, down my face to my chin, and dripped all over my dress.  I was a mess.  But, I was alive.  However, my body felt rather....unusual.  I became keenly aware of my skin - it was like I could feel it just...being skin.  I have no idea how to better explain that.  To say it tingled would be an extreme understatement.  It was just so....THERE.  And, my insides were turning like a front-loading washing machine.  I was beginning to get nauseous, but I knew I needed to get on the road, so I pulled out of the parking lot to begin my journey. 

I made it about a quarter of a mile before an intense sleepiness overtook me.  I felt drugged - like I'd taken a muscle relaxer that was just kicking in.  I was sure I was going to fall asleep at the wheel...and in a monsoon, no less!  I pulled into the Goodwill parking lot thinking that maybe I could walk around the store for a few minutes until my senses returned and I regained some vitality, but the lightning was coming even more frequently.  I didn't dare make a run for it. 

I turned off the engine, laid my seat back and set my phone on the seat next to me.  I toyed with pre-dialing 911 just in case I lost some of my motor function (that's how weird I felt), but I have heard horror stories about people doing that and the police showing up before the phone call was even actually made, so I decided I would just scream bloody murder if I suddenly lost feeling in my arms and legs.  In the moment, that seemed entirely plausible.

The next thing I knew, fifteen minutes had passed.  I don't remember falling asleep.  I don't remember falling over so that my arm rested under my forehead which was now parallel with my center console.  I don't remember knocking my cell phone into the passenger's side floorboard.  I must have passed out - it's the only thing I can think of.  And, I didn't even get to have any tequila...what a waste.

Upon regaining my composure, having woken with a real lack of clarity as to why I was in the Goodwill parking lot, I resumed my journey to the Ybor movie theater.  I stopped at 7-11 for a diet coke and a snack, hoping that would help to curb the weird nausea.  It did, to some extend, but I never really felt right again that night. 

When I finally returned home quite late in the evening, I was a little afraid to go to sleep.  Given the evening's earlier events, I wasn't sure if it was safe!  But, eventually my desperate fatigue overtook my fear, and I dosed off, only to awake with my alarm the next morning...same old, same old.  I have never been quite so thankful to hear that horrendous, high-pitched screeching. 

I looked up "indirect lightning exposure" when I arrived at work on Tuesday morning to no real avail.  Apparently, "almost" being hit by lightning is not nearly as glamorous as actually making direct contact, so there was very little literature to help me make sense of my odd post-electrifying symptoms.  But, I do know this...I can now see through clothing, bend metal with my teeth and hover a few centimeters off the ground.*

So....I guess that's something.  ;)

*Totally untrue. 
**Have been informed that symptoms were likely due to an influx and subsequent abatement of adrenaline.  I am not superwoman.   Yet. 


Monday, September 12, 2011

Living eulogies


I used to banish the thought of it.  I believed that if I were to dwell on it, I would essentially invite it...that it could be summoned by my attention.  As a teenager, I developed strategies for eluding death's presence in my consciousness.  I became busy.  I built a fortress of activities - a wall to keep out death and its minions...those cloying "possibilities" that would surely seal my fate and condemn me to an afterlife of suffering.  Searching desperately for an ideal to cling to and something to define me, I grabbed on to religion and served constant penitence for the sins I was sure I was unknowingly committing.  I went to sleep every night terrified that I hadn't done a good enough job of repenting.  I was sure God could see deep into my soul where I wasn't really all that sorry that I kissed my boyfriend while reclining in a horizontal position, and whatever that made me feel was surely born of the devil, but....I kind of liked it.  Which made it worse.  I was afraid.  I was afraid all the time.

Over the course of the last 13 years, I have come to recognize a shift in the way I perceive death.  In some ways, it serves the same purpose it did at that other, more confusing time in my life.  Death is a great motivator - whether we see it as a reason to commit our lives to some higher power through self-sacrifice and joy in purpose, or whether we view it as the catalyst for making the appropriate decisions that will compel us to find the greatest happiness in this life, should it prove to be the only one we get.  Maybe there is even a balance between these two ideas.  One way or another, the only certainty is that death is final.  It is the end of THIS existence, whether or not there is one to follow.  Even if we live many times over, we will never be exactly THIS at exactly THIS time ever again.

