Thought Catalog
April 6, 2017

What I Learned From Standing In The Eye Of A Hurricane

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What is the issue?
Christian Gertenbach

A never ending, manic frenzy consumes me, a restless, electric energy that refuses to be still. I feel suffocated in this apartment, trapped in my own head. I envy those who know how to silence their inner voice. Mine is always screaming at me in a constant, ambivalent monologue that runs in circles around the crevices of my brain. Living in a 500 square foot space makes you stir-crazy after awhile.

I glance at the 34 x 46 poster hanging above my keyboard. Why did I buy that? I connect with this painting, fascinated by the blue and purple hues. I purchased it from a charismatic artist in Venice Beach, named Sky. I lock eyes longer than usual with the oceanic eyeball that fills the picture frame. A vibrant full moon as the pupil. The iris is a stormy sea of turquoise, tidal waves; a humpback whale elegantly splashes his tail in the corner. Thick eyelashes sprout into a starry sky; a dark, magical, twilight forest fills the remaining space. Beautiful chaos.

A flood of emotion temporarily knocks me out of reality as I lose myself in its nostalgic nature. I disappear into a foggy cloud of the past. I can feel my brain shudder inside of my skull, as I remember the heartbreaking sounds of Hurricane Charley’s destruction. A quiet murmur leaves my lips as I answer my prior question, Oh my god. The eye of the storm.

The wind’s wailing rage and destructive force creeps back into my conscious. I can still hear the echoes speaking to my teenage soul, thirteen years later; you will learn how to start over and grow from this. Unexpectedly vivid.

In 2004, Hurricane Charley was defiant of meteorologists’ predictions and took a turn into my backyard; no time for preparation or escape routes. The harbor I grew to know as a peaceful oasis gave power to a monstrous cyclone. Oceans of rain pelted on top of my hometown, while turbulent winds flattened the foundations I once considered safe.

My family of six huddled under twin bed mattresses in my childhood hallway with flashlights and a radio. I tried to be an undaunted soul for my younger brothers, but the moment I heard my bedroom window shatter – I shattered too. I broke down into my own storm of tears. My mother told me to take deep breaths and that it was going to be okay. When emotion took over my being, she always reminded me to breathe; she still does.

Our bedroom doors rattled. It sounded like my house was being broken into by a plethora of ex-convicts shooting grenade launchers. I could feel my dogs’ frightened energy as they whimpered from the laundry room that felt miles away. I imagined my favorite books, hidden diary, and childhood memories escaping into the air from my smashed window, Wizard of Oz style, in a tornado-like spout.

I questioned if I would live to be thirteen. I wondered if I would ever see my best friends again while the winds of the storm took over my sanity.

All of a sudden, the noise stopped slamming. The rain stopped pouring. A calm energy filled the air. I ran to look outside our front door. An innocent, shooken-up squirrel took refuge on the porch. I wanted to take him inside and protect him from harm. Everything I used to look up at was now on the ground: powerlines, trees, roof shingles, my family’s hearts, even the orange sky seemed to be falling.

I looked at my best friend’s house across the street and hoped to god she was safe. My inner monologue repeated over and over again, please tell me this is over. The complacent, yet angry sky played a joke on me; I was in the eye of the storm. It was far from over. My mom’s voice shook as the winds picked back up and the sky darkened, “Get back in the hallway! Hurry!”

I never thought the odious nightmare would end, but hours later Florida’s atmosphere was back to normalcy. Yet, everything I grew to know and love as a child was destroyed at my feet.

When your world is completely flattened, you have no choice but to start over from the ground up. It can take over a decade. Anyone that watched from afar would call this a tragic catastrophe. I now know one of life’s greatest secrets; destruction breeds growth.

Years later, I analyze my own character. I have always been filled with emotion. When the tide is high, the waves of my soul come crashing down, wipe me out, and anyone else that stands too close to my personal shore.

When I am sad, I do not cry. I bawl rainstorms. I have a heart of thunder and lightning in my veins. My mind is destructive and quick like a tornado.

I have learned to weather my own storms. The chaotic whirlwind surrounding me is only meant to dizzy myself. I dance in the eye of my hurricane and hope the gusts that follow me around only touch bystanders enough to remind them that they are alive.

I grew up dancing in the rain. Brooding darkness always leads to a light at the end of the tunnel. When life is chaotic, I remind myself the storm will calm; even if only for a short period of time until it riles me up again. The clouds always drift away and the sun rises again over the horizon. On my darkest days, I remember the natural force that once flipped my world upside down.

When I am at war with myself, I ride the wave; even if no one else is there to watch me catch it. TC mark