This past week, a friend of mine lost her closest companion suddenly.  One moment her sweet, generous sister was alive, and the next, she wasn't.  In the appropriate timing, word began to spread of my friend's tragic loss.  I received the information during potentially the busiest week I have had in quite some time.  Work of many kinds overwhelmed me, and I began to question my relevance and to feel sorry for myself for putting forth so much effort for so little reward.  It was at the height of my anxious frenzy that I got word of the week's horrific events, and I was immediately humbled and profoundly aware of each single moment.  The world slowed.  I began to notice things - raindrops, wind gusts, birds, the way my hands felt, the way cold glasses of water sweat, how much lovelier Thai food tastes when you eat it with your best friend.

And, on that terrible night, fear left me.  When I closed my eyes that night, I let Death in.  What filled my head were a thousand eulogies - things I would say if ever I lost those dearest to me.  My response would have once been to force those thoughts into a corner and box them away, frightened that Death would catch wind of them and descend upon my loved ones.  But, on that night, and still today, I see so very clearly that all of the wonderful, heartfelt offerings we have for those we love should not be contained until they are gone.  Why is it not better to share them while they can enjoy them - benefit from them in some way?  Why do we hold back our deepest feelings for dear ones until they have left us?

And, so, I have these things to share:

Dad, you are the kindest human being I have ever known.  When I see you offer a helping hand to a stranger or say something encouraging to someone you've only just met, my heart hurts because I want so badly to be like you.  You are the perfect combination of strength and sensitivity.  You find joy in quietly, unassumingly giving of yourself.  I admire you more than you could possibly know.

Mom, you are so strong.  There is nothing you can't do, and you know that - you are brave and smart and observant.  You can turn anything and any day into something special.  You make things lovely without even trying.  You are genuine and honest, and I know that if anyone ever hurt me, you would be the first responder on the scene.  I have seen you do it.  You are determined, and you know yourself.  I hope that one day I will have your sense of assurance.

Adam, you could charm your way into an igloo carrying a space heater.  You make people smile, simply by being present.  You are a shiny, effervescent presence.  You put people at ease and turn awkward moments into comedic gold.  You are going to go so far.  I am so proud to tell people you are my brother.

Matt, you love bigger and stronger than I ever thought was possible.  Your ability to find the humor in the most frightening situations still astounds me.  You are passionate, dedicated, determined and worthy.  I prize and aspire to your nobility.  You have an enormous heart, and I hope upon hope that those closest to you understand just how much you love them - I can see it, even when you don't say it.

Kristi, you are so beautiful and so sparkly.  I look so forward to knowing you better, but for now, I am so thankful that you have embraced my family the way you have.  They are safe with you.  I know you truly love them.

To my sisters: Liz, Lisa, Sarah, Cara, Nadyne...there are no words.  I send you my love in a quiet meditation, and offer you all of the joy I have to give.  You have each changed me for the better.  Mountains of glitter to each of you.  Don't use it sparingly.

I have so very many bits and pieces to share, but as I write, I realize that I could sit at this computer for days and never complete my affirmations.  Each and every one of you deserves a book of your own.  My life has been touched by so many - the blessings I have known are more numerous than the drops of rain that fall on the concrete outside my window on these especially wet days.

My final nod for tonight, I offer to Death itself.  Thank you for showing me how important it is to share my heart while it still beats, and to pass along my gratitude and affection for the many, many beating hearts that have made me who I am, and who will continue to grow me into the person I hope to be - until you come for me.  Whether you are the end of the book or simply the last page of a chapter, you are the necessary catalyst that compels us to open up to one another.

For Dori.  Such a beautiful spirit, now present among the stars and in the innumerable sands and shells that make up the beaches she loved so much.  Be at peace